Class C No. 2 Crofton led 11-0 less than two minutes into Thursday's semifinal against No. 3-rated Pierce.

But it was 14 points over the final 3-1/2 minutes of the third quarter which ultimately helped the Warriors fend off the Bluejays 59-41 at the Cox Activities Center on the Northeast Community College campus.

That set up a third-straight Mid-State Conference girls basketball championship game between Crofton and top-rated West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic.

Senior Katie Petersen and junior Kelsey Sanger both had 16 points, while junior Monica Arens and senior Breanna Allen both had 11 points to spearhead a balanced Warriors attack.

"I think a lot of it is we all know our individual skills, so to speak," the point guard Sanger said. "When Katie's down low, you know where she's going to be. You know where Bre is going to be because she's a shooter. We all know each other and can feed the ball."

Crofton coach Aaron Losing said it was a product of the team growing in its offensive roles.

"I think our team has a theory that you shoot the ball when you're open; you pass the ball to your teammate when they're open," Losing said. "We're a very unselfish team, but we also know when it's time for us as individuals to be aggressive with the ball."

The teams were held to 0 of 12 shooting to start the second half until Sanger converted a 3-point play with 3:38 remaining in the third quarter. Crofton wound up outscoring Pierce 14-5 over that time, ending with Sanger sinking a 3 at the buzzer for a 48-29 lead.

"As soon as we hit that first shot, it was momentum-building," Sanger said.

To start the night, the first eight Pierce possessions went turnover, turnover, missed shot, turnover, turnover, missed shot, turnover and turnover until Shelby Bretschneider converted a jumper in the lane.

In turn, the Warriors hit 5 of 9 field goals, including 4 of 6 3-pointers. Two of those were from Allen, and Brittany Guenther added another 2 minutes, 52 seconds into the game for an 11-0 lead to force a timeout.

"They exploited the way we were rotating on defense against the short corner," Pierce coach Darren Sindelar said. "We didn't rotate over quick enough, and they were able to get some shots on the outside."

Crofton had a similar start Monday against Norfolk Catholic, when they led 12-0 just 2:03 into the game.

"That's two games in a row that we've done that," Losing said. "It shows we're in a good place, that we're mentally ready to go at the beginning of games."

Pierce sliced away with Carly Sutherland, who came off the bench for a team-high 13 points, making the biggest cut with a four-point play. Casey Sutherland added a steal and layup to make it a 30-24 game with 1:23 left in the half. But the Bluejays were held to one point in nearly a quarter and 10 points over the next 15 minutes.

IN THE OTHER semifinal matchup, No. 1-rated and top-seed West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic wasted little time in dispatching No. 5-seed and sixth-rated Wayne 62-27.

“I thought we played well in that first quarter,” Bluejays coach Jerry Stracke said. “I thought we executed well, and we were able to get some fast-break baskets.”

In the first six minutes, GACC forced as many Wayne turnovers (six) as the Blue Devils had field-goal attempts.

Up 10-6, the Bluejays began to pull away after back-to-back Morgan Bracht buckets, including a 3-pointer, which were both set up by passes from Breanne Kreikemeier.

Kate Knobbe, who had a game-high 18 points, dribbled in for a mid-range jumper on the baseline before turning a steal into a layup for a 19-6 lead. GACC pushed the lead to 20 midway through the second quarter.

Wayne was held to 24.4 percent (11 of 45) field-goal shooting, while GACC hit 44.6 percent (25 of 56) from the field, including 6 of 13 3-pointers.

Pierce .................................. 10 14 5 12 - 41

Crofton ................................ 19 15 14 11 – 59

PIERCE (19-2): Hailey Race 0-2 0-0 0; Casey Sutherland 2-6 2-2 6; Shelby Bretschneider 3-10 1-2 7; Sidney Zimmerer 0-6 0-0 0; Jaci Brahmer 3-7 3-5 9; Kate Asmus 0-1 0-0 0; Carly Sutherland 4-7 2-4 13; Maggie Brahmer 1-1 0-0 2; Maci Kroupa 1-1 0-0 2; Kayla Simmons 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 15-43 8-13 41.

CROFTON (17-2): Breanna Allen 3-8 2-2 11; Brittany Guenther 1-2 0-0 3; Haley Arens 0-3 0-0 0; Josie Sanger 1-1 0-0 2; Kaitlynn Vornhagen 0-1 0-0 0; Monica Arens 3-9 4-4 11; Kelsey Sanger 6-12 1-1 16; Katie Petersen 7-11 2-2 16; Chelsea Wortmann 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 21-47 9-10 59.

Wayne ................................. 6 9 5 7 – 27

GACC ................................... 19 14 17 13 – 62

WAYNE (13-9): Tarah Stegemann 0-6 0-0 0; Kylie Hammer 3-7 0-0 8; Kennedy Maly 0-4 0-0 0; Kelsey Boyer 3-8 0-1 6; Morgan Keating 1-4 0-2 2; Gabi Lutt 0-2 0-0 0; Danica Schaefer 2-8 0-0 4; Gabi Meyer 0-1 0-0 0; Jamie Gamble 2-3 3-4 7; Molly Hoskins 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 11-45 3-7 27.

GUARDIAN ANGELS CENTRAL CATHOLIC (19-1): Kate Knobbe 8-11 1-3 18; Makayla Tomka 0-2 0-0 0; Katey Brown 5-13 5-5 15; Morgan Bracht 4-4 0-0 10; Katie Steuter 3-10 0-0 6; Hannah Hunke 1-3 0-2 3; Lexis Haase 0-3 0-0 0; Breanne Kreikemeier 3-7 0-0 8; Lauren Wobken 0-1 0-0 0; Maddie Bracht 0-1 0-0 0; Emily Reeson 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 25-56 6-10 62.

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