A Final Four appearance just wasn’t in the cards for the Warrenton Lady Warriors, in their return to the Class 3A girls basketball state tournament.
A little foul trouble for the Warriors, coupled with a long scoring drought that lasted nearly eight minutes, helped No. 2-ranked Salem Academy gradually pull away for a 42-26 win late Thursday night at Marshfield High School.
The Crusaders advance to the semifinals, where they will face Blanchet Catholic Friday night, while the No. 7 seed Warriors drop into consolation and will play Vale in a Friday morning game.
“We came out and executed our game plan really well for three quarters,” said Warrenton coach Robert Hoepfl. “Claire Bussert did a great job and led us throughout, Kenzie Ramsey did an incredible job, and Adriana Dejesus held their best player and one of the top guards in the state to five points through three quarters.”
Warrenton also held the lead for the majority of the first half in Thursday’s game.
Melia Kapua had a 3-pointer to highlight a 9-8 first quarter for the Warriors, and 3-point bombs from Claire Bussert and Kenzie Ramsey had Warrenton in front 16-11 midway through the second.
On the down side, Warrenton post Fernanda Alvarez picked up her third foul early in the second period, and the Warriors were called for their seventh team foul minutes later.
And that kept the Crusaders in the game. With layups by Grace Brown and Kirsten Koehnke, Salem Academy turned a 19-13 deficit in the second quarter into a 28-19 lead midway through the third.
The 15-0 run stunned the Warriors, who still managed to battle their way back into the game, even after being outscored 6-2 in a low-scoring third period.
Bussert closed the third quarter with a jump shot, then opened the scoring in the fourth with a 3-pointer that had Warrenton within 30-24.
But Salem Academy answered with another momentum-building run, this time a 12-2 dash to close the game.
Back-to-back scores by Koehnke upped the Crusader lead to 36-24 with 3:15 remaining, before Alvarez scored Warrenton’s last hoop at the 3:06 mark, as the Warriors were held to just seven points in the second half.
Bussert scored 16 of Warrenton’s 26 points, while Brown had a monster game for the Crusaders, scoring 18 points with 20 rebounds and four assists. Koehnke added nine points and nine boards.
“Obviously the foul trouble hurt us, and then they made that run right before half to take the lead,” Hoepfl said. “They’re obviously a great basketball team and deserved to be (in the Final Four). They might be the best team in it, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win it.”
He added, “we’ll try to bounce back against Vale (today). They gave Blanchet Catholic a great game, so they’re a very good team. I’m proud of our team — it’s bittersweet, because we wanted to win a state championship, but it’s March and we’re still playing, so here we go. Hopefully we can finish strong.”