By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Like sharks sensing blood, Skyline’s players know when their full-court press has crept into their opponents’ minds.
“(The opposing team) gets really frustrated and just starts throwing (the ball) places,” said Skyline senior Chloe Cole. “It works into our hands.”
Skyline’s trademark pressure defense carried it past Blue Eye Saturday night in a Class 2 girls’ basketball state quarterfinals matchup.
The Tigers forced 19 turnovers amid a 67-30 victory. Seniors Kaylee DaMitz (29 points) and Cole (22 points) did the damage on the offensive end.
“Defensively, I don’t know if we’ve played better all year,” said Skyline coach Kevin Cheek.
Skyline heads to the final four for the sixth straight season and 14th time overall. The Tigers (29-2 overall) face Neelyville in the Class 2 semifinals at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 8 at JQH Arena in Springfield.
“Getting to go to state four years in a row is pretty special,” Cole said. “Winning last year was awesome. We’re headed (to the final four) again.”
Skyline limited Blue Eye to nine or fewer points in the first, second and fourth quarters.
The Tigers led by 18 at halftime and by 30 (58-28) heading into the fourth quarter.
“We held them to 15 at halftime, but what impressed me was our (defense) in the third quarter,” Cheek said. “We didn’t let up. There have been times where we’ve played well in the first half and the next five minutes out of halftime are awful.”
Taylor Arnold scored 10 to lead Blue Eye. The Bulldogs only made eight field goals and were 8-for-20 at the free throw line.
Said Blue Eye coach Ken Elfrink: “Skyline’s players are unforgiving. You can’t have a bad game.””
Blue Eye (24-6 overall) went nearly seven minutes without a field goal in the first quarter. Back-to-back triples brought the Bulldogs within 16-9 entering the second quarter.
Skyline’s defense yielded just six points over the next eight minutes. Early in the third quarter, a Cole 3-pointer put Skyline in control for good at 42-15.
Cole made five 3-pointers in the game.
“When (Cole) is hitting outside shots like that, things start to get easier for us,” Cheek said.
Blue Eye graduates three seniors. Looking ahead to next season, the Bulldogs return their leading scorers in junior-to-be Kohnnar Patton and the senior-to-be Arnold.
“We’re excited about next year,” Elfrink said. “But you can’t just turn around and show up in November and say, ‘Okay, we’re going to get back to the state quarterfinals.’ You’re going to have put some time into it.”
Skyline 67, Blue Eye 30
Skyline 16 17 25 9 — 67
Blue Eye 9 6 13 2 — 30
Skyline – Kaylee DaMitz 29, Chloe Cole 22, Autumn Garrett 8, Sarah Cunningham 2, Valen Logan 2, Kristen Miller 2, Savannah Owen 2
Blue Eye – Taylor Arnold 10, Katelynn Hansen 6, Kenedia Larson 3, Madison Box 3, Kenzie Hobbs 3, Ayshia Bettlach 3, Kohnnar Patton 2