Preble Shawnee’s Nicole Sims (3) weaves her way through Anna defenders Macey Huelskamp (left), Michaela Ambos (40) and Emily Aufderhaar in the Division III sectional final at Covington High School on Tuesday. Anna won 36-24. Greg Billing / Contributed

Anna survives Preble Shawnee’s fast start in D-III sectional final

Seventh-seeded Preble Shawnee scored 10 of the game’s first 12 points, then struggled the rest of the way, including a two-point fourth quarter. The result was a 36-24 loss to No. 6 Anna at Covington High School.

Preble Shawnee junior Kaylie Campbell pulled her team within 30-24 with 7:30 left in the game. The Arrows didn’t score again.

“I was confident in our girls. I thought we were ready,” Preble Shawnee coach Kevin Schaeffer said. “I felt like we stood a fair shot at winning the ball game. Anna was well coached, they worked very hard, and they deserved to get us tonight.”

Motivation shouldn’t be needed in the tournament’s one-and-done scenario, but Anna (19-6) found added inspiration in that Preble Shawnee (18-6) beat the Rockets in last year’s sectional final (39-32). And this one started out heading in the same direction.

Shawnee junior guards Jenna Lovely and Nicole Sims combined for the Arrows’ first 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers from Sims. Shawnee led 10-2 with 5:19 left in the quarter, but trailed 13-10 after it as Anna found instant offense behind senior Macey Huelskamp. She scored the Rockets’ final four points of the quarter and added a 3-pointer early in the fourth.

Schaeffer said Anna’s man defense was similar to the style played by Greenon – a team the Arrows beat 51-33 to reach the sectional final – so Shawnee had been practicing and preparing for it the last two weeks.

Lovely and Sims combined to average 21.5 points per game. But neither scored after their opening scoring spurt and went the final 29:19 without a point. Sims led Shawnee with six points. Junior Brenna Woodard (tied with Sims for the team lead at 11 points per game) and Campbell both scored five points. Lovely had four.

“I think we didn’t have a good mental or physical night. Playing good teams will do that to a team,” Schaeffer said.

“For whatever reason, we stayed still or simply cut without screens. When we did screen, we weren’t hitting out targets, often screening no one. We also relied on far too many on-ball screens when our focus had been off-ball screens. I think a large part of it was transitioning from pushing the pace – which we wanted to do – to settling into the half court. There was something lost in translation there. I’m still not sure where or how it happened.”

Anna increased its 23-15 halftime lead to 30-20 on a Huelskamp basket following a steal from freshman Ella Doseck. The Rockets closed out the sectional win with four of their six fourth-quarter points from the free-throw line.

Huelskamp led Anna with 16 points. Senior Jada Rowland added seven points and senior Abby Gaydosh six.

“Their goal was to get to a district game. This means a lot to them,” Anna coach Jeff Maurer said. “Once we settled in and got our wits about us, we started being more patient on the offensive end and talking on defense. That’s what you have to do against a good team.”

Anna plays Williamsburg in a D-III district final at Springfield High School on Saturday.