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SUNRISE GIRLS: Foothill uses speed to cruise by Coronado

Foothill girls basketball coach Eric Kruger sent his team onto the court Thursday knowing his players were quicker than their opponents.

The strategy was to make the most of that speed, and it worked to perfection. The Falcons needed just over four minutes to build a double-digit lead, and they never let up in beating Coronado 66-50 in the Sunrise Region semifinals at Green Valley.

Foothill (23-6) will face Liberty (24-4) at 5 p.m. Friday at Green Valley for the region championship.

Taylor Turney led the Falcons with 22 points and seven rebounds. With the help of her teammates, the game turned into an up-tempo affair.

“We wanted to run and run some more,” Kruger said. “We wanted to push the ball and get it out as quickly as we could on makes and misses.”

Though the Cougars took a 7-3 lead after Grace Green drove to the hoop for a layup with 5:49 left in the first quarter, the Falcons soon found their rhythm and rattled off 14 consecutive points to go ahead, 17-7.

Green, who scored all 17 of her points in the first half, kept Coronado (17-12) within striking distance with four 3-pointers, but Foothill managed to extend the lead to 40-27 at halftime.

The Falcons used a 39-25 rebounding edge to keep the ball out of the Cougars’ hands, accomplishing a pregame goal set by their coach.

“I challeneged every player to get six or more rebounds,” Kruger said. “And I have one of those teams that will do whatever it takes to get to the next round.”

Though the game’s pace slowed, things remained well in hand for Foothill in the second half. Kruger was able to rest several of his starters in the final minutes, allowing Coronado to close the gap.

Kruger said the win occurred largely as a result of his team’s ability to handle the intangibles.

“There’s a lot of stuff we improved on tonight that doesn’t appear in the scorebook,” Kruger said, “such as managing the clock and knowing game situations.”

Katey Roquemore helped the Falcons with 11 points, four rebounds and two steals, and teammate Kelsey McFarland added 10 points, six rebounds and two steals.

Coronado’s Karlie Thorn finished with 11 points and three rebounds.

Liberty 52, Green Valley 32 — The game plan was simple for the Liberty girls basketball team Thursday.

Coach Rich Santigate sent his players onto the floor hoping to make the most of his team’s significant height advantage. Some portions of the plan worked better than others, but the game’s outcome was never in doubt as the Patriots rolled to victory over host Green Valley in the Sunrise Region semifinals.

Six-foot-two-inch Paris Strawther led Liberty with 15 points and eight rebounds, and 6-3 teammate Jazmin O’Bannon added 12 points, eight rebounds and three steals.

Though they did not enjoy quite the rebounding advantage they expected, the Patriots still finished with a 40-32 edge on the glass. The defensive wall, created by Strawther, O’Bannon and 6-0 forward Jamellia Clark, proved nearly impenetrable for the Gators, who managed just six points in the paint.

“We used our strength, which is our height,” Santigate said. “Most teams don’t have one 6-footer. We have three.”

Liberty established the tempo early with a zone defense that forced Green Valley to turn the ball over 10 times in the first half. The Patriots capitalized, stoming to a 17-3 first-quarter lead when Aubre Fortner stole a pass and took the ball to the hoop for an easy layup.

The Gators’ only threat came in the second quarter, when Brooke Haney capped a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to 26-15. But the Patriots quickly regained control and took a 36-16 lead into halftime.

Liberty put any doubt to rest by opening the fourth quarter on a 6-2 run that made it 48-24.

Maggie Manwarren had 10 points and two steals to lead Green Valley (19-10), which was largely ineffective with its game-long flurry of 3-point shots. Teammate Gracie Garcia finished with seven points.

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