Its 12-point halftime lead disappeared by the first minute of the fourth quarter, but the Randolph girls basketball team didn’t panic.
The Cardinals weathered a second-half storm from Section 5’s Pavilion Saturday afternoon at Buffalo State College. Pavilion didn’t lead until the fourth quarter, but after erasing a double-digit lead the Golden Gophers traded go-ahead baskets with the Cardinals for much of the fourth.
Finally, with the game tied at 40-40, Randolph’s Quinn Pence drove to the basket and drew the defense in before dishing off to Katelyn Storer under the basket for the go-ahead layup with 12.4 seconds remaining. Randolph held on for the win, 42-40, in the Class C Far West Regional, earning its first trip to the state semifinal since 2012.
“We’ve been in situations where we’ve been down and the girls have played enough basketball,” Cardinals coach David Pihlblad said. “We have a really high IQ and we told them you’ve just got to stay level-headed and you can’t get too high and too low. They just kept playing. They made a couple really nice plays and got open looks. Quinn Pence hit a big 3, Skylar (Herington) hit a big 3 down the stretch there to get us back in the lead.”
Eighth grader Skylar Herington scored a team-high 14 points with five rebounds and three assists while sophomore Quinn Pence had 12 points, including two fourth quarter 3-pointers, with eight steals and three assists.
Randolph held a five-point lead with just over two minutes remaining before Pavilion rallied again to tie at 40-40 on a Karlee Zinkiewich 3-pointer with 42 seconds left. Herington’s driving attempt at a go-ahead layup missed the rim but she fell on the loose ball to allow Randolph to take a timeout with 21 seconds remaining and 11 on the shot clock.
The Cardinals got their game-winner out of the timeout with an inbounds play from under the basket.
“We were trying to get downhill, the play kind of got screwed up to be honest and Quinn just, she attacked,” Pihlblad said, “”and we told the girls whenever the Kinglsey girl steps up, Katelyn Storer was open, and Quinn just made a great play. Katelyn is always in the right spot, she’s so smart, she’s always available and she finished. That was awesome for her as a senior.”
Payton Morrison added eight points, six rebounds and three assists for Randolph (20-4). Storer finished with six points and six boards and Kyra Pence made four assists.
Center Lauren Kingsley led Pavilion (22-4) with 20 points while Zinkiewich scored 15 points. Kingsley proved to be a tough matchup for the Cardinals, either scoring herself or passing to open teammates on the perimeter.
“We had a gameplan going in to try and help on the backside a little bit more with her. But she’s really good,” Pihlblad said. “She’s big and she’s very skilled, so she was going to get her points. We knew she was going to score at times and we just kept our philosophy of pressuring them, trying to put pressure on their guards up top, which could limit the touches inside.”
Randolph led 15-6 after the first quarter and 25-13 at halftime, with Morrison scoring all eight of her points in the first half.
“The first half, we played about as good as we could,” Pihlblad said. “Everything seemed to be going well for us, we were hitting shots. They made a couple adjustments in the second half, they went man-to-man and we were getting some good looks but we were settling for a lot of 3s and Pavilion’s a really good team and they went on a run. Our girls just stayed level headed and were composed and didn’t get rattled and kind of just locked down at the end and got a couple stops. Finally we hit a couple shots down the stretch to pull that out.”