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Marshall starts poorly, finishes fast, heads to B semifinals

By: Jeff Chaney, March 15, 2016, 10:19 pm

Otsego – When a trip to the Breslin Center to play in a state semifinal is on the line, and you come out and play a little tight and get down, there is nothing like a good halftime speech to help a team do something it hasn’t done in 35 years.

That’s what happened to the Marshall on Tuesday during a girls quarterfinal game against Grand Rapids Catholic Central at Otsego High.

The high-flying Redhawks, who averaged close to 60 points per game in winning the Class B regional at Battle Creek Harper Creek last week, came out and scored just 13 first-half points and went down to the Cougars.

But Marshall, led by junior forward Nikki Tucker, out-scored Catholic Central 11-2 in the third quarter and never looked back in defeating the Cougars, 41-30, and sending the Redhawks to the state semifinals for the first time since 1981, when Marshall coach Sal Konkle was a player for the Redhawks.

"In the locker room at halftime, you stop playing and start thinking that this is the tournament, and it’s now or never," Tucker said. "Coach always gives us the best pep talks at halftime, and we always say that the third quarter is always our time."

That is was true for Tucker who scored eight of her 13 points in the third quarter.

Tucker and her teammates were very determined on defense, as the Redhawks flustered Catholic Central in to several bad shots.

Coach Konkle acknowledged that she didn’t go to crazy on her halftime speech, she just wanted to calm her team down and show them she had confidence in them.

"I think the kids were so tight, honestly, we probably hadn’t played a team as strong as Catholic Central since this summer," Konkle said. "The kids came out a little shell shocked. I told the kids at halftime, we weren’t doing anything horrible, we just weren’t doing anything right."

That’s all it took, as Marshall took its first lead with 3:34 left in the third quarter, and then kept the Cougars at bay the rest of the game.

Konkle’s daughter, junior guard Jill Konkle, made four straight free throws in the final 40 seconds to seal the win.

Konkle finished with 11 points.

Catholic Central coach Trevor Hinshaw wished his team would have rebounded better, especially in the second half when his team’s offense went flat.

"We didn’t do a good job of cleaning up the glass in the third quarter, which gave them several second opportunities," Hinshaw said. "And you can’t give a team like that second and third opportunities, because they are going to capitalize."

Catholic Central junior forward Sophia Karasinski led the Cougars with nine points.