It was just about impossible for the Russellville Lady Indians to score in the first 20 minutes of their Class 2 sectional game against third-ranked Sturgeon on Wednesday night at the Fleming Fieldhouse.
Russellville shot just 10 percent (2-for-20) in the first half and managed just five points by halftime. The Lady Indians sat at just seven points midway through the third quarter and didn't break the double-digit barrier until 1:57 was left in the the third.
The 16-point hole at that juncture was too big for Russellville to climb out of, as the Lady Indians dropped a 51-36 decision.
"We never could really calm down and get into a rhythm offensively," Russellville head coach David Volkart said. "A lot of that was due to nerves and being in this environment, but give credit to Sturgeon for playing good, solid defense. They beat us."
It wasn't the prettiest basketball early on, as Sturgeon led just 5-3 after one quarter and 14-5 at halftime. The Bulldogs didn't fare much better offensively in the first 16 minutes, shooting just 3-for-18. They made up for it by going 7-of-11 at the foul line.
"When you score five points in the first half, granted they only had 14, but it's hard to win a game when you dig yourself that kind of a hole early on," Volkart said.
Sturgeon put on a defensive clinic in the first half, forcing Russellville into 12 turnovers to go with the 10-percent shooting.
"They played tremendous help-side defense on our big girl (Kennedy Volkart) and not allowing her to get easy looks," David Volkart said. "They pressured hard on our guards. They just played good, solid man-to-man defense, and we didn't adjust well. Hats off to them."
After Russellville opened the third quarter with a basket to get within seven, Sturgeon went on a 10-0 run capped by a 3-pointer from Molly Gregory to take a 17-point lead. The Lady Indians' biggest deficit came at 27-9 with 2:52 left in the third.
Hannah Campbell finally got Russellville into double digits with a jumper with 1:57 to go in the third. That sparked a mini run that got the Lady Indians to within 29-17 heading into the final stanza.
Sturgeon took a 35-19 lead with a little more than five minutes left in the game. Russellville wasn't quite ready to go out with a whimper, using a 7-0 run to get within 35-26 with 3:38 left. A 3-pointer from Hannah Morrow and a pair of buckets from Campbell did the trick.
That's as close as Russellville would get, though.
"We finally got a little bit of energy and calmed down a little bit," David Volkart said. "We extended to fullcourt and they didn't handle the pressure exceptionally well either.
"We finally made some shots. They call it basketball for a reason. We finally put a few in there and put some pressure on them. We just came up a little short."
Sturgeon's Gregory led all scorers with 14 points. Kylee Foster added 13 and Maddie Embree had 10.
Campbell was the only Lady Indian in double figures with 11 points. Kennedy Volkart added a game-high 12 rebounds.
Sturgeon (26-2) advances to take on Marceline in the state quarterfinals Saturday. Russellville's season ends at 15-14.