KIRKSVILLE, Mo. - Chamois' Miranda Brandt was too much for a Class 1 opponent to handle.
The 5-foot-11 Southern Illinois-Edwardsville signee was too big and tall for a guard to cover, and too quick and adept a ballhandler for a post to check. Add in her soft touch around the basket, exceptional passing skills and defensive prowess, and she becomes a matchup nightmare.
The senior forward showed just how dangerous she can be in leading Chamois to a 45-24 victory over Norborne in a Class 1 state quarterfinal game Saturday afternoon at Truman State's Pershing Arena.
"She's the perfect player," Chamois head coach Marty Gerloff said of Brandt. "There's no doubt."
Brandt's 22-point, 10-rebound performance sends the Lady Pirates to the Final Four for the first time in school history. Chamois (22-7) will take on Mercer (28-1) in a semifinal game at 8:20 p.m. Thursday at the Hearnes Center in Columbia.
"It is indescribable," Brandt said. "It's a flow of emotions. I'm just so happy and I'm so blessed to have such a great team to play with.
"We are so hungry this year. We got a taste of it last year (a quarterfinal overtime loss to Marion County), and this year we just went for it. We're not stopping. We want to win."
Brandt was dominant all game, scoring in a variety of ways. She opened the game with a basket off a lob pass after a quick backdoor cut on the weakside. Jump shots, spin moves, back-to-thebasket scores and putbacks were all in her repertoire. By the time she left the game with 2:23 remaining, an alternate scoreboard would have read, "Brandt 22, Norborne 17."
"I wouldn't want to have to figure out how to stop her if I had to coach against her," Gerloff said. "That's what makes our team very, very good."
Brandt was just as effective on the defensive end. She held Norborne's star player, 6-foot Cheyenne Baxter, to just five points by physically imposing her will. Brandt added four steals and two blocks. Her presence in the paint forced Norborne into shooting two more 3-pointers (16) than 2-pointers (14). Norborne only attempted four free throws.
"I don't know what (Baxter) averaged, but I'm sure she averaged big numbers," Gerloff said. "That's what I rely on every night. I put Miranda on the best player and she shuts them down."
As spectacular as Brandt was Saturday afternoon, her teammates were nearly as good.
Chamois' five starters played every minute in the first half, and the Lady Pirates' first substitution didn't occur until nearly three minutes into the third quarter when Michael Nolte entered the game. After playing a couple minutes, it was back to the starting five until the game's final minutes.
Chamois' pressure defense forced Norborne into 23 turnovers, while committing just six turnovers of its own. Chamois' first turnover didn't come until the second half, even while facing a fullcourt press throughout.
"The five starters just played great, and they just keep getting better and better," Gerloff said.
The outcome was decided pretty early. Down 5-4 in the early going, Chamois ended the first quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 12-5 lead into the second period. Brandt scored eight first-quarter points.
Chamois eventually went up 20-7 on the second of consecutive 3-pointers by Alyssa Bullock with five minutes to go until halfime. The Lady Pirates held a 20-10 advantage at the break, as Brandt only managed one basket in the quarter.
"When it was 20-10, I was still kind of nervous," Brandt said. "So I was just watching over my shoulder to make sure they never came back."
A 10-0 run to start the third period put things out of reach. Two baskets by Brandt got things going, Alison Mehmert scored the next four points and Paige Nolte added a jumper.
Chamois was well on its way to victory, holding a 37-12 edge heading into the final period. Norborne's only points in the third came on two separate free throws.
Chamois' largest lead came at 42-12 on a jumper from Brandt a minute into the fourth quarter. The final score looked as respectable as it did thanks to a game-closing 10-1 run for Norborne in the game's waning minutes.
"Our goal tonight was to hold them below 20 points," Gerloff said. "I know we didn't get to that point, but we could have."
Brandt was the game's only player in double figures. Devanne McCoy led Norborne with eight points and Baxter grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
Norborne's season ends at 25-3.
Chadwick (25-5) and the state's top-ranked team, Walnut Grove (28-2), comprise the other semifinal at 6:40 p.m.
"It's a dream come true for us," Gerloff said of going to the Final Four. "Very, very excited. We're going to celebrate this and then get back to work. Like Miranda said, we want to win it all."