FARMINGTON – The North County girls basketball team stalled the Festus offense, and frequently pushed the ball in transition to fly through the Class 4, District 2 semifinal round on Monday.
Ella Gant and Alyssa Huber provided a stingy perimeter resistance to combine for 10 steals in a 55-39 victory. Gant finished with seven steals and 13 points, while Huber posted five rebounds and three steals.
North County (17-11) earned its ninth straight trip to the championship game, and will face Farmington on Friday for a shot at its first title since the 2015. The Lady Raiders also atoned for a 49-35 road loss to Festus (12-11) from two weeks earlier.
Sophomore Kayleigh Winch produced 10 of her game-high 26 points for North County during a dominant third quarter, and added 15 rebounds. The Lady Raiders outscored Festus 15-6 during the period to create separation.
North County created momentum behind a highly energetic defense that forced turnovers on the first three Festus possessions of the second quarter.
Abby Rickermann converted the next basket for the Lady Tigers from beyond the arc, and brought the score to 19-15 with 5:15 left before halftime. She ended with a team-high 15 points, while Maddie Welsh and Jenna Oetting each contributed seven.
Gant slowly stretched the advantage by poking passes loose to spark fast-break chances. Winch achieved a 30-20 edge at the break by dropping in a layup over two defenders.
Festus notched three layups within the first two minutes of the third quarter, but Winch quickly countered with an offensive tear near the basket.
She finished perfect on seven attempts from the free-throw line, where the Lady Raiders shot 9-of-11 overall. Festus went just 2-of-7 at the stripe.
North County continued to stifle opposing guards, and held the Lady Tigers scoreless for a stretch of nearly six minutes of the third quarter until Oetting scored in close to make the score 38-26.
Gant recorded her fifth steal with 12 seconds to play in the third, then rushed to the other end and assisted Julia Christopher on a corner 3-pointer that ignited the bench and created a 45-26 lead.
Tiffani Thomas crashed the boards aggressively for North County early in the fourth quarter in place of Michaela Mason, who received her fourth personal foul on the opening possession. Both players ended with six rebounds.
The Lady Raiders began the game with careless passing, but negated their mistakes with an effective transition attack. Stephanie Peterson drained her lone basket from the perimeter to earn a 17-12 North County edge with 30 seconds to play in the first quarter.