ANNAPOLIS, Mo. — After watching junior Brooke Taylor compile 44 and 38 points in two previous meetings this season, Viburnum attempted to contain the Bismarck standout with the constant presence of two assigned defenders.
That strategy presented her teammates the opportunity to regularly knock down open shots, and senior guard Tori Henson responded with her most clutch performance as a four-year varsity starter on Thursday night.
Henson drilled four three-pointers on her way to a career-high 26 points, and the Lady Indians executed to near perfection during a dominant second half for an 87-64 triumph in the Class 2, District 4 tournament final.
Bismarck (22-4) saw five players reach double figures while achieving its highest scoring output of the season. The elusive girls basketball district title was the fourth in school history and first since 1990.
Taylor finished 12-for-14 from the foul line and easily posted her 22nd double-double of the current campaign with 28 points and 15 rebounds. She also tallied seven assists and three steals.
Taylor was the primary ball handler as Bismarck enjoyed a 12-minute stretch of action without committing a turnover while shooting 58 percent from the field after halftime.
Torrie Helms scored 11 points for the Lady Indians, who will face Meadow Heights (20-6) in a 7:45 p.m. sectional contest at Central High School on Wednesday. Senior Holly Blunt grabbed eight boards and matched freshman Brettnie Henson with 10 points each.
“It has been an outstanding season. The girls have worked so hard in each game and in practice,” said eighth-year Bismarck coach Julie Ward. “They weren’t ready to end their season at 21-5 and have nothing else to show for it after winning the regular-season conference trophy.”
Bismarck pressured the Lady Jays into a series of early turnovers, and jumped ahead 9-2 with field goals from four different players. But mounting foul trouble allowed Viburnum to quickly regroup with aggressive play inside.
Sophomore Nikki Bozic scored a strong putback after corralling one of Viburnum’s 10 offensive rebounds during the first half, and added another powerful finish during an impressive 10-0 run.
Junior guard Paige Mayfield buried two consecutive threes from the left wing to give Viburnum (12-10) its largest lead of the night at 24-19, and connected four times overall from long range while notching 21 points.
After Tori Henson regained the momentum for her squad with three straight mid-range jumpers, Blunt delivered two transition baskets in the final minute before halftime for a 38-32 Bismarck advantage.
“Tori (Henson) was absolutely phenomenal tonight,” added Ward, “and that really helps to take some heat off of Brooke (Taylor) as well when teammates can step up like that. Everyone stepped up tonight when they needed to.”
The Lady Indians’ intensity only increased out of the locker room, and the contest quickly became a rout as physical putbacks from Taylor and Blunt highlighted an explosive 25-6 surge in the third quarter.
Taylor elevated for three successive rebounds and an eventual three-point play after suddenly slashing through the lane, and two more fourth-quarter putbacks induced a running clock at 77-47.
Bozic paced Viburnum with 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Breyanne Edgar chipped in nine points off the bench.
Viburnum 10 22 10 22 – 64
Bismarck 17 21 27 22 – 87
Viburnum – Bozic 23, Mayfield 21, Edgar 9, LaRue 5, Olkkonen 4, Mayberry 2. 3-point FG – Mayfield 4.
Bismarck – Taylor 28, T Henson 26, Helms 11, Blunt 10, B Henson 10, Lorenz 2. 3-point FG – T Henson 4.