When a team shoots the lights out, there's not much an opponent can do except hope to match that torrid pace.
The St. Mary's girls basketball team matched sharpshooting Sac City in the first half, but not in the second, losing a 67-53 decision here Saturday night in a Class A, District Final game.
"It was a matter of them making their shots and us not doing the same," said St. Mary's coach Ryan Berg, whose team ended its record-breaking season at 16-7.
"I didn't think we played bad defense; we had hands in the shooters' faces, but their kids just made some tough shots."
Sac City's 5-10 guard Dani Berry scored a game-high 30 points in a performance that included four three-point shots and 14 of 17 shooting from the free throw line.
Fellow senior Jenna Crab added 15 points for the Indians, who advanced to Tuesday's Region semis, where they'll meet top-ranked IKM in Manilla.
Sac City was eight of 14 from three point range, 18 of 35 overall in field goal attempts and 23-33 at the line.
"We just started shooting the ball better in the last couple of weeks," Sac City coach Mike Fischer said. "I thought Saturday was the best we've shot the ball all season."
The Panthers played with Sac City point for point through the first two quarters and part of the third.
Sac City gradually pulled away, and after taking a 43-36 lead after three quarters, they won it on the free throw line in the fourth, hitting 18 of 23 free throws in the last eight minutes.
"I thought we played well, but had a few too many turnovers," Berg added. "Once we got behind by seven or eight, it was tough to come back.
"They kept making their shots and unless we score off off defense in a transition situation, we usually don't score early in most of our possessions. Three pointers were also a key; they made a better percentage of theirs than we did ours."
Junior guard Abby Richardson scored a team-high 25 points to pace St. Mary's, which split with Sac City during the regular season.
Richardson knocked down five three-pointers, but was held to seven points in the second half.
"We weren't paying enough attention to Abby in that first half," Fischer added. "She's a great player and made us pay for it.
"We addressed that at halftime and we defended her better in the last two quarters."
St. Mary's started the game in a 7-0 run, with Richardson opening the game by swishing a jumper from just above the top of the key for her first three-pointer.
An inside shot by Janie Imming followed, and Richardson hit a two-pointer for the 7-0 advantage.
The Indians rallied to take a 9-6 lead over the next five minutes, but St. Mary's ended the quarter on a 6-3 run for a 12-11 lead after eight minutes.
The lead changed hands six times through the first four and a half minutes of the second quarter. Sac City guard Adrianne Point hit a three from the right side to spark a run that gave the Indians a 26-21 lead.
St. Mary's answered with an 8-3 run to end the quarter and the teams were deadlocked at 29 at the half.
"It was a very well-played first half and close like we thought it would be," Fischer said. Sac City started the third quarter on a 10-3 run for a 39-31 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter. The Indians had their first double-digit lead at 43-33 with 1:18 left in the frame, but the Panthers responded with two free throws from Richardson and one from Imming to get to within 43-36 after three quarters.
Crabb opened the fourth quarter with a three from the dead left corner to make it 46-36. Sac City got some stops on defense and began milking the clock. The Panthers had to foul, but the Indians were tough at the line, making 18 of 23 free throws in the fourth quarter alone.
"We didn't move the ball on offense in the second half as well as the first, and when we did have a good look, we missed the shot," Berg added. "We also missed some easy shots from close in.
The St. Mary's mentor added that he and his team reached expectations this year, winning a school-record 16 games.
"We knew we had talent at the start of the season," Berg said. "It's tough to see our seniors go, because they've meant a lot to our program.
"But we have a solid core coming back and hope for another strong season," he added.
Playing their last prep basketball games for St. Mary's were seniors Cassie Weaver, Colleen Smith and Maggie Lange.