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REGION 7 TOURNAMENT: Hazen beats Cougars after slow start

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Hazen junior Ashton Carter, left, goes is defended by Heart River sophomore Jessica Praus on Monday during the Region 7 girls basketball tournament quarterfinals at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

Hazen head coach John Ward didn't dwell on first-quarter negatives.

In fact, he embraced his team going 4 of 15 for the field in the first 8 minutes.

It was good he did as the Bison shot 10 of 14 in the second quarter en route to a 61-45 win over Heart River in the quarterfinals of the Region 7 Tournament on Monday at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

"We were missing them, but we were getting them," Ward said. "The girls saw we were continually getting those shots. I think it gave them confidence."

The Bison built a double-digit lead, 19-8, with 5:32 left in the second quarter. The Cougars wouldn't get within single digits again.

Hazen junior guard Ashton Carter said the team's confidence built after the first couple easy buckets went down in the second quarter.

"It got us excited and pumped up," said Carter, who had a team-high 13 points. "The offense was flowing well and it felt really good."

Hazen outscored the Cougars 21-6 in the second quarter and took a 33-12 halftime lead.

However, the Bison wouldn't have built up their lead without help from the bench. Hazen's bench supplied 25 of the team's 61 points. Senior guard and starter Rachel Hansana added 11 points.

Kendra Slaubaugh led the bench with 10 points, while Krista Slaubaugh added eight and Lexie Biffert chipped in seven.

"We knew we had to keep pushing," Carter said. "The good teams keep going and we couldn't let up.

"Our bench did a great job. We have a good bench and we are really proud of our girls that can step up for us."

Nonetheless, Heart River head coach Kelsey Boedeker didn't want her team to go out without a fight. And it didn't.

The Cougars held the advantage in the second half, outscoring the Bison 33-28. One of the Heart River's key contributors was District 13 Senior Athlete of the Year Mary Hlebechuk. The guard had a game-high 19 points, four rebounds and three steals.

"I think her performance tonight summed up her entire career," Boedeker said. "In the last month and half, she's put our team on her shoulders and carried us. That's what a leader does. She's done that to a tee."

The closest Heart River came was 13 points, 56-43, with 1:45 remaining. Hazen held the edge in both rebounds and turnovers at 32-31 and 15-24, respectively.

Hazen moves on to face District 13 champion Beach at 7:30 p.m. today in the semifinals. The Bison nearly knocked off the Buccaneers in last year's Region 7 championship.

"It's going to be a tough game, but it's going to be a great game," Carter said. "We're really excited to play."

Added Ward: "We have to play at least this well and really take care of the ball. Beach is a good team and we have to play well. If anybody is going to beat Beach, they are going to have to play well."

HR 6 12 29 45

Hazen 12 33 49 61

HR: Mary Hlebechuk 19, Karli Northrop 10, Janessa Schmidt 6, Jada Mattson 4, Alex Poland 2, Addison Olson 2, Mara Obrigewitch 2.

H: Ashton Carter 13, Rachel Hansana 11, Kendra Slaubaugh 10, Krista Slaubaugh 8, Lexie Biffert 7, Saide Bolton 6, Dakota Wood 6.

3-pointers: HR 1 (Hlebechuk 1), H 1 (Biffert 1). Free throws: HR 12-21, H 8-11. Total fouls: HR 13, H 19. Rebounds: HR 31 (Schmidt 8), H 32 (Bolton 6). Assists: HR 9 (four tied with two), H 15 (Ke. Slaubaugh 4, Biffert 4). Steals: HR 6 (Hlebechuk 3), H 13 (Krista Slaubaugh 4). Blocks: HR 2 (Northrop 1, Hlebechuk 1), H 2 (Ke. Slaubaugh 1, Hansana 1). Turnovers: HR 24, H 15.