After a first half in which Wilton led almost the entire time, Mediapolis’ Maya Johnson knocked down her third shot of the game one minute into the third quarter and gave a fist pump to the Bulldog cheering section. Suddenly the Beavers’ lead was just seven.
The Beavers didn’t flinch.
Wilton pushed the ball up to senior Linsey Ford, who fired a cross-court pass to freshman Kelsey Drake for an and-1 layup moments later to push the lead back to 10.
“We talked about that right before the game,” Wilton coach Jeremy Putman said. “If (Johnson) hits a 3-pointer or gets a bucket big deal, that’s one basket.
“She scores, we score on the other end. That was our philosophy.”
Wilton outscored Mediapolis by 21 points from that point on to roll to an 85-54 win in Friday’s Class 2A District 5 semifinal matchup Friday at Muscatine High School. Now, just one game away from state, Wilton will look to earn a berth in the 2A field Monday when it takes on North Linn for the district title.
“That was definitely our goal,” senior Kortney Drake said of making it to the district title game. “This is everything we could have asked for.”
Kortney Drake certainly did her part to make sure the Beavers wouldn’t fall short Friday night. She scored a team-high 25 points, including 20 in the first half. She was a terror at the top of a Wilton (21-2) zone that forced Mediapolis (20-3) into turnovers early and often.
As a result, the only time the Beavers trailed was when it was 2-0. They rattled off 12 consecutive points — eight of those by Kortney Drake — to take a 12-2 lead. The margin was never closer than seven points after that.
“I think defense is where it starts,” Kortney Drake said. “We got those easy layups, and that’s what we work on all the time.”
“We saw when we scouted (Mediapolis) last week they had a bit of trouble against pressure,” Putman added. “We ramped that up a notch. They just weren’t ready for that.”
Not only did the Wilton defense force turnovers, but it also made life miserable for Mediapolis’ Johnson, who entered the contest as the second leading scorer in Class 2A at 22.5 points per game. She was held to 11 points including a 3-pointer she hit late in the game with Wilton’s reserves on the floor.
“We just didn’t want to give her open looks,” Putman said. “If we give her open looks and she buries a couple that’s going to get her going but she never really got going.”
Still, Mediapolis stabilized, and the Wilton lead was just 10, 38-28, at halftime. The Beavers dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Bulldogs 23-11 in the period. That included a 17-3 run to give them a 55-34 lead and blow the game open. Putman scored eight of her 17 points in that stretch and hit a pair of 3-pointers.
Emily Lange, who was held to six points in the opening half, drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to ignite the large Wilton contingent and give it a 61-39 lead. Lange, who entered Friday’s game as the leading scorer in 2A at 22.9 points per game, finished with 20 points.
“We played well on both sides of the ball,” Putman said. “We ran our game plan perfectly.”
In fact, Drake said it was one of the better performances by the Beavers so far in a season that has included 19 wins by double-digits. But Putman knows his team will have its work cut out for it Monday when it plays North Linn at Cedar Rapids Prairie High School 7 p.m. for the program’s trip to state since 2001 on the line.
“They are a great opponent,” Putman said of North Linn. “We’re going to get out and try to ramp up our defense and just play our game. As long as we’re playing solid on defense we’re tough to beat.”