LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — The California Pintos are heading to the final four after defeating the Penney Hornets 68-46 in the quarter-final game March 3 at Lee's Summit.
Elizabeth Lutz and Brittney Ellington combined for 54 of the Pintos 68 points in the game. Lutz had a game-high 30 points and Ellington added 24.
In the first quarter, the Pintos jumped out to an 8-2 lead. Penney fought back and tied the game at 10-10 with 3:47 left to play in the quarter. Penney took a 13-12 lead with 2:20 to play. California retook the lead at the end of the quarter at 16-14. Lutz had 15 of the Pintos 16 points in the quarter. The Pintos actually trailed near the end of the quarter, but Penney was called for a foul as Lutz attempted a last-second heave at the buzzer.
Head Coach Bobby Sangster said he trusted his team to overcome struggles with scoring after the first quarter, as Penney focused on guarding Lutz.
"I knew they were going to try to take Elizabeth away, and they did. And we had girls step up and that is why we are sitting where we are sitting," Sangster said.
In the second quarter, the Pintos were outscored 15-14 and the Pintos held a slim 30-29 lead. California got to the free-throw line early in the game and they made the shots count, as the team went 10-14 from the free-throw line in the first half.
California started the second half on fire, jumping out to a 46-31 lead with just more than four minutes left to play after going on a 16-2 run. California outscored Penney 21-10 in the third quarter to lead 51-39.
Sangster said the run at the start of the half was big for how the game played out.
"It was vital in the game," Sangster said. "We were able to get a nice run and take control of the basketball game."
The Pintos made 12 3-pointers in the game; eight of those were made by Brittney Ellington. In the fourth quarter, Ellington made five 3-pointers in a row and built the lead from 51-39 to 66-42. California only gave up three points in the final quarter until just under three minutes left to play. Their 24-point lead was the team's largest of the game.
"Brittney got hot and there wasn't an answer for her," Sangster said. "She just kept hitting them. She did a good job knocking shots down."
Paige Lamm added six points for California and Gracie George had three.
Sangster said the team was able to slow down Penney by rebounding.
"Once we started rebounding the basketball, everything kind of opened up for us," Sangster said.
California will play against the Clark County Indians (28-1) in the state semi-finals at 4:30 p.m. March. 9 at the Hammons Student Center at Missouri State University, Springfield.