Lewistown pressure, perimeter shooting doom Aurora Christian
NORMAL -- There is arguably no principle more important in basketball than refraining from turnovers.
In the second semifinal of the Class 1A girls basketball state tournament at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University Friday afternoon, Lewistown justified its top ranking in The Associated Press' final regular-season poll.
Making its first appearance in the Final Four since the program was founded during the 1993-94 season, Aurora Christian was left reeling in the Indians' wake.
Aurora Christian was completely bewildered by the Indians' pressure defense and perimeter shooting in a 70-42 loss.
Lewistown (33-1) never trailed in authoring the second one-sided game of the day in ending the Eagles' seven-game winning streak in decisive fashion.
Aurora Christian (30-5) will face (Hume) Shiloh in the third-place game Saturday morning as (Lanark) Eastland battered its way to a championship final with Lewistown after a 70-28 victory in the first semifinal.
Turnovers -- as well as the Indians' 50-percent marksmanship on 22 3-point attempts -- spelled the undoing of Aurora Christian.
Lewistown was nearly flawless in comparison to Aurora Christian with its 6 turnovers against the Eagles' 21 misplays.
Sixteen of the Indians' forced exchanges of possession were translated into an unbridgeable 28-4 advantage in points off turnovers via steals.
"We just didn't execute offensively or defensively," Aurora Christian coach Burney Wilkie said. "We talk about valuing the basketball. You could tell who had been down there (to state) and been there before."
"We really didn't get pressured like that (in the regular season and earlier playoff games)," said Aurora Christian star junior forward Anna Griffin, who led the Eagles with 20 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. "We knew it was coming. We had seen plenty of tape on them."
Griffin scored the Eagles' initial three field goals, only to see Lewistown answer with four of their 11 3-pointers in the opening quarter.
The Eagles scored 19 of the first 25 points of the game, and Aurora Christian would only see a single-figure deficit once -- after two Griffin free throws -- the rest of the contest.
Thaya Luse finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds after heading to the pines with two quick fouls.
Lewistown was seemingly on automatic in building a 35-12 second-quarter lead before settling for a 39-20 advantage at the intermission.
"Obviously, it kept me from playing," Luse said of her first-quarter foul issues. "They were making everything."
Aurora Christian did have one silver lining by outrebounding the Indians 43-31.
Freshman Aspen Weeks' 10 rebounds and an equal number of points complemented Griffin for Aurora Christian.
"It was a very fun experience, and I can't wait to experience it again," Weeks said.
Macy Mikulich had 20 points to pace Lewistown. Anna Heffren and Sydney Shaeffer added 18 and 11 points, respectively.
"Lewistown was far and away the better team today, but it wasn't for a lack of preparation," Wilkie said.