DIXON – A hot start gave way to a cold ending for the Dixon Duchesses in their opener at their own tournament Thursday afternoon, and it was thanks in most part to a gimmick defense by the Boylan Titans.
Trailing by two at halftime, the Titans turned to a box-and-one defense against Dixon standout Brooke Bailey. Boylan held the Duchesses to nine second-half points – and threw a fourth-quarter shutout – to advance to the quarterfinals with a 43-29 victory.
"We wanted to change the tempo, change the momentum in the second half," Boylan coach Paul Perrone said, "so we set out to stop them from getting Bailey the ball. We thought if we could shut her down, that would force their other girls to make plays. And it could get us into the flow of the game on both ends of the court."
The game plan worked well, as Boylan (5-7) allowed just four points in the game's final 12½ minutes.
After the teams traded leads early in the third quarter, Elizabeth Hilby's 3-pointer from the left corner put the Titans on top for good with 4:11 left in the period. Jensen Blassage followed with a three-point play a minute later, then added two layups in the closing minute of the third to give Boylan a 35-29 lead heading into the final 8 minutes.
Hilby opened the fourth with a jumper off a curl, and the Titans hit six of eight free throws over the final 6 minutes. Blassage had 18 points, three rebounds and three steals, and Hilby added seven points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.
But it was the defense that sealed the deal. Dixon (4-9) missed all eight field-goal attempts and its lone free throw in the fourth quarter, and couldn't find Bailey down the stretch, thanks to the Titans' defensive scheme.
"They hit us with that box-and-one right when we hit a cold spell," Dixon coach Luke Ravlin said, "and we just couldn't get the stops we needed against a really good ballclub."
Dixon got off to a great start, as Bailey hit a 3-pointer on the game's opening possession and then hit two of four free throws on the Duchesses' next two trips. Maggie Bushman provided a spark off the bench later in the half, hitting her first three shots, each giving Dixon a lead.
Boylan took a 14-10 lead in the first minute of the secone quarter, but Dixon retook the lead on Kari Wolfe's driving layup, Darianne Edwards' post move and Bushman's jumper from the right corner. Back-to-back Bailey buckets closed out the first half and gave the Duchesses a 20-18 halftime lead.
Bailey finished with 11 points, but she managed just two free throws after halftime. She added four steals, three rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot. Bushman had six points and three steals, Wolfe and Kacie Dillow scored four points apiece, with Wolfe grabbing a team-high five rebounds and Dillow chipping in four boards.
"Those girls work hard in practice, and now we're starting to see them playing with some more confidence," Ravlin said of Bailey's supporting cast. "They've put in the work, and it's resulting in them being more aggressive. I'm proud of the way the whole squad battled today. We just have to keep working at it."
Boylan 43, Dixon 29
Star of the game: Jensen Blassage, Boylan, 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals
Key performers: Elizabeth Hilby, Boylan, 7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals; Hallie Stull, Boylan, 4 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks; Brooke Bailey, Dixon, 11 points, 4 steals, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block; Maggie Bushman, Dixon, 6 points, 3 steals
Up next: Dixon tournament, Dixon vs. Aurora Christian, noon today