POLO – As he was leaving the Class 1A Polo Regional semifinals Wednesday night, one fan could be heard saying that the Prophetstown Prophets were "a machine."
That machine was a well-oiled one against the AFC Raiders, consistently finding open jump shots and points in the paint during a 69-40 victory.
"We were hot tonight," Prophetstown senior Cassie Reiley said. "We knew what was in store for us with their zone defense, and we got the ball to Riley [Walters] for baskets down low and she returned the favor for us guards – and we converted, too."
The biggest difference came from 3-point range. Prophetstown (26-3) was an efficient 7-for-16 from beyond the arc, while AFC (11-16) hit just six of 30 attempts.
But while the Prophets were balancing their deep jumpers with Walters' aggressive attacks on the basket, the Raiders were settling for long-range shots because they struggled to find openings against Prophetstown's rotating zone.
"They played a lot tighter on us as the game went on, and we just couldn't move the ball," AFC senior Sarah Matson said. "We could get our plays started, but they knew where we were trying to go with it. And once they got the lead, we didn't have enough time or energy to come back."
Prophetstown opened the game with a 17-6 run and never looked back. Clare Kramer started things with a 3-pointer, and back-to-back 3s from Corrie and Cassie Reiley capped the 4-minute, 29-second run.
The Prophets then scoried the first 14 points of the second quarter. Walters hit a pair of buckets in the paint, Cassie Reiley buried a pull-up jumper and a 3, and Kaeli Kovarik nailed another 3 off a Reiley assist.
"Usually we run things through me, and I look to kick it out to my shooters," Walters said. "But tonight, they weren't always collapsing in on me, so I was able to take the ball to the basket. Then, when they did come at me, I found Cassie and the other guards outside.
"Coach [Don] Robinson told us we'd win with effort, hustle and smarts. We controlled the tempo, got them going way too fast, and they threw up shots they maybe didn't want to take."
Matson kept AFC in it early on, scoring all 13 Raider points in the first quarter. But once the Prophets built the lead, there was little AFC could do about it.
"We always want to jump out early and get that lead," Cassie Reiley said, "because it ruins their confidence and gets us on a roll … and we can just keep going."
Walters had 21 points, seven rebounds and three assists, while Cassie Reiley finished with 15 points and three assists. Karlie Stafford added eight points, eight boards and two steals, and Kramer chipped in five points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Matson led AFC with 20 points and seven rebounds in her final game, with Cassidy Koning scoring seven and Lea Koning five. Lauren Meurer chipped in three assists and three steals, and Megan Knight had five rebounds.
"We knew we were going to have to be on fire tonight to win," AFC coach Chris Jahn said, "and we just didn't shoot as well as we needed to. We wanted to make them beat us inside with 2s instead of outside with 3s; that was the risk we ran, and they took advantage down low."
Class 1A Polo Regional semifinal
Prophetstown 69, AFC 40
Star of the game: Riley Walters, P'town, 21 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists
Key performers: Sarah Matson, AFC, 20 points, 4 3-pointers, 7 rebounds, 2 steals; Cassie Reiley, P'town, 15 points, 4 3-pointers, 3 assists; Karli Stafford, P'town, 8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals; Clare Kramer, P'town, 5 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
Up next: Class 1A Polo Regional championship, Prophetstown vs. Erie, 7:30 p.m. Friday