BY CHAD DARE
Height and athleticism is a dangerous combination on the basketball court.
Armstrong-Potomac senior Erika Sieberns has both and it gave her a distinct advantage in Tuesday’s IHSA Class 1A regional semifinal game against the Salt Fork Storm.
Sieberns, a 6-foot forward, was virtually unstoppable, scoring a game-high 22 points and pulling down 14 rebounds in the Trojans 50-27 victory over the Strom at Bezely Gymnasium.
“She played really well tonight,’’ Armstrong-Potomac coach Nick Hipsher said. “We wanted to get the ball into her and I thought they did a nice job defensively on her.
“But, she hit a lot of really tough shots.’’
The first three baskets for Sieberns — all in the first quarter — were contested shots over a Salt Fork defender.
“I had battle through contact on the first couple of shots and I wasn’t sure how they went in,’’ Sieberns said.
Those first three baskets were just the start of a big night as Armstrong-Potomac (18-9) advanced to Thursday’s regional championship game.
Sieberns went on to make her first nine shots from the field before finally missing midway through the fourth quarter on a 8-foot shot from right of the lane.
“She is really hard to defend, especially when our tallest kid is 5-foot-9 and we have a freshman that’s a little taller than that, but she is a freshman,’’ Salt Fork coach Jeff Carleton said. “Sieberns is a senior and she is 6-foot tall. That’s tough to defend.’’
And it wasn’t just her scoring that gave Salt Fork (10-17) trouble on Tuesday night. Her 14 rebounds helped Armstrong-Potomac win the battle of the boards, 40-25.
“On the glass, we thought we would get her blocked out but she was able to jump up and get them,’’ Carleton said. “I think some of those could have been called, but they weren’t.’’
Sieberns said its her goal every night to help her team outrebounded the opponent and to give them an inside scoring option.
“We try to take advantage of getting the ball inside for every game — whether we have the size advantage or not,’’ she said. “I just had to post up strong and they got the ball inside to me.’’
While the Trojans came out making six of 11 shots en route to a 12-2 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Storm managed to make just 1-of-9.
“We were very sluggish defensively and offensively,’’ Carleton said. “We had an emotional game (Monday) and we had to turn around and play again today. They were off, and they were fresh.
“My girls gutted it out, and gave it their effort. We didn’t shoot very well and that happens.’’
Salt Fork shot just 21.7 percent in the regional semifinal, making 10-of-46 shots, while Armstrong-Potomac made 17-of-41 (41.5 percent) and the Trojans were 15-of-19 at the free-throw line.
“It helps when you make shots, but our girls did a nice job of getting the ball where we wanted it,’’ Hipsher said.
Armstrong-Potomac sealed its spot in the regional title game with an 11-0 run to start the third quarter, giving the Trojans a 21-point lead (31-10).
“We started the second half strong and that didn’t let them get back into the game,’’ Sieberns said. “We kept the momentum on our side.’’
Joining Sieberns in double digits was junior Morgan Zindars with 16 points. She also had a game-high three assists and a team-high three steals. Courtney Hambleton joined Sieberns with double figures in rebounds as she had 11 for the Trojans.
Salt Fork senior Heather Ellis led the Storm with 11 points, while Kalyn Learnard had a game-high six steals.
Armstrong-Potomac will play Schlarman Academy, a 41-38 winner over Cissna Park, in Thursday’s regional championship game. Tip off is set for 7:30 p.m. in Armstrong.