BAXTER — Baxter’s girls’ basketball team came into Thursday’s Class 1A Region 5 tournament game against BGM on a four-game losing streak.
The Bolts averaged a little less than 36 points per game during that stretch.
But none of that mattered against the Lady Bears.
Baxter bolted out to an early lead, maintained the advantage with an efficient offense and solid pressure defense and routed BGM 59-32 at home.
“We wanted to win first and foremost,” Baxter coach Eric Padget said. “But we needed to win a certain way tonight. We wanted to win the way we had won some games earlier this season. That’s with moving the ball well on offense and playing good defense.”
The Bolts advance to the Region 5 quarterfinals where they’ll face fifth-ranked Montezuma (20-1) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Montezuma.
Baxter never trailed against BGM.
Caitlyn Bruntz hit her first two shots to put the Bolts in front 5-2 and then a 10-0 spurt pushed the margin to 15-2. Lilie Vansice ended the run with a 3-pointer and Holly Jessen buried a trey later to make it 18-8 after one.
Five different Bolts (13-9) scored in the period.
“They play a pretty good 2-3 zone. You have to prove yourself from outside before they’ll come out on you and luckily some of our shots fell early,” Padget said. “They fell because we shot them in rhythm and we moved the ball well.”
Jessen’s 3-pointer ended the quarter and Baxter scored the first 10 points of the second to extend the lead to 20.
That 13-0 run included five in a row from Vansice, who scored all eight of her points in the first half. The Bolts led 33-13 at halftime.
Baxter controlled the first half by dominating the offensive glass and speeding up BGM on its offensive end of the floor.
“We weren’t necessarily trying to get steals through the press but maybe get them later on,” Padget said. “We were able to take in-rhythm shots and we forced them to take one-pass shots. That helped us obviously.”
The third quarter belonged to McKenzie Eslinger. She had a game-high 16 points and seven rebounds for Baxter and nine of those points came in the third.
Bruntz began the period with a layup, but Eslinger had three buckets inside the lane and hit three free throws to keep Baxter in front after three frames.
BGM packed it in with its 2-3 zone early in the game and threw several double teams at Eslinger.
The shots from outside in the first half opened things up for her in the paint in the second half.
“It always opens things up for us if shots are falling from outside. It helps us get a better flow with our offense,” Eslinger said.
Padget shifted all of his players in and out in the fourth. BGM (9-13) was able to double its scoring from 16 in the first three quarters to 32 in the game, but the Lady Bears never got closer than 27 in the final frame.
Sophie Meyer hit a pair of 3-pointers and finished with nine points and five rebounds, while Bruntz tallied nine points and five assists.
Vansice collected eight points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals off the bench. Jessen put in six points, grabbed six boards and delivered four assists and Maddie Pierce tallied four points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals off the bench.
Brooke Bacon had five boards and two assists and Sadie Meyer finished with three points and three rebounds. Eslinger also had a pair of steals.
“We needed this one. We are going into Tuesday in a good spot,” Eslinger said, “I think the losing streak was tough for everyone because we lost some close ones. If we continue the energy we had tonight that will be good for Tuesday.”
The Bolts’ bench scored 16 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Baxter had 20 assists on 20 made field goals. The Bolts were 5-of-15 from 3-point range and 14-of-29 from the foul line.
BGM ended its season with four straight losses.