DELPHI — It was clear from the opening tip-off Friday evening at the Class 2A Delphi Sectional that the Carroll Lady Cougars were on a mission to reach the final. Carroll jumped out early on Fountain Central and never relinquished the lead in a 60-40 semifinal victory.

“This gives us all the confidence in the world,” Carroll coach Mike McCroskey said. “We played probably our best basketball of the season in the second half of this game.”

The Cougars (15-7) scored early and often in the first quarter behind the stellar play of Abby Reinke (11 points), who tallied six points in the quarter during an 11-0 run. Carroll continued to press its advantage with tough defense along with seven points in the paint from Jessica Yoder (15 points) for an 18-7 lead.

Despite the impressive start for the Cougars, the Mustangs (13-9) were not willing to quit as they continually forced Carroll into turnovers during a 10-2 run. The Cougars seemed to settle down once again late in the quarter and clung to a 23-20 halftime lead.

“I felt like we got a little sloppy in the second quarter,” McCroskey said. “But, we recovered from that and shot the ball well in the second half and connected on 11 of 12 from the line.”

Fountain Central played off its second quarter momentum to tie the game early in the third, but back-to-back 3-pointers from Amber Hughes and Reinke quickly stifled any comeback. A whole host of Cougars found the basket in the third en route to a comfortable 43-33 lead.

“Reinke dominated inside for us [Friday night],” McCroskey said. “Another key factor for us was the way Carly Yoder came off the bench and tallied four assists with no turnovers.”

The Cougars tasted blood in the final period and Quinci Eller took over. Eller was seemingly unstoppable in the fourth as she netted 15 of her 19 points. Eller continually broke down Fountain Central’s press and was sent to the line where she closed out the game with six straight free throws for the final margin.

“Quinci Eller is a great player,” McCroskey said. “She hurt her ankle during our first game and was probably only 60-percent on Wednesday. I don’t think you could even tell she had an ankle sprain [Friday night]. She just comes up big for us in the big games.”

The Cougars will attempt to repeat as sectional champions tonight when they face Clinton Central (5-14) at 7:30 p.m. in Delphi.

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