CHRISMAN — Regardless of the outcome, the reason was going to be clear.
Free throw shooting.
When state-ranked Shiloh and previously ranked Schlarman played in Tuesday’s first girls’ regional semifinal at Chrisman’s Roger Beals Court, neither school made more than one-third of its free throw attempts.
Between the two Class 1A squads — who have 43 combined wins — the final free-throw accuracy was 31 percent (9 of 29).
In a game that Shiloh never led, but that Schlarman couldn’t put away until the final buzzer, when a three-pointer went astray, the Hilltoppers posted a 37-34 stunner to advance to Thursday’s 7 p.m. championship game.
“A lot of it (free throw inaccuracies) had to do with being in the moment,” Schlarman coach Keith Peoples said. “The kids work so hard and put a lot of stress on themselves when the game is on the line.”
Peoples tried to alleviate some of the stress.
“My focus was that (Tuesday night’s) game was no different than any other game,” Peoples said. “I’m learning not to put too much pressure on the team.”
The Hilltoppers (19-8) broke the final tie on Janelle Marion’s rebound basket 21 seconds into the second quarter, which gave her team a 15-13 cushion. Marion and teammate Sierra Bell shared game-scoring honors with 13 points apiece.
Shiloh (24-4) trailed by seven points with less than five minutes to play but still had a chance to create overtime with a last-second three-point attempt.
“I’d love to have that first half back,” Shiloh coach Dave Tingley said. “The way they play defense, you have to attack, and early on, we settled for outside shots.”
After the first quarter, the Raiders were 3 of 15 from the free throw line.
“This has been one of my better free throw-shooting teams,” Tingley said.
Bethany McGinness, who made all three of Shiloh’s three-pointers, led the Raiders with 11 points. The teams combined for 84 rebounds. Shiloh’s Lauren Moses had 13, and teammate Shayne Smith had 12.
Marion (14), Shelby Mascari (10) and Bell (nine) were the top Hilltoppers rebounders.
Playing two nights in a row took a toll, according to Bell.
“We were exhausted from (Monday night), and (Tuesday night) we struggled,” Bell said.
While the offense made 30.1 percent of its shots, Bell said the game was won on the other end of the court.
“Defense was the key to the game,” she said. “All the tournaments we’ve been in toughened us up.”
Cissna Park 51, Armstrong-Potomac 41. The Timberwolves continued a pattern that was started in the opener. The team playing on back-to-back nights upended the higher seed which was playing its regional opener.
“It’s nice to get that first game in and get used to the gym,” Cissna Park coach Stephen Summers said. “We survived and advanced.”
The game was a rematch of the season opener, a game in which the Timberwolves managed 28 points and lost.
“We didn’t have our full system in place then,” Summers said.
A-P (19-6) led once, when Morgan Zindars scored the game’s first basket 18 seconds after the tipoff. Cissna Park then went on a 10-0 run and never led by fewer than six points during the final 28 minutes.
Addison Stoller led the Timberwolves (20-8) with 21 points and 14 rebounds. She had 14 first-half points as CP built a 16-point margin at the break.
“We came out like gangbusters and only had a few mistakes the first half,” Summers said. “We set the tone early.”
The Timberwolves hit 16 of 26 first-half shots (61.5 percent) and committed one first-period turnover.
A-P struggled to find the range, ending with a 28.3 percent accuracy rate from the field.
“When you make shots, you look good,” A-P coach Nick Hipsher said. “We didn’t shoot the greatest and dug ourselves a hole in the first half.”
Seniors Rachel Miles (22 points) and Johanna Bruens (10 rebounds) led the Trojans. Miles got herself to the free throw line 16 times and made 10 attempts.
“Both teams are completely different (from the season opener),” Hipsher said. “They’ve evolved. We’ve evolved. I didn’t even watch the (game) tape.”
Alexis Knake scored 10 points and Madison Overbey had nine for Cissna Park. Overbey also had nine rebounds.
The championship game will be the first meeting of the season between Schlarman and Cissna Park. The schools played last year in the regional semifinals, and the Hilltoppers won by three points.