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Feb. 13—BAXTER — The focus for Baxter's girls' basketball team in its postseason opener against BGM was the Baxter girls' basketball team.
The Bolts were only concerned with themselves after not playing their best in the final few regular season games leading into the regional tournament.
"We haven't been playing real well lately so it didn't matter who we played. We worked on us," Baxter girls coach Eric Padget said. "Yesterday in practice, we worked on us and focused on those things in the game tonight."
No foul was called on this shot by Baxter junior Elie Tuhn (4) during the Bolts' postseason win over BGM on Thursday night. Tuhn led No. 15 Baxter with nine points, five rebounds, three assists and six steals. (Troy Hyde/Newton News)
Most of what they did in the game against the Bears worked as the Bolts used a quick start to run and hide and Baxter advanced to the Class 1A Region 6 quarterfinals following a 54-15 home win on Thursday.
These two teams played two times in February. The first meeting resulted in a 49-point Baxter win.
"We got back into our groove tonight. We had a lot more fun than in previous games," Baxter senior McKenzie Eslinger said. "We have seven seniors on this team and the older leadership has definitely helped us."
The No. 15 Bolts host HLV (10-10) in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Baxter.
Against the Bears, nine players scored and seven put in at least four points. No one reached double figures as Padget used hockey-style substitutions all night.
"We have not had energy or legs in a game in about a week," Padget said. "We've just been playing games too much. We got a lot of girls in against Valley Lutheran on Tuesday and then we got a lot of kids in tonight.
"This game couldn't have gone any better. I still wanted to rest girls and have fresh legs for next game."
The Bolts (19-2) scored the first nine points in the game. Lilie Vansice started and ended that stretch with jumpers.
Maddie Pierce and Elie Tuhn both buried 3-pointers to make it 14-3, and the Bolts scored the final eight of the period to lead 22-5 after one.
"It was very important to get off to a fast start," Padget said. "They have had a rough season and the longer you let a team like that stay in the game, the better chance they have. We wanted to get out quick and we did that."
The 8-0 run to end the first turned into a 14-0 run in all as Merrin Ziesman scored back-to-back buckets inside to start the second and Mandee Selover got a steal at one end and a layup at the other to finish the run.
Baxter ended the half on an 8-2 run with four of those points coming from Eslinger and three from Pierce. The Bolts led 37-11 at the break.
"We needed to have more energy. That had been lacking in previous games," Pierce said.
The Bolts outscored the Bears (1-21) 13-1 in the third. And they started 13-0 after layups by Tuhn and Vansice, a 3-pointer by Sophie Meyer, five straight points by Eslinger and a free throw by Pierce.
Eslinger's first bucket kicked on the 35-point continuous clock. In the fourth, Allyson Padget nailed a jumper and Brooke Bacon scored on a runner for the Bolts' only points.
Tuhn led the Bolts with nine points, five rebounds, three assists and six steals.
Eslinger added nine points and five rebounds, Vansice had eight points and four boards, Pierce chipped seven points and four steals and Meyer had seven points and three steals.
"This year has been awesome. I have never had a season like this in my high school career," Eslinger said. "We are all playing so well. This team just clicks."
Ziesman finished with six points and four rebounds off the bench and Selover's four points and four rebounds also gave the bench strong production.
"Our goal was just to focus on ourselves and not worry about the score," Ziesman said. "The seniors are really close with the upperclassmen, and I think that has helped with our chemistry."
One of the focuses for the Bolts in Wednesday's practice was passing. And the work put in during practice translated to the game as they turned it over just seven times. They also frequently made the extra pass to set up teammates with easier shots.
"It was a point of emphasis in practice last night," Padget said. "We hadn't been passing that well lately. I thought it was better tonight."
Notes: The Bolts shot 44 percent from the floor, made 3-of-13 from 3-point range and hit 5-of-9 from the foul line. ... HLV advanced to the quarterfinals after a 54-40 win over English Valleys. ... The 1A Region 6 bracket now features four ranked teams — No. 6 Montezuma, No. 12 Collins-Maxwell, No. 14 Lynnville-Sully and No. 15 Baxter.
Baxter junior Allyson Padget goes up for a shot in the lane during the first half of the Bolts' postseason win over BGM on Thursday. (Troy Hyde/Newton News)