FISHER — Usually even precocious athletes have to wait their turn for success, but the super sophomores of the Lexington High School girls basketball team have decided the future is now.
That much became clear as the No. 4-seeded Minutemen knocked off top-seeded Ridgeview, 49-43, in the championship game of the Class 1A Fisher Regional on Thursday.
Lexington, which also topped the Mustangs 53-44 on Jan. 2, improved to 16-9 ahead of Monday’s 6 p.m. Ridgeview Sectional semifinal against Cissna Park (21-9) at Colfax. The Minutemen have won four regionals in school history and all have come since 2013-14.
Sophomore Jayden Standish, who finished with 20 points and nine rebounds, doesn’t feel Lexington is ahead of schedule.
“We are a very young team, but I think we’re right where we need to be,” she said. “We’re playing as a team, working together. It’s all flowing right now, a perfect time for that.”
Lexington coach Bill Elias said, “Quite honestly, I don’t think they are ahead of schedule either. I knew all along what they had if they could get there mentally. Physically, I knew where they were at. I knew that in the summer league.”
After Kelly Jones sank a 6-foot jumper with 5:11 left in the first quarter to put Ridgeview on top, 5-4, Lexington mounted an 8-0 run with help from back-to-back steal-and-layup maneuvers by senior Raelyn Payne to take the lead for good.
Standish scored nine points as the Minutemen built a 23-17 halftime lead. A Standish 3-pointer later created a 28-17 gap, but Ridgeview responded with an 8-0 run to get within 28-25.
Lexington countered with an 8-0 run of its own. Layken McGuire scored six straight points in that stretch to give the Minutemen a 36-25 cushion.
A sophomore, McGuire finished with 14 points including six from the free throw line. Equally important, she helped hold Ridgeview ace Mya Tinsley to eight points and eight rebounds.
“When we played them after the first of the year, McGuire did the same thing to her then,” Elias said, “just frustrated her and took her penetration away, which is what our game plan was. They don’t like to take contested shots. We know them well and they know us.”
Elias has been starting Tia Hardt, but went with Elena Steffa because Steffa had 19 points in the previous game with Ridgeview. On Thursday, Steffa provided six points and eight rebounds.
“This is what’s good about this team,” Elias said. “I’ve got so many (options).”
Standish finished 9 of 19 from the field.
“She’s very athletic and very talented,” said Elias, who also got nine points and nine rebounds from Payne. “It will be hard to replace (Payne) next year because she is so good defensively.”
The Mustangs, who ended at 20-10, won the fourth quarter 18-11 but never got closer than the final score. River Rosales led Ridgeview with 10 points and Jones added eight.
The Mustangs were outshot from the field, .404 to .291, and they were outrebounded, 36-33.
“We had some shots that just didn’t fall,” lamented Ridgeview coach Scot Ghere. “We got the shots that we wanted. They just weren’t falling tonight.
“When we made a run, they’d come back and score. One thing we’ve done all year is play hard until the end. We accomplished a lot of things.”