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PREP BASKETBALL: Model girls use balanced attack to dominate Callaway 71-25 in the Sweet 16

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Five days after an intense battle to start the state playoffs, the Model girls’ basketball team made sure they were no less prepared for their second-round opponent.

Except this time there would be no late-game frenzy to secure a 70-64 win. This time it was about balance and domination in every aspect of the game.

A huge first half gave the Lady Blue Devils all the momentum they would need against visiting Callaway on Wednesday night as Model blasted its way into the Class AA quarterfinals with a 71-25 blowout in Shannon.

The win is the 14th in a row for the No. 6-ranked Lady Devils, who advance to the Elite Eight for the fourth straight year.

Junior guard Libby Upton led the team with 20 points, including scoring 12 in the second period as Model built a 40-10 lead by halftime.

“We really just played well as a team, and we always have fun together, no matter what,” Upton said. “We really connected tonight and saw each other on the court like we never have before.

“We shut them down on defense, and defense wins championships. And that’s why we’re here.”

The defense-first mindset of the Model girls (24-3) was on full display in the first half. Callaway pulled together an 8-5 lead midway through the opening period, but the Lady Devils’ rebound game kick-started a run that would stretch on through the final 3:39 of the first and the entire second quarter.

The Lady Cavaliers (9-13) were outscored 19-0 in the second period and Model had composed a 35-2 run that spanned the final 11:49 of the half.

“I have to attribute that to the girls’ focus this week,” Model coach Sally Echols said. “I think that they had their mind made up that they wanted to play every second to the fullest. They came out with a bang in that first quarter. Once we got rolling, we were really rolling.”

Model forward Victaria Saxton scored 14 of her 19 points in the first period to help set the tone and Megan Kent finished with 12 points. Kent and Upton provided the basis for the Lady Devils’ offense in the second period.

Meanwhile, Nia Long, Elizabeth Duke and Moe Welch disrupted Callaway’s offense, forcing bad shots and turnovers. The 6-foot-1 Saxton took her usual role as a shot blocker and was able to make some key assists.

“We knew their game was a post game, and so we had to really key on that. But I think what led to that was good rebounding, actually,” Echols said. “Tonight I felt like we rebounded the ball well, got it out quick and were able to score quickly in transition. That’s what really propelled us forward.”

By the time Model completed a 15-2 run with 2:56 left in the third period the Lady Devils had increased their lead to 54-14 and Echols had already begun substituting out her starters.

Those who came in off the bench continued to add to Model’s lead. Sisters Madison and Montana Moats capped off the third with back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 62-18.

The score ensured the final period would be shortened to six minutes per and mercy rule and left no doubt who was going to win the game.

Model will face No. 4 Dodge County in the quarterfinals after the Region 3-AA champions defeated Early County 70-58 on Wednesday. Since both teams are No. 1 seeds the location of the game, tentatively set for Tuesday, will be decided by a coin toss.