Northeast players and coaches refused to call Friday’s rematch with Fairview a revenge game.
But they sure played like it was just that.
The top-ranked Vikings opened the game hot from behind the arc and used a suffocating defense to dismantle defending champion Fairview 51-35 in the Class 2A semifinals at State Fair Arena.
It was a rematch of last season’s title game in which the Jackets rallied from an eight-point deficit to win 38-36.
“I just approached it like it’s another game,” Northeast senior T’ona Edwards said. “I know we say we’re on a mission, and that’s not the revenge game to us, it’s more like get past them and get to the real goal.”
Northeast (29-0) will play the winner of Alva and Dale at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in State Fair Arena. The Vikings last won a state title in 1979.
But with the type of defense they played Friday, a gold ball could be attainable.
Fairview (25-5) committed 19 turnovers and shot just 29.7 percent from the field.
Credit that to second-year Northeast coach Londaryl Perry, who admitted he was in the stands watching film as his players were getting dressed.
“I went over defensive scheme earlier before we came here, but I still was trying to see in case they run other options what do I do,” he said. “Each team that we play has different types of personnel, so we cannot always trap the same. We make that adjustment based on the personnel.”
Northeast forced 12 turnovers in the first half, but it was Edwards’ quick hands that really made a difference.
She finished with five steals and a team-high 13 points.
“The thing with T’ona is she’s always been defensive minded since we started last year,” Perry said. “She understands her opponent so she goes in with the mindset that even if the person has more ability or potentially is supposed to be better, she goes in with the mindset that I’m going to play my game and I’m going to expose theirs.”
Senior Olivia Mason scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Jackets, who led just once in the contest and was never successful in trying to reproduce the late rally they made last season.
“Good teams are going to make runs,” Edwards said. “Staying focused was our key and we had to make sure we do a lot better at the end of the game because teams aren’t going to back down.
“A lot of people play their best games when they play us and we have to continue to fight no matter what the score looks like.”