AUGUSTA — Before her team would even get the ball, Savannah Brown was already running.

It looked almost telegraphed for Brown, a senior guard on the Gardiner girls basketball team. In a 71-35 victory over Brewer in Friday’s Class A North quarterfinals, she knew her teammates’ size in the paint would lead to a number of baskets at the other end.

“They didn’t really have any height, so I knew that we were going to get a rebound and get a stop,” Brown said. “I knew I had to get going, so I would just automatically start running. Our defense led into our offense, and that gave us a lot of transition points.”

Indeed, the running led to a constant stream of transition points for Gardiner, which breezed to this victory against the overmatched Witches. The went sent the Tigers to a 3:30 p.m. Wednesday semifinal game against No. 5 Nokomis (11-8), which defeated Camden Hills 41-26 earlier in the evening.

Brown got hot for top-ranked Gardiner (19-0) right out of the gate, responding to an Allie Flagg steal and layup with a layup of her own and a triple. With the score tied 7-7 later in the quarter, the Tigers got back-to-back baskets from Gruber (including one through a vicious triple-team) to go up four.

With Gardiner leading 18-9 with six minutes left in the half, though, Gruber went to the bench after picking up her second foul. Yet the Tigers limited eighth-ranked Brewer (6-13) to just a single point during Gruber’s absence from the game as a series of transition baskets from Brown and Megan Gallagher put the top seed up 28-11 late in the half.


“We normally would roll the dice with Lizzy in foul trouble a little bit, but six minutes was a little much, so we pulled her,” said Gardiner head coach Mike Gray. “We’ve got confidence in anyone we put out there, and Megan Carver and Taryn Nichols gave us some good post minutes. That let Lizzy get a little more rest than she usually does.”

She showed it by putting the Witches to bed in the third quarter. Although Brewer stayed in it and pulled within 32-19 just after halftime, the senior center responded with three straight baskets as part of a 10-point period. The Tigers ran away with it as Brown continued her onslaught to turn the game into a full-blown rout.

In addition to Brown’s 26 points, Gardiner also got 23 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks from the 6-foot-4 Gruber, who bullied Brewer in the post. Gallagher added six points — all in transition — for the Tigers while adding four steals. Allie Flagg led the Witches with 16 points.

Taylor Takatsu, who had 14 second-half points for the Tigers in a big-time road win over Lawrence last Tuesday, didn’t score for Gardiner on this night. Yet the junior forward did have six rebounds, many of which helped keep the No. 1 seed in charge with Gruber on the bench.

“Taylor Takatsu has really stepped it up big time for us this year, and she stepped it up today,” Brown said. “She’s definitely someone who plays a key role, and whenever Lizzy has to go to the bench, she really steps up for this team and can make some big plays to keep us going.”

Gruber’s game on this night wasn’t limited to converting layups, pulling down rebounds and blocking shots; she also made a number of full-court passes to Brown and Gallagher that resulted in points. Brown, Gray added, did a great job of telegraphing Gruber’s passes, which she routinely converted into points.

“That’s her role; we let her extend, and she can track down anything — any pass that’s coming her way, she can go get it,” Gray said. “She doesn’t even fear getting hit; she goes to the hoop full speed. With us not hitting a 3 in the first half, those baskets from her were huge for us.”

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