EVERETT - The offense for Southern Fulton in the first quarter was lethargic and ineffective and the Indians found themselves trailing underdog Berlin 14-5 very early in the second quarter.
But a change in defense changed SF's offensive production and the team's fortunes in one quick swoop and led to a 52-38 victory over the Mountaineers in a District 5 Class A girls basketball semifinal game Wednesday night at Everett.
The win puts No. 2 seed Southern Fulton (19-5) into the district championship game Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. at U. Pitt-Johnstown against its rival No. 4 McConnellsburg (17-7), which knocked off No. 1 seed Meyersdale, 47-36.
Putting in a full-court press to start the second quarter made a huge difference for the Indians.
"At the end of the first quarter, coach asked if we wanted to press, and we said yes," said Olivia Mottern, who led led SF with 21 points. "It led to our offense getting started."
Southern Fulton coach Meagan Raville said, "I wanted to make sure they all wanted to use a press, so they'd all be into it mentally. Because if you don't have all five commit to it, you can get beat with that press.
"We struggled on offense in the first quarter, but when the press is working, it'll help your offense."
Which is exactly what happened.
The Indians did not create a ton of turnovers with the press, but it quickened the pace of the game and took Berlin out of the offensive rhythm it had just gotten into.
From the 14-5 deficit, Southern Fulton scored 15 consecutive points, including 11 by Mottern, which included a personal nine-point run. She scored the final bucket in that 15-0 blitz, making the score 20-14, and the Mountaineers never got closer than four points again.
"At the beginning, my shots weren't falling, but you have to keep shooting," Mottern said.
Berlin coach Rachel Prosser said, "They did a nice job with that press - their experience got the best of us. Our best ballhandler (Geordan Hay) was already in foul trouble and it gave us all kinds of trouble.
"We were rattled, even though we had worked against it in practice."
Before the change, the Mountaineers used a zone defense to keep the Indians at bay. Mottern had very few touches and SF seemed reluctant to attack the basket.
"We had to limit Mottern's touches, and we knew what we needed to do," said Prosser, whose team lost to SF in the season opener.
Raville said, "I didn't want the girls comparing this to that early game, because this was a completely new game."
In addition to Mottern's big night, which included seven rebounds, Shaye Smartt piled up 10 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals.
"Shaye has really been strong toward the end of the season," Raville said. "Her offense, defense and taking care of the ball have been really good."
Also for the Indians, Celina Merchant scored 11 points, Drew Gordon had eight rebounds and Lakyn Morton made four assists.
For Berlin, freshman Zoie Smith may be one to watch in the future - she dropped in 21 points, showing a nice shooting touch.
Southern Fulton 52, Berlin 38
Whitney Eckenroad 0-5 0-0 0, Rachel Luprek 3-7 1-2 7, Geordan Hay 1-5 0-0 3, Zoe Harding 0-5 2-2 2, Zoie Smith 8-15 5-6 22, Abigail Martz 1-5 0-0 2, Emma DeArmitt 0-0 0-0 0, Katie Flick 1-4 0-0 2. Totals — 14-46 8-10 38.
Southern Fulton (52)
Celina Merchant 4-9 3-4 11, Shaye Smartt 3-8 3-3 10, Lakyn Morton 2-6 0-1 4, Olivia Mottern 8-13 4-5 21, Drew Gordon 0-5 0-2 0, Maddie Baker 0-0 0-0 0, Emily Bradshaw 0-3 2-5 2, Drew Hann 2-3 0-0 4, Fallon Ritz 0-0 0-0 0, Jessie Covalt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 19-47 12-20 52.
Berlin _ 10 _ 9 _ 7 _ 12 _ — _ 38
Soiuthern Fulton _ 5 _ 19 _ 14 _ 14 _ — _ 52
3-point goals — Ber 2-14 (Hay, Smith), SF 2-10 (Smartt, Mottern).