"I think the only fast break they got on us was the first play of the game and they missed that," Salyers said. "The other times, I thought we did an excellent job of getting back on defense and not letting them have any easy baskets. In our half-court defense, we were putting so much pressure on their guards that they didn't have time to stand there and throw over us."
Winning coach Konnie Snyder admitted her team would have preferred to a run-and-gun style more than Casey (13-17) allowed. But she said her players were able to adapt.
"When you get into tournament time, things tighten up a bit more," Snyder said. "You've scouted people and they've scouted you, they try to take you out of the things you like to do and you try to take them out of the things they like to do. Tonight we never got into that running game, but sometimes you have to win whatever way it's being played."
The Cardinals were able to do that because they had bigger bodies to bring off the bench. Casey's inside tandem of Meagan Murphy and Beth Patterson both got into foul trouble, with each picking up her third in the second quarter. Patterson got her fourth just 49 seconds into the second half, and both ended up fouling out.
While Casey regrouped with a younger, smaller lineup, South Laurel pounded the ball inside. Taran Johnson, a 6-0 junior, finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds while 5-10 sophomore Amber Neace had 15 points and eight rebounds and 5-9 junior Brittany Turner had nine points and eight boards.
In addition to those three, Snyder brought in 5-11 freshman Devon Burchette, 5-9 sophomore Kayla Baker and 5-8 sophomore Sabrina Manning.
"I thought that helped us because those kids are a little more physically strong than the kids they were bringing off the bench," Snyder said. "We were able to get after them a little bit defensively without being as aggressive as they were."
Score was tied after three quarters
South Laurel led by as much as eight points in the first half, and held a five-point advantage with 3:45 left to play in the third quarter. But a 3-pointer by Casey senior Kelli Warner and a basket by Murphy tied the game at 33 after three periods.
Another 3-pointer by Warner gave Casey its only lead at 38-37. Back-to-back baskets by Johnson and two free throws by Manning put South Laurel up 43-38 and Casey would get no closer than three points the rest of the way.
Warner hit four 3s and scored 14 points for Casey, and Salyers said her shooting was key to what Casey wanted to accomplish.
"We knew, somewhere down the line with them playing mainly a zone, we had to hit some shots," Salyers said. "We almost got what we wanted. We wanted them to have to play the man-to-man.
"I really felt like if we'd had the lead in the last three minutes of the game, I really felt like it would have been ours."
Murphy had 15 points and three rebounds for Casey, which hit 14 of 40 shots (35 percent). The Rebels connected on 5 of 13 3-pointers and 13 of 20 free throws.
South Laurel hit 18 of 44 shots for 41 percent, but was just 17 of 31 from the free-throw line.
SOUTH LAUREL (24-6) - Mallory Jones 8, Taran Johnson 16, Brittany Turner 9, Amber Neace 15, Whitney Smith 2, Sabrina Manning 3, Kayla Baker 1.
CASEY (13-17) - Meagan Murphy 15, Beth Patterson 8, Kelli Warner 14, Tabitha Yaden 5, Lindsay Wilson 1, Lindsey Hoskins 3.