It took a while for the Hershey girls' basketball team to get revved up on Monday in the first round of the South Platte Valley Association tournament against Imperial at the McDonald-Belton Gymnasium.
But once the Lady Panthers got going, they could not be stopped and they won going away 59-25.
"They played us tough," Hershey coach Jeremy Thomas said. "We knew they would because they always do. (Coach) Nancy (Sorensen) always has her team ready to play."
The game began with Imperial (3-11) scoring the first four points on baskets by Taylin McNair and Paige Spady. But Maegan Hiatt answered back for Hershey (15-1) by scoring the next five on a three-pointer and a layup. Then the Panthers went up 7-4 when Ryce Troyer made a 12-foot jump shot along the baseline.
But the Lady Longhorns bounced right back. McNair banked in a three to tie the game and then Jodi Koellner scored a bucket to give them back the lead.
Troyer then connected on a runner along the baseline on the right side where she made her jumper earlier to tie the game at nine with 38 seconds left in the first quarter to close out the scoring in the period.
"(Imperial) had a lot of young girls and they made shots," Thomas said. "We lost No. 20 (McNair) in transition a couple of times and she made us pay."
Spady scored the first bucket of the second quarter to put the Longhorns back on top and for the next couple of minutes, it felt like a perfect storm was brewing for Imperial to upset the defending SPVA tournament champions.
But then Hershey kicked it into gear. Hiatt scored a basket to tie the game and then Mariah DaMoude gave the Lady Panthers the lead with a three. DaMoude then followed her trey up with a pair of made free throws that gave Hershey a 17-11 lead with just over three minutes left in the first half.
Hiatt then closed out the run with 1:36 left until the break when she got a layup off of a steal by Tessa Otzel.
McNair made another three to answer. But the half ended with the Panthers scoring the last five points with Maddie Seamann scoring inside and Troyer nailing a desperation three at the buzzer from well beyond the arc. Hershey led 24-14 at halftime.
"Last time we played them, it was the same start," Thomas said. "But we got the buzzer beater and we finished the first half strong."
That was all the Lady Panthers needed to leave the Longhorns in the dust. Tayler Baker, who was held scoreless in the first half, came out of the break and knocked down a three from the right corner. Then she followed it up with a three-point play.
Hershey outscored Imperial 21-6 in the third quarter to lead by 25 going into the final period. The Panthers then finished the game off to move into Thursday's semifinals against Kimball (9-3).
Imperial 9 5 6 5 - 25
Hershey 9 15 21 14 - 59
Imperial (25)-Taylin McNair 10, Paige Spady 10, Emma Bauerle 1, Valeria Cervantes 2, Jodi Koellner 2
Hershey (59)-Taylor Mustion 6, Mariah DaMoude 5, Hannah Johnson 2, Ryce Troyer 12, Maegan Hiatt 15, Tayler Baker 14, Maddie Seamann 5
Free Throws: I 3-4, H 4-7; Three Point Goals: I 2 (McNair 2), H 9 (Hiatt 3, Baker 3, Troyer 2, DaMoude)