Step one for the Cochrane-Fountain City High School girls basketball team is complete.
Thanks to an aggressive defense that saw them force 27 turnovers, the top-seeded Pirates ran past fifth-seeded Elmwood/Plum City 54-26 in a WIAA Division 4 regional semifinal Friday night at Cochrane-Fountain City High School.
The Pirates (15-3) now host Dairyland Conference foe Blair-Taylor 7 p.m. Saturday as they look for their first regional title since 2016.
"We really thought we could pressure them," coach Rick Peterson said. "That's what we have been trying to do this season: pressure, pressure, pressure."
The Pirates wasted little time turning up the heat on defense, as they sent a message early with their aggressive 1-2-2 half court trap. That aggression on defense translated to the offensive end with the Pirates attacking the paint and getting easy opportunities around the rim as well as the free throw line. It led to a 16-2 C-FC lead in the first seven minutes.
"We always say the first five minutes are really important," Peterson said. "We were able to set the tone with our defense, especially our three up top."
The Pirates took a 27-6 lead after junior Chayce Rollinger nailed her second of three first half 3-pointers. Rollinger scored all of her game-high 13 points in the first half, outscoring the Wolves by herself with the Pirates taking a 30-11 halftime lead.
"I thought we played very unselfish tonight," Rollinger said. "We really work as a team well. Nobody was doing it themselves. It was all teamwork tonight."
That was fully evident by the fact that all nine Pirates registered at least a point on the night. Led by Rollinger's 13, C-FC saw three finish in double figures with seniors Jordyn Halverson and Emma Baures each scoring 11. Fellow senior Lydia Engel added six points, while Haili Brone tallied five for a Pirates squad that led by as many as 30 in the second half.
"Defense leading to offense and we were moving the ball quick," Peterson said. "Chayce had some good open looks but we are making the one extra pass. It's great to see."
It all leads to a rubber match with the second seeded Wildcats (17-3), who won the Dairyland Large Conference with a 13-1 record in the regular season ahead of C-FC (12-2). The two teams split in the regular season, but the Pirates won the most recent matchup 75-61 on Jan. 21.
"The kids are excited for it and we know it's going to be a tough matchup," Peterson said. "They are a super good team and they are playing well. They have a couple of really good scorers at close to 20 a game, but they also have some good role players that if you fall asleep on them can score 10 or 12. So we know it's going to be a battle."
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