Fishers senior Adrianna Murphy led the Tigers with 16 points on Wednesday night. file photo
Fishers senior Adrianna Murphy led the Tigers with 16 points on Wednesday night. file photo
FISHERS - The Fishers Tigers didn't come into Wednesday night with a chip on their shoulder, but the defending sectional champions definitely took the floor at Hamilton Southeastern High School with a purpose.

Sprinting out to a 15 point lead by halftime, the Class 4A ninth-ranked Tigers never allowed the Zionsville Eagles to find an offensive rhythm, shutting down their Sectional 8 first-round opponent with ease to win 46-21.

"This sectional is about us coming out here and setting the tone," Fishers' senior Adrianna Murphy said. "We know if we defend well, our offense will come easier with our intensity on defense."

The 5-foot-1 guard, a Southeast Missouri State verbal commit, started the night in top gear, scoring 12 of her team-high 16 points in the first half.

Murphy shot 8 of 15 from the field, surpassing her 11.5 points per game average while dishing out a team-best seven assists.

Rolling off screens set by 6-0 Hannah Kroehler, 5-9 Blake Inglis and 5-11 Gabriella Parker, Murphy buried 5 of 8 shots in the first quarter alone.

"She had her pull-up jumper going, and when she does she's an extremely dangerous player," Fishers head coach Michael Gaines said. "She's hyper focused right now. Our whole senior class is taking up to another level with their maturity, their mentality and how they are approaching it."

Despite the rapidly building disparity, the Tigers were relentless in their attack to start the second half, leading the Eagles (4-16) by as many as 24 points in the third quarter.

"We had a pretty good lead at halftime, and we didn't take our foot off the gas pedal in the third quarter," Gaines said. "The kids did a great job of even stepping up the intensity level to another notch, stepping up their focus and togetherness.

"That's the type of thing it's going to take to win this sectional. We played good in the first half, but we came back in the second half and played great."

Junior Kara Gerka was aggressive inside and on the glass, scoring 13 points and hauling in six rebounds. Murphy grabbed seven rebounds - all on the defensive end - to push the tempo and increase Fishers' fastbreak opportunities.

"We have to make every possession as perfect as possible in order for us to continue to advance through this sectional," Gaines remarked. "It's a tough road through this sectional. All the teams in this sectional are high quality, so you have to be ready to play every night."

The Tigers were more than prepared. Fishers' pressure defense forced 11 steals and they shot 44 percent for the game to take their first step toward a potential sectional repeat.

Fishers (19-5) sectional championship at North Central last year was the program's first in school history. A second consecutive title is the team's primary goal.

"We want it bad," Murphy remarked on a potential back-to-back. "This group [of seniors] in particular it's our ninth season together, so when we go out there we know each and every night we have to give it our best."

The Tigers will face Mudsock rival Hamilton Southeastern (16-6) in Friday night's second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. The Royals beat Fishers 45-40 on Dec. 20 at home during the regular season.

In the other half of the bracket, No. 6 Noblesville (20-3) will play North Central (9-12) on Friday at 6 p.m. The Millers, who entered the tournament as the favorite, defeated Fishers and Hamilton Southeastern this year to win their first Hoosier Crossroads Conference title since 2002.

"I think we have a target on our back, which means we have to work a lot harder," Murphy said. "But I think it gives us confidence going into this thing. We know how it is from last year. We just have to protect what's ours and go get it."