HIGHLAND — In the first quarter, the Central Cougars were both fast and furious.
The Cougars rolled out to a 20-2 lead in beating the Okawville Rockets 61-42 Tuesday in the Scott Credit Union Highland Girls Basketball Tournament.
"We played really well in the first quarter," Central coach Nathan Rueter said. "We got out and kind of got on them. We made some baskets in transition and executed very well offensively.''
Rueter's only wish is that the Cougars would keep up that breakneck pace longer than one quarter.
"We do need to do a better job of finding a way to sustain that,'' Rueter said. "We're a lot of fun to watch when we're that way, and we score a lot of easy baskets when we're that way. I don't know. I'll have to talk to the cross country coach about getting more of them out for cross country.''
The Cougars led 13-0 before the Rockets could catch their breath.
"I think Central is clicking right now," Okawville coach Michelle Hasheider-Burianek said. "You have to give them credit. They came out with a great game plan, and they executed it to a 'T.' I don't think they could have executed it any better.''
The Cougars, 21-2 and ranked No. 3 in the state in Class 2A, will play the Mater Dei Knights, 19-1 and ranked seventh in Class 3A, at 8 p.m. Thursday in the semifinal round of the tourney.
The Cougars got 17 points from freshman Kendra Wilken, 13 points from Maddie Timmermann and 12 points from April Gebke.
The Rockets played evenly with the Cougars after the first quarter, but they were never able to make up for the bad start.
"I'm hoping this game is something we can learn from,'' Hasheider-Burianek said. "We can learn how to keep fighting, and that's something we did in the second half. We didn't roll over, we kept fighting.''
The Rockets were led by Janel Lake with 14 points and Megan Wienstroer with eight points.
The Rockets (16-6) will play the Teutopolis Wooden Shoes (18-5) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the semifinal round of the fifth-place bracket.
Mater Dei 51, Teutopolis 40
Paige Richards and Emily Koelling each had 12 points and Jamie Voss had nine points as Mater Dei got past Teutopolis.
The Knights led 28-18 at halftime. They built up a 40-20 advantage by going on a 12-2 run at the start of the third quarter.
The Wooden Shoes crept within eight points on two free throws by Cierra Thompson with 1:56 to go.
Voss scored inside with 1:11 left, but Cassidy Lohman made two free throws with 44 seconds on the clock.
Richards sealed the win with two free throws with 19 seconds remaining.
"T-Town always plays us hard,'' Mater Dei coach Dave Kohnen said. "They were jumping in the passing lanes. They were gambling. They were down 15-16, they had nothing to lose. It paid off for them at times. We made some mistakes, but at this time of the year, I'm not going to complain. I think we beat a very good team by 11 points.''
Madeline Harke pumped in 19 points for the Wooden Shoes.
Highland 58, Vandalia 40
A balanced scoring attack -- five players scored eight or more points -- and a fourth-quarter defensive push enabled the Highland Bulldogs to beat the Vandalia Vandals.
Olivia LaPorta paced the Bulldogs with 11 points, followed by Hannah Hartlieb with 10 points, Emily Holtzclaw with nine points and Mackenzie Kleinmann and Bailey Leitschuh with eight points.
"From the beginning of the season, we've said we have eight to 10 girls who on any given night can step up and score for us,'' Highland coach Stephanie Harris said. "We're very balanced. That's what makes us good. We have versatility, we've got different players who can step up and knock down shots.''
The Bulldogs (9-11) will play Nokomis Redskins (13-8) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinal round of the consolation bracket.
The Bulldogs held a 33-27 lead going into the fourth quarter, but they used their press to outscore the Vandals 25-13 in the final period.
Harris said the threat of a 6 a.m. practice on Wednesday brought out her team's killer instinct.
"It's sad it has to be the fourth quarter after I threaten a 6 a.m. practice the next day,'' Harris said. "I don't care if it's a stink'in win or not. If you can't play the way you are capable of playing, then we'll just come in practice. I don't care if we have a game. We have plenty to work on.''
Vandalia senior guard Amber Bruno led all scorers in the game with 19 points, including four 3-pointers. Morgan Cripe added nine points.
The loss eliminated the Vandals (8-13) from the tourney.
Nokomis 61, O'Fallon 44
Sophomore forward Ashley Schneider scored 25 points as Nokomis knocked the O'Fallon Panthers out of the tourney.
The Panthers (5-12) were playing without junior guard Jasmine Bonds, who is sidelined with a concussion. Bonds averages a team-leading 15.6 points per game.
The Panthers fell behind 9-0 at the start, but cut their deficit to 15-10 by the end of the first quarter.
The Redskins scored six unanswered points at the start of the second quarter to go up 21-10 and they extended their advantage to 31-18 by halftime.
Blair Butler and Ciara Jones each had 11 points for the Panthers.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.