OKAWVILLE — In a game where baskets were hard to come by, the Okawville Rockets' defense took a lot of the stress off their offense.
Janel Lake had 10 points and Megan Wienstroer added nine points in leading the Rockets past the New Athens Yellow Jackets 36-19 Wednesday at the Class 1A Okawville Girls Basketball Regional.
The Rockets' man-to-man defense forced 24 turnovers and limited the Yellow Jackets to only five field goals.
"That's what helped out," Okawville coach Michelle Hasheider-Burianek said of her team's defense. "We were able to put some pressure on them and get in the passing lanes.
"I thought our defense could have been a little better at the beginning, but as the game kind of went on, it kept getting better. Hopefully, we are headed in the right direction now."
The top-seeded Rockets (20-8) advance to play the second-seeded Christ Our Rock Lutheran Silver Stallions (20-6) from Centralia at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the championship game of the regional.
The two teams met a month ago with the Rockets winning 58-48 on Jan. 7 in Centralia.
The Silver Stallions, behind Amanda Geiger's 27 points, battled past the Sandoval Hawks 49-36 Wednesday in the other semifinal.
The Yellow Jackets' 2-3 zone defense also was stingy, forcing the Rockets into 18 turnovers and 3-for-13 shooting from 3-point range for the game.
"We're really young, mostly freshman and sophomores, and to keep a team like Okawville to 36 points is really good," New Athens coach Jill Lannert said. "Defensively, we did an amazing job. Offensively, we didn't know how to handle their pressure, but that's from being a young team."
The Yellow Jackets ended their season with a 14-10 record. They'll will lose only one senior -- Bailey Dudeck -- to graduation.
"I have one senior, one junior, five sophomores and three freshmen," Lannert said. "I'm young, real young. So everything is up from here."
The Yellow Jackets were led by Denae White with nine points and Abby Marlow with six points.
The Yellow Jackets committed turnovers on their first five offensive possessions.
"We had never played against a team as aggressive as Okawville is," Lannert said. "Their man-to-man is extremely aggressive, and I knew tonight it was going to be tough. I just told them to keep their heads up and try to get the ball inside."
The Rockets also had a hard time getting untracked on offense as they led 5-2 at the end of the first quarter.
"We couldn't buy a bucket, could we?" said Hasheider-Burianek, whose team made only two of its first nine shots. "I don't know what we were shooting, but it wasn't very good. I thought we were getting open looks, but we just weren't knocking them down."
The Rockets got back-to-back 3s from Wienstroer and Allison Koch to open up a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.
Marlow converted a three-point play to get the Yellow Jackets back within 21-10 with 39 seconds left in the second quarter, but Keatyn Meier scored on a layup with a second left in the period to give the Rockets a 23-10 lead at halftime.
Okawville scored seven answered points in the third quarter to go up 30-10. They coasted the rest of the way.
Lake, a 6-foot senior, made her presence felt on the inside starting with a couple of baskets in the second quarter and then added three more buckets in the second half.
"She was getting those shots in the first half, but they weren't going down," Hasheider-Burianek said. "She's a worker. She works extremely hard on defense, and I was glad to see her get rewarded for that."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.