BREESE — After struggling two nights earlier with their outside shooting, the Central Cougars found their long-range touch against the Carlyle Indians.
The Cougars connected on a six 3-pointers in beating the Indians 57-43 Thursday in the championship game of the Class 2A Central Regional.
Torre Kohrmann, Sophie Rickhoff and Taylor Rakers each hit two 3s for the Cougars, who reeled off a 21-0 run from the end of the second quarter through the middle of the third quarter to seize control of a game that had been tied at 20-20.
Central coach Nathan Rueter said he wasn't surprised to see the Indians come out in a zone defense after the way the Cougars shot the ball during a 47-32 win over (Alton) Marquette on Tuesday night.
"We couldn't throw it an ocean if we were sitting in the middle of a cruise liner the other night," Rueter said. "I don't think it was a bad game plan on their part. Our kids shot it well tonight. If our kids shoot it well from the perimeter, we're going to have a chance to beat a lot of teams.
"With our inside punch, people are going to try to take that away, and we're going to have to make shots from the outside to win against good teams."
The Cougars' inside punch of Maddie Timmermann and Kendra Wilken produced 30 points.
Timmermann led the Cougars with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Wilken had 13 points.
"Maddie shines the brightest when the lights are the brightest," Rueter said. "She has a knack for that, and she showed that again tonight."
The Cougars (29-2) advance to play the Nashville Hornettes (28-2) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Class 2A Dupo Sectional.
The Hornettes beat Sesser-Valier 51-27 on Thursday in the championship game of the Zeigler-Royalton Regional.
The Indians (22-7) fell to the Cougars for the third time this season. The loss ended their season and the high school career of senior guard Paige Rakers.
"I was just telling the girls that in three years we turned this team around from a 4-21 team to the opposite and made ourselves respectable," Carlyle coach Randy Voss said. "That's a credit to the kids in that locker room, not me.
"And, Paige is a big part of that. She takes a lot of it on her shoulders all the time. She's done that for us all season."
The University of Michigan-bound Rakers led the Indians with 17 points.
"You're never going to stop her," Rueter said. "She's got the length to shoot over people, she has the quickness to go around people. There's a reason why she is a Big Ten recruit."
Kohrmann, who had 11 points, drew the defensive assignment on Rakers.
"Torre does an an exceptional job on anybody she guards," Rueter said.
The Cougars led 11-6 after a 3 from Kohrmann, but the Indians closed the gap to 13-12 by the end of the first quarter.
A 3-pointer by Paige Rakers and a rebound basket by Sedreyanna Harris enabled the Indians to gain a 19-17 lead with 4:52 left in the second quarter.
The Cougars outscored the Indians 11-1 over the rest of the second quarter to open up a 28-20 advantage.
Taylor Rakers came off the bench to toss in two 3-pointers as the Cougars scored the final eight points of the first half.
Kohrmann hit a 3 at the start of the second half, triggering 13 unanswered points for the Cougars.
The rally included a three-pont play by Wilken and a 3-pointer from Rickhoff.
"We were trying to find whatever weakness we could find in them, and hey, they don't have many," Voss said of challenging the Cougars to make the 3-point shot. "They don't even have a weakness coming off the bench. We challenged their other players to win the game, and they did."
The Indians finally broke their 7-minute, 43-second scoring drought on a turnaround shot in the lane by Sarah Haake with 3:18 left in the third quarter.
By then, the Indians trailed 38-20.
"Our calling card for as long as we have been here, I think, has been defense," Rueter said. "This team has scored it better than any team I have ever coached, but defensively we've really come a long way this season."
The Cougars extended their lead to 44-22 on another 3 by Rickhoff.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Paige Rakers helped the Indians get within 15 points.
Lori Whisenand scored five straight points by converting one of her two consecutive opportunities for a three-point play, drawing the Indians within 49-39 with 4:25 remaining in the game.
The Cougars responded with a victory-clinching 8-0 run that was capped by a steal and layup by Timmermann with 2:26 to go.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.