COLUMBIA — Althoff had everything going its way in the first quarter Monday when it took a 19-6 lead over Freeburg.
But the Midgets proved up to the challenge as they staged a comeback that led to an eventual 57-42 victory over the Crusaders in the first round of the Class 3A Columbia Regional.
"That certainly hasn't happened to us this year," Freeburg coach Fred Blumberg said of the rally that produced the Midgets' ninth win in their last 10 games. "We were 3-13 at one point. I can't put my finger on one thing that turned it around for us, but we've played really well for about the last five weeks."
Senior Lauren Mense and junior Abby Lealaimatafao keyed Freeburg's win with 13 points apiece. Junior Chelsea Hill added nine, senior Adrianne Wilson had eight and senior Alexis Tewell hit a pivotal 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter.
The sixth-seeded Midgets (12-14), who lost 46-31 to the Crusaders in the Mascoutah Invitational on Dec. 28, will play second-seeded Mascoutah (13-13) in the semifinals at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The Indians have beaten Freeburg twice this season.
Third-seeded Althoff (7-16) received a game-high 22 points from Kymber Hill, a 6-foot-3 senior. Freshman Anna Hanger had seven.
"They flicked the switch," Crusaders coach Todd Hill said of the Midgets. "We didn't hit shots. We jumped out early and our energy was really good. We came out and we talked about pounding it inside, and we were effective with that.
"But then we started missing a few, and then a few jump shots didn't fall for us. We had to keep going with what got us there, but we didn't get them to fall."
Althoff reeled off the first seven points of the game, then hit Freeburg with a 12-2 run that made it 19-6 with 1:06 left in the first quarter. Kymber Hill had eight points in the period.
The Midgets collected themselves in the second quarter and grabbed a 22-21 lead on Chelsea Hill's 3-pointer at the 4:22 mark. Freeburg's halftime lead was 30-26.
Things deteriorated even more for Althoff in the third quarter. Freeburg scored six consecutive points to take a 40-31 lead with 2:40 to play in the period. Junior Mary Wolf's steal and jump hook provided the highlight of the surge.
Freeburg maintained control throughout the fourth quarter, never permitting Althoff to get closer than five points. Tewell's 3-pointer with 6:34 remaining in the game made it 43-34, and Hill's two free throws with 1:01 to play gave the Midgets a 50-40 lead.
"We do have some kids that can really fly around when they want to," Blumberg said. "We have some quickness and some pretty aggressive kids."
Lealaimatafao set the defensive tone in the low blocks, putting a body on Kymber Hill and 6-2 freshman Alanna Bramwell. Hill scored just three points in the final 16 minutes, which proved a key in Freeburg's rally and ability to hold its advantage.
Lealaimatafao also scored nine second-half points.
"When you're up against a big team, you have to go right at them," Blumberg said. "That's not any brilliant statement by me. Most coaches know that. But when you're up against a big team, you've got to go right at them and take your chances on blocked shots and all that kind of stuff.
"It's really a satisfying win for us. We've come a long way."
Todd Hill can attest to that.
"You've got to give Freeburg credit," he said. "They played very hard. Our girls played hard, too. They got more shots to fall. They got on a roll there and we got behind and had to play catch-up."
Cahokia 51, Waterloo 36
The fifth-seeded Comanches (12-12) advanced to the semifinals as Dasha Thomas had 16 points and Dominque Jennings had 14.
Fourth-seeded Waterloo, which won 44-37 in the teams' other matchup Dec. 15, had trouble throughout the game counteracting Cahokia's inside strength of Jennings and Teykia Cooper. The Comanches had 16 points on rebound baskets.
"We played a better game than the first game we played them," Cahokia coach Fred Dancy said. "This team has been up and down. We're trying to get things together. We did a good job tonight. We've been working on rebounding."
Cahokia will meet top-seeded Columbia (19-7) at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Senior Erica Nevois led Waterloo (10-15) with 13 points. But the Bulldogs were unable to sustain any offensive consistency.
"We had a goal to win tonight," Bulldogs coach Matt Lucash said. "But we got outmuscled on the boards and that killed us."
Waterloo, which trailed 23-11 in the second quarter, cut Cahokia's lead to 27-23 on senior Abbie Whitehead's three-point play with 3:40 left in the third quarter. The Comanches answered with a 15-3 run that gave them a 42-26 lead with six minutes to play.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.