JACKSONVILLE — A pair of extended offensive lulls spelled the end of Okawville's season Monday night.
The Rockets went 6 minutes, 48 seconds without a basket in the second and third quarters, then endured another dry spell of 7:19 in the third and fourth quarters of a 43-30 loss to Mount Pulaski in the Class 1A Jacksonville Super-Sectional at Illinois College.
"That was the killer," Okawville coach Michelle Hasheider-Burianek said. "I think we were missing, and it was shots that we were normally making. Everybody was getting a little tight. Normally, those shots fall, and they weren't falling tonight."
The Rockets (23-9) finished 11-for-35 from the field (31 percent), including 5-for-18 on 3-pointers (28 percent). They also were outrebounded 27-17.
Senior Megan Wienstroer was the only Okawville player who wasn't affected by the offensive doldrums.
The 5-foot-8 Wienstroer, working against a box-and-one, scored a team-high 16 points on 5-for-5 shooting and was 4-for-4 on 3-pointers. No other Rocket scored more than four points.
Mount Pulaski (29-4) advanced to the state tournament for the first time in school history and will play Cowden-Herrick (26-5) in the semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday at Redbird Arena in Normal.
Senior Jessica Awe led the Hilltoppers with 19 points and was 9-for-10 from the free-throw line. Senior Erica Leever had 10 points and seven rebounds, senior Andrea Dickerson had nine points and sophomore Whitney Nichols had 11 rebounds.
Mount Pulaski was 12-for-29 from the field (41 percent) and was 13-for-16 from the line. The Hilltoppers clinched the outcome by making 10 free throws in 12 attempts in the final 1:35.
"The kids just kept their composure late in the game and I couldn't be any more proud of them," said Mount Pulaski coach Eric Leever, whose team was 6-for-15 on 3-pointers. "We shot it really well early in the game. That's what we needed. We're a team that if we come out and don't hit a few shots early, we kind of hang our heads.
"We had a couple of times when we had a gut check. We had to sit back and look at the big picture and say, 'Hey, it's been a long, great season. We've got to buckle down and finish this one tonight.'"
The Hilltoppers used a 10-0 run to grab a 29-18 lead on Awe's 3-pointer with 4:24 to play in the third quarter. But after getting a stop, Awe committed a turnover that sparked Okawville.
The Rockets went on a 9-0 surge that began with two baskets by senior Keatyn Meier. Sophomore Macey Wienstroer followed with a basket, then hit a 3-pointer from left wing to make it 29-27 at the 1:04 mark.
"I was about to go into panic mode," Leever said. "We had worked so hard to get to that point. I'm not saying our kids let up, because they didn't. (Okawville) hit some big shots."
After Wienstroer's 3 that cut the deficit to two points, Okawville didn't score again until Megan Wienstroer hit another trey with 2:45 remaining in the game. That whittled Mount Pulaski's lead to 33-30, but the Rockets didn't score again.
"It wasn't meant to be," Hasheider-Burianek said, whose team also tried experienced second-half foul trouble on senior Jolyn Lake. "You've got to give (Mount Pulaski) credit. They came out and hit some big shots. They've got a great team and I wish them the best. But we couldn't knock down that (key) shot.
"We couldn't get over that hump. I don't know if it was nerves or tightness of a big game. ... You're going to have those nights. It's hard when it's a super-sectional game."
Mount Pulaski raced out to a 17-8 lead as Awe hit the Hilltoppers' third 3-pointer at the 44-second mark of the first quarter.
But Wienstroer popped a 3-pointer of her own with six seconds remaining in the period to get the Rockets within 17-11.
Okawville trimmed its deficit to 17-16 on another 3-pointer by Wienstroer and a basket by Lake in the first two minutes of the second quarter.
But senior Andrea Dickerson made a 3-pointer with six seconds to play to give Mount Pulaski a 23-18 lead at halftime.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.