NORMAL — Masterful. Brilliant. Shocking, and maybe a few other superlatives, too
Peoria Richwoods followed its game plan to near perfection and stunned top-ranked and previously undefeated Edwardsville 41-36 Thursday at the Normal West Class 4A Sectional.
Richwoods (26-6) advances to Monday's Bloomington Super-Sectional to play (Chicago Heights) Marian at Illinois Wesleyan. Edwardsville ends the season at 30-1 and has its string of six consecutive sectional titles snapped
Spreading the floor to accent its guards quickness as well as its defensive prowess, Richwoods grabbed a lead with 2:13 left in the first quarter and surrendered it for just 24 seconds in the beginning of the third quarter thereafter as a small gathering of the Edwardsville faithful, who braved Thursday's winter storm sat in a dazed silence.
"We were pumped, really prepared. We've been preparing for this game for the last two weeks," said Richwoods senior guard Brenna Detra, who scored 12 points but more importantly was the centerpiece of a pesky Knights defense that forced 22 Edwardsville turnovers. "We had a game sheet with us all day at school.
"We read it; made sure we knew who their best players were. We closed in. We boxed out. We executed."
Tigers coach Lori Blade credited Richwoods' effort.
"We were very uncharacteristic of ourselves tonight for probably 30 of the 32 minutes," she said. "But I will step up and give (Richwoods) all the credit in the world. They play great defense. They play hard. They play physical and we just didn't match that effort tonight."
"Richwoods is tough to guard one-on-one," Blade said later. "They do enough, they're quick enough and they get by kids ... No. 11(Petra) is awfully quick and No. 12 (Elger) is very talented."
With its spread offense helping offset Edwardsville's height advantage, Richwoods led 12-7 after a quarter.
Despite University of Louisville signee Emmonnie Henderson on the bench with two first-quarter fouls and in an effort to offset some of the Knights' quickness, Edwardsville went small in the second quarter. The Tigers pulled within 14-13 at the break.
Lauren White gave Edwardsville its only lead outside the opening minutes, 15-14, with a quick score to begin the third quarter.
After that, Knights standout Olivia Elger made her presence known.
Elger garnered nine of her game-high 14 points in the third quarter. She scored on a traditional three-point play to offset White's score at 7:17 of the third quarter and added back-to-back 3s later in the quarter to help Richwoods to a 29-23 lead after three quarters.
Richwoods maintained at least a two-possession lead the entire fourth quarter.
Edwardsville cut the lead to 35-30 with 1:42 left to play and had two opportunities to pull closer.
White traveled with 1:28 after a Richwoods turnover to stop one opportunity. A steal by Detra after another Knights' turnover at 1:15 turned the tide Richwoods way.
Richwoods scored only one field goal in the final eight minutes, but the Knights were able to hold off the Tigers by making 10-of-18 free throws in the final frame.
Edwardsville coach Lori Blade strongly objected to the closeness of the game being a factor in the Tigers loss.
"That had nothing to do with it," said Blade, whose team was averaging 67.5 points per game and giving up just 24.5. The Tigers had never trailed in the second half until this game
Henderson led Edwardsville 12 points, but sat for more than a quarter of the game. Aaliyah Covington added 11.
Edwardsville made only 14-of-42 field goal attempts and did not connect on a 3 until late in the fourth.
"Our defense was awesome," said Richwoods coach Heather Cassady. "Holding a team like Edwardsville to 36 points is incredible.
"Defense wins championships"