Cooper helps West down Mater Dei for Alton Tip-Off title

News-DemocratNovember 23, 2013 

— Belleville West's Jeshon Cooper made her 6-foot, 5-inch presence felt in the lane in all night.

Cooper scored 19 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked five shots in leading the Maroons to a 44-31 come-from-behind win over the Mater Dei Knights in the championship game of the Alton Tip-Off Classic.

"When you can throw it into a 6-5 girl and she's putting the ball in the hole, you are going to look good," West coach Clayton Fisher said. "I told Jeshon after the game, she might not be the MVP of the tournament, but she was certainly our MVP tonight Their inside game didn't hurt us tonight, and that was because of Jeshon."

West's Shay Fluker, who had 13 points, was chosen as the MVP of the tournament. Cooper and Imani Berry, who had 10 points apiece, were chosen first team all-tournament.

"Shay is an incredible offensive player, she's very gifted," Fisher said. "Smooth around the basket, beautiful touch outside."

The Maroons (3-0) used 16-0 run in the second half to rally from a 25-15 deficit.

"The defensive effort in the second half was incredible by us," Fisher said. "All in all, a very good effort. Alliyah St. John and Imani Berry on defense were incredible tonight. Our girls coming off the bench, Ali Hanger and Kayla Juenger, exceptional job tonight. I couldn't be happier except for the way we started the game."

St. John finished with a team-leading nine rebounds. She also had four steals and three assists.

The Knights (2-1), who beat West 47-44 last year in the championship game of the tourney, were led by Lindsay Perkes with eight points and Avoynna Kampwerth and Madeline Lager with five points apiece.

Perkes was first team all-tourney, while Lauren Donnewald was second team all-tourney for the Knights.

"We didn't get into a our offense most of the night, and that hurt us," Mater Dei coach Dave Kohnen said. "We got some good looks in the first half, but they closed them down. We did not execute, and throughout the tournament it has been a problem for us."

The Knights, who lost all five starters from last season, still are trying to jell as a squad.

"I just told them, 'There is a lot of potential, a lot of talent in this room, and it's time we start playing like that,"' Kohnen said.

Berry hit a baseline jumper to put the Maroons on the scoreboard first, but Olivia Theising, Perkes and Lager all connected on 3-pointers to send the Knights on a 11-0 run that put them ahead 11-2.

Another 3-pointer by Perkes enabled the Knights to maintain a 14-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Maroons closed the gap to 16-13 on a 3 by Fluker, but Chloe Beckmann came off the bench to knock down a 3-with 1:02 left in the second quarter to give the Knights a 21-13 lead at halftime.

Trailing 25-15, the Maroons scored five unanswered baskets from close range to tie the score at 25-25 with 1:54 left in the third quarter.

Fluker had three layups during the surge.

Neither team scored again in the third quarter as the Knights went the final 5:48 of the period without a point.

The drought continued into the fourth quarter as the Maroons took a 29-25 lead on back-to-back baskets by Cooper.

Berry scored in a layup to stretch the Maroons' kead to 31-25 before a pull-up jumper by Kampwerth with 6:11 left in the game gave the Knights their first points in more than 7 1/2 minutes.

Cooper scored inside and then off a rebound as the Maroons lead grew to 40-28 with 3:11 to go.

"We had about 20 turnovers," Kohnen said. "You can't turn the ball over and give it back to a team like Belleville West or they're going to beat you, and that's what they did."

Alton, behind 21 points from Jordann Wilson, beat Springfield Lanphier 56-51 in the third-place game.

The Redbirds scored six unanswered points on free throws to turn a 50-48 lead with 2 1/2 minutes to go into a 56-48 advantage with 9.4 seconds left.

Wilson was 4-for-8 at the free-throw line and Lajarvia Brown was 2-for-2 at the free-throw line during the rally.

Jerseyville downed Cahokia 67-38 in the fifth-place game.

Wilson was first team all-tourney, while Brown was second team all-tourneuy.

Also on the second team were Jerseyville's Macy Thurston and Lia Roundcount and Springfield Lanphier's Haylee Fairconnetue.

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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