MASCOUTAH — Undefeated and challenged only once during the first six weeks of the season, the Central Cougars have displayed no signs of letting up this week at the 36th annual Mascoutah Girls Basketball Invitational.
Just ask the Highland Bulldogs.
Torre Kohrmann and Sophie Rickhoff connected on 3-point shots to ignite a 10-0 run in the game's opening minute and 25 seconds and the top-seeded Cougars never looked back, racing to a 59-33 quarterfinal win over Highland on Friday at Mascoutah High School.
Fresh off a 58-54 win over Althoff on Thursday, the Bulldogs' hopes of upsetting the Class 2A state power Cougars were quickly dashed as sophomore Kendra Wilken scored on an inside move, Kohrmann and Rickhoff connected on 3s and Maddie Timmermann added a baseline jumper all in the first 85 seconds.
"Obviously that was one of the keys in the game. Our kids came out and played with great intensity and we were able to jump out to a big lead. I didn't expect that. Highland's really is a quality opponent and we came out and played very well,'' Central coach Nathan Rueter said. "Highland is a very athletic team and I anticipated we were going to have problems guarding them on the perimeter.
"But for the most part our kids came out and did a nice job.''
Wilken led Central with 17 points, while Kohrmann added 14 and Timmermann chipped in with 13.
Highland (7-5), which trailed 32-11 at halftime, was led by Olivia LaPorta's nine points.
The win lifts Central (13-0) into a semifinal showdown with city-rival Mater Dei on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
Defending champion and reigning Class 2A state champ Nashville will take on Belleville West at 1 p.m. in the other semifinal. The title game is set for 7 p.m.
Mater Dei 39, Belleville East 24
Unable to match the Lancers' athleticism, Mater Dei baffled its opponent with a zone defense to reach the semifinals.
"It's something we had been working with," Knights coach Dave Kohnen said. "With their athletes and basically having four and a half guards, I didn't like our matchups with them and so we went with the zone and tried to stuff the middle. The kids were very receptive to it.
"There were a lot of loose balls that we were able to get to and we did a good job of deflecting passes in the passing lane.''
Avoynna Kampwerth and Madeline Lager had nine points apiece for the Knights (8-4). East (8-5) was led by Montira Mosby's seven points.
Nashville 54, Mascoutah 30
Junior guard Jordi Harre scored eight of her 18 points in the second quarter to help ignite the Hornettes, as Nashville moved into the semifinals with the win over the host team.
With the Hornettes struggling to find the range and leading just 10-8 after one quarter, the 5-7 Harre made two 3s and along with senior Shawn Rennegarbe tallied 12 of their team's 14 second-quarter points.
Nashville (12-0) led 24-16 at halftime then outscored the Indians 17-5 in the third period to break it open.
"We weren't sharp in the first quarter. I think maybe we were playing too fast and maybe shot the ball too quickly a couple of times," Nashville coach Wayne Harre said. "But it's tough not to take shots when you're open. We maybe could have been a little more patient.
"In the second quarter, we were able to get a couple of steals and Jordi hit a couple of shots to get us going.''
Rennegarbe added 17 points while Hannah Yung chipped in with 12. Maddie Nekola led Mascoutah with 11 points.
Belleville West 60, Carbondale 50
Juniors Shay Fluker and Imani Berry hit 3-pointers 30 seconds apart early in the fourth quarter to ignite a 10-2 scoring spurt and lift West (8-3) to a hard-fought quarterfinal win.
Carbondale trailed just 40-38 after three quarters and tied the game at 40 early in the fourth quarter on a basket by senior McKena Miller.
But the Maroons responded.
After senior Jesheon Cooper scored on an offensive putback, Berry, then Fluker hit their 3s to give West a 48-40 lead.
The Terriers, led by Miller's 18 points, would get no closer than six the rest of the way.
But for the second straight game, the Maroons were not sharp.
"I'm happy we won and happy we're in the semifinals. But we did not play well. Defensively, we didn't guard anybody,'' West coach Clayton Fisher said. "This time of year, many teams go into a lull. And that's where we are right now. We're very lackadaisical on both ends of the floor.''
Fluker scored eight points and led West with 22 points. Berry added 16 and the 6-4 Cooper finished with 12.
Althoff 48, Freeburg 39
Freshmen Maggie Reimer and Kyliegh Vaught combined for 28 points as the Crusaders moved into the consolation title game.
Senior Rachel Kaltwasser added 11 points for Althoff (6-3). Lanette Stumpf paced Freeburg with 10 points.
O'Fallon 49, Centralia 47
Senior Jasmine Bonds scored seven of her 22 points in the final four minutes as O'Fallon rallied for a consolation bracket semifinal win.
Ciara Jones added 12 points for the Panthers, who will play Althoff in the consolation final.
O'Fallon 61, Wesclin 44
Senior Ally Warren led a balanced Panthers attack with 12 points as O'Fallon defeated the Warriors.
Junior Zoe Christopher paced Wesclin (5-7) with 17 points.
Althoff 48, Okawville 42
Rachel Kaltwasser scored 18 points and hit five of six free throws in the fourth quarter to lift the Crusaders past the Lady Rockets in a consolation bracket quarterfinal.
Allison Koch topped Okawville (3-9) with 12 points.
Freeburg 43, Mount Vernon 40
Senior guard Chelsea Hill connected on four 3s and finished with 18 points to lift the Midgets past the Rams.