MASCOUTAH — For one of the few times all season, the Central Cougars were not the most athletic team on the floor when they took on Belleville West on Saturday in the title game of the 36th annual Mascoutah Girls Basketball Invitational.
But when all was said and done, the Cougars walked out with a 55-46 win and their first Mascoutah title since 2001.
Foul trouble on West which helped lead to a 20-0 run during the later stages of the second and early in the third quarter. But with the Maroons making a second-half run, Central refused to wilt.
Torre Kohrmann, Maddie Timmermann and Kendra Wilken combined for 10 of Central's 14 points and the Cougars (15-0) made eight-of-10 from the free-throw line as they held off the athletic Maroons.
"It's about having the ability to recognize a weakness and then having the savvy to be able to exploit it,'' Central coach Nathan Rueter said. "When they (West) got into foul trouble we just went to work inside.
"I thought Torre (Kohrmann) played really, really well. She was out-athleted, but she showed her savvy and her ability and understanding of how to play the game of basketball. She did a great job for us today.''
West coach Clayton Fisher meanwhile was thinking of what might have been had 6-foot-5 Jesheon Cooper and 5-9 guard Shay Fluker not gotten in foul trouble.
Using its athleticism, West (9-4) led 23-16 midway through the second quarter before Cooper and Fluker went to the bench with two fouls apiece.
As a result, Central scored 14 straight points to end the half with a 30-23 lead.
"We've just got to learn to stay out of foul trouble,'' West coach Clayton Fisher said. "The fouls we committed were not smart fouls. They were not fouls of aggression, trying to do the right things. They were fouls of reaching and getting an offensive foul when everybody in the gym is looking at you.
"But we had a good week and played well. Give Central all the credit in the world. They are really good.''
Back on track
While still feeling the effects of a heart-breaking loss to Belleville West in the semifinals, Nashville (13-1) bounced back with a 28-25 win over Mater Dei in the third-place game.
"Third-place games are tough to play. It's just a matter of surviving and finding a way to win the game. I was proud of their effort,'' Hornettes coach Wayne Harre said. "We pride ourselves in the fact that it doesn't matter how tired you are, you've still got to be smart out there and make the right decisions. "We did some things we shouldn't have done, but at the same time we're getting better at it.''
A milestone approaches
With Mater Dei's fourth-place finish and 2-2 record at Mascoutah, veteran Knights coach David Kohnen has 497 wins in his career.
Central's Wilken and Timmermann headlined the 2013 Mascoutah Girls Basketball Invitational all-tournament team, which was announced following the title game.
Joining the Cougars as first-team selections were Fluker of Belleville West, McKena Miller of Carbondale and Shawn Rennegarbe of Nashville.
Second-team selections were Imani Berry of Belleville West, Jordi Harre of Nashville, Avoynna Kampwerth of Mater Dei, Kohrmann of Central and Amanda Ponce of Highland.