HIGHLAND — Given the green light to shoot when open, Belleville West sophomore guard Ali Hanger helped put a stop to the title hopes of Teutopolis on Friday at the Scott Credit Union/Highland Girls Basketball Tournament.
Hanger broke a 33-all tie with a clutch 3-pointer with just over four minutes remaining and the Maroons went on for a 48-35 win over the Wooden Shoes.
With most of the attention centered around stopping West juniors Imani Berry and Shay Fluker, Hanger got the ball just right of the top of the key and buried the shot that gave West (14-4) the lead for good.
"Ali can really shoot the basketball and she's got the green light to shoot when it's a good shot and she's open,'' West coach Clayton Fisher said. "I thought we did a good job of maintaining our poise in the last four minutes.
"Defensively we had some big stops and I thought our offensive execution was good. Plus we made our free throws down the stretch.''
Alliyah St. John added a basket and two free throws while Berry scored on a pair of layups as West outscored the Wooden Shoes 15-2 down the stretch.
The win moves the Maroons into the title game against top-seeded and defending champion Central (22-0) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The game will be a rematch of the championship game of the Mascoutah Holiday Tournament.
Central defeated West 55-46 in that December game.
"I guess the seeds played out. Central is the No. 1 seed and we are the No. 2. We're going to have to play much better than we did tonight and we have to stay out of foul trouble to have a chance,'' Fisher said. "Central is very, very talented and well coached. I don't think that's any secret.''
Fluker led West with 17 points, while Berry added 13. Madeline Hartke led the Wooden Shoes with 13 points. Teutopolis (15-4) will play Mater Dei in the third-place game at 1 p.m.
Wooden Shoes coach Laurie Thompson said mistakes and Berry were the difference in the game.
"I'm proud of the fact that we battled back from 10 down in the third quarter to take the lead (30-29), but we had three possessions in a row in a minute stretch where we turned the ball over. I think they (West) converted on all three chances,'' Thompson said. "That was the difference and then (Imani) Berry just took the game over.''
Highland 60, Carlyle 46
For Mike Arbuthnot. it was all about matching the athletic Carlyle Indians intensity.
But 22 points from junior forward Olivia LaPorta didn't hurt either as Highland moved into the fifth-place game with the 14-point win.
One of the top players in the Mississippi Valley Conference, the 6-foot LaPorta set the tone early, scoring 12 of her 22 points in the first quarter as the Bulldogs (14-8) took an 18-14 lead.
"She's pretty good and I think one of the reasons we've picked it up here recently is because we've done a much better job of getting her the basketball,'' Arbuthnot said. "I was very pleased. It was a little rough out there at first, but we settled down and played well.
"I thought we did a good job of matching their (Caryle's) intensity.''
The win moves the host Bullldogs into the fifth-place game at 11:30 a.m. against Nashville.
Bailey Leitschuh added 12 points for Highland, while Lori Whisenand led Carlyle (12-9) with 17 points.
Nashville 54, Salem 42
After taking a hard fall early in the third quarter, Nashville senior Shawn Rennegarbe made the Salem Wildcats feel some pain, scoring 27 points and leading the Hornettes (20-2) into the fifth-place game.
A four-year standout for the Hornettes, Rennegarbe was nearly unstoppable in the final two quarters as she scored 21 points. A 6-foot-1 forward, Rennegarbe was especially deadly from the foul line, where she made 18-of-20 attempts.
"Shawn's a senior and she's played in a lot of big games during her career," Nashville coach Wayne Harre said. "She knows what it takes and she did a good job for us today,''
Junior guard Jordi Harre added 13 points for Nashville, which is ranked fourth in the Class 2A state poll.
The Hornettes struggled in the first half against the Wildcats (12-8) and led just 17-12 at halftime.
But with Rennegarbe scoring 12 third-quarter points, Nashville seized control.
"It was a little rough early in the first half, but we've been working on a couple of different things in practice the last few days. We were just playing,'' Harre said. "But I thought we did a better job against their pressure late in the first half and in the second half.''
Sophomore Dearria Watson led Salem with 12 points.