WOOD RIVER — After watching his team lose 68-26 Thursday to Central in the Class 2A Wood River Regional championship, Wesclin girls basketball coach Ben Crawford was asked what it will take to beat the Cougars.
Central (29-0) is ranked second in the state and showing plenty of evidence to make a long tournament run. The Cougars will face either Carterville or Murphysboro at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the West Frankfort Sectional.
"You've got to stop Kendra Wilken and Maddie Timmermann inside and pressure the guards," said Crawford, whose 11-15 club had no luck with either. "You've got to hope they're having an off night. Hoping they have an off night is probably the biggest thing.
"Defensively they get after it. You've got to really take care of the ball against them because they're one of the best defensive teams I've seen in a long time for girls basketball."
Central sophomore Kendra Wilken poured in 15 of her 23 points in the first half, including 10 in the first quarter. Senior Maddie Timmermann contributed 16 points and nine rebounds while senior Torre Kohrmann added 10 points.
"It's great to have all these girls with me," Wilken said. "Without them I wouldn't get all the points that I have and we wouldn't be the team that we are."
Central jumped on top quickly in a game that was never close. The Cougars led 31-13 at halftime before putting together a 21-0 run in the third quarter that removed any doubt.
Central took full advantage of its size inside with the 6-foot-1 Wilken and 5-10 Timmermann.
"They play off of each other so well," Central coach Nathan Rueter said. "Kendra passes the ball well and Maddie passes the ball well. We shot the ball well from the perimeter once we got going."
Are the Cougars feeling any pressure from their unbeaten record and lofty state ranking? Their businesslike attitude doesn't suggest that they are.
"Honestly I don't think so," Rueter said. "I guess I'm naive when I say I don't know how much they look at that stuff, but they just have a lot of savvy .They've all kind of been there before. ... I think they enjoy the competition and they enjoy each other."
Their last loss was to Nashville last season in the sectional and the Cougars finished second in the state in 2012.
Ally Isenhower led Wesclin with seven points while Carrie Rakers had six and Mayghen Mugele five.
Wesclin had lost 76-31 and 62-25 to the Cougars earlier this season, the second game just 10 days earlier.
"I told the girls I'm proud of the season we had," said Crawford, whose team knocked off Carlyle in the regional semifinals. "The last three games before this game we probably had the best effort and best team chemistry we've had all year.
"We've improved a ton and I told them how proud I am of them."