BELLEVILLE — With the season on the line, Belleville West junior Shay Fluker simply took over on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Belleville East Class 4A Girls Sectional.
Stymied by the Collinsville Kahoks' tricky box-and-one defense for most of the night, Fluker scored eight points in a three-minute stretch midway in the fourth quarter to lift the Maroons to come-from-behind 35-34 win.
Beaten twice by the Maroons during the regular season, Collinsville (11-16) was on the verge of the first major upset of the metro-east's postseason when junior Aubreeney Brady scored early in the fourth quarter to put her team up by five points.
But after West junior Imani Berry cut the Maroons' deficit to three points, the 5-foot-10 Fluker took the game over.
Fluker scored on three short jumpers. A 10-foot leaner with 4:47 left gave the Maroons the lead at 25-24. Two more strong moves followed and with 3:34 remaining, West had a 29-24 lead.
"Give Collinsville credit. Defensively, they shut us down until Shay took the game over. She's an all-state caliber player who is capable of doing what she did every time she takes the floor,'' West coach Clayton Fisher said. "It was my assistant Dennis Watkins who suggested we bring Shay out to the point and let her create. I'm glad he did.''
Collinsville didn't wilt under Fluker's outburst. Trailing by four points, the Kahoks cut the lead to 35-34 on a conventional 3-point play by sophomore Gabby Morgan with 23 seconds remaining.
Berry was then called for traveling with 15 seconds remaining, giving the Kahoks one last chance.
But under tenacious pressure defense, Brady was stripped if the ball by Fluker as time expired.
The loss was tough for Collinsville.
"It was a heartbreaker. It was a heartbreaker for me and I know the kids are taking it hard," Kahoks coach Lori Billy said. "The last play was designed to set a screen and take it to the basket. But it wasn't there."
The win moves the top-seeded Maroons (21-7) into the title game at 7 p.m. on Thursday where they will take on second-seed East St. Louis.
The Flyerettes (14-9) defeated host Belleville East 61-46 in the other semifinal on Tuesday.
Fluker paced West with 14 points, while Berry added 12 and Jesheon Cooper chipped in with 11.
Brady paced Collinsville with 11 points.
Defense and poor shooting was the name of the game for both teams in the first half which ended with Collinsville holding a 15-14 lead.
West led 8-4 early and 10-9 after one quarter on the strength of two 3-point baskets by Imani Berry.
But following Berry's second long range jumper, West managed just two baskets and four points during the final 10 minutes of the half.
Buettner, a nonfactor in the Kahoks 10-point first round win over O'Fallon on Monday, scored eight points to lead the way as Collinsville built a 15-14 lead at halftime.
The 5-10 Buettner banged home a pair of 3-pointers, the second one which brought Collinsville, within a point late in the second quarter.
Reserve Gabby Morgan hit two free throws with 57.1 seconds left to put Collinsville up at intermission.
East St. Louis 61, Belleville East 46
The Flyerettes had it all working in a near flawless second quarter 20-2 run as they romped past cold-shooting Belleville East.
Sleek freshman forward Janelle Randle scored 10 of her team-high 14 points during the period as East St. Louis (14-9) turned a 10-7 deficit into a 27-12 halftime lead.
"She's a great athlete and her ability to get out in transition as a big key for us tonight,'' Flyerettes first-year coach Shardae Butler said. "I'm very proud of my team. All they've talked about is getting to the state tournament. Well, we've got six more to go.''
Belleville East (14-13) played well in the first quarter. Getting a 3-point basket from Ryley Blomberg and three free throws from senior Montira Mosby, the Lancers led by as many as four points before settling for a 10-7 lead.
Mosby, who sat out much of the first half in foul trouble, tallied her 1,000th career point late in the first period.
But when the 5-11 Mosby picked up her third foul early in the second quarter, the Flyerettes took off.
Using their cat-like quickness to create seven East turnovers, the Flyerettes, who were led by Randle and the inside punch of Brelennair Cox and Jansha Munson, simply took over the game.
"Our players did a good job. They are both good athletes who hit the boards hard, play good defense and tonight they played together very well,'' Butler said. "When they play well and communicate with each other, they can be tough to stop."
Cox and Munson added 10 points each for the Flyerettes. Belleville East, which got 20 points from Montira Mosby, drew within nine points late in the fourth quarter, but could get no closer.