WEST FRANKFORT — The Nashville and Central girls basketball teams both played tremendous defense Tuesday and each squad picked up wins in the semifinals the West Frankfort Class 2A sectional.
Nashville shut down Sesser-Valier/Waltonville's offense most of the way in a 29-18 victory. Central used a 20-point run to roll past Carterville 70-33 as well.
The Hornettes (28-3) pressure clearly bothered the Lady Devils, who couldn't get much of anything going in the first half and trailed 14-6 at the intermission.
Hannah Yung and Shawn Rennegarbe combined for a 7-0 streak, and Nashville built a 21-6 lead halfway through the third quarter.
"I thought our defense was really good," said Nashville coach Wayne Harre. "That usually wins our games for us, and I'm pretty proud of that."
The Lady Devils still had their chances. Karson Severs buried a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter, and SVW trailed just 23-16. The score stayed that way for more than four minutes, but the Lady Devils (26-4) never could slice into the lead any further.
It turned out to be a tough night for SVW, who played without its best player, Rachel Marlo. She tore her ACL in the regional finale.
"I was happy at halftime, and I was ecstatic with our bench personnel," said SVW coach Rick Metcalf. "The first couple minutes of the game everything happened that we didn't want to happen. It was tough without having Rachel in there, but I think we surprised a lot of people this year."
Jordi Harre paced Nashville (28-3) with 12 points, and Rennegarbe added nine.
The nightcap was halfway decent game until Central turned it into overdrive halfway through the second quarter. The Lady Cougars held just an 18-10 lead after Carterville's Jordan Gaston sank a baseline jumper at the four-minute mark.
The game changed for good from that point forward as Central amassed a 20-0 run and held Carterville scoreless for nearly eight minutes of action.
Central (30-0) recorded plenty of easy baskets because of the dominant low post presence of Kendra Wilken and Maddie Timmerman. The duo started and finished an eight-point streak to end the first half with Central up by 17 points.
"We were kind of just getting a feel for our opponents, but once we got going up and down things got much better for us," said Central coach Nathan Rueter. "I think once some shots started to fall the girls relaxed and played with a lot more confidence."
Wilken and Timmermann scored the first eight points of the third quarter, and the contest quickly got out of hand. Sidney Smith sank a 3-pointer for Carterville, but the Lady Lions still trailed 38-13. The lead ballooned to 38 points in the second half. Wilken led Central with 17 points.
"They're a load, and they can win state," said Carterville coach Matt Crain. "We had no matchup for (Wilken), and I don't know anybody that does. I told the girls this didn't detract from what we accomplished this year. We went to battle 31 times and came out on top in 27 of them."
Nashville and Central will meet for the sectional title at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.