WEST FRANKFORT — When it comes to defense, even the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks would probably be impressed by the Central Cougars.
Central limited defending state champion Nashville to 13 points through three quarters Thursday and had no trouble in a 47-24 victory that gave the Cougars the Class 2A West Frankfort Sectional title.
"I challenged the kids before the game to be the best defensive team in the gymnasium and I think they did that," said Central coach Nathan Rueter, whose 31-0 squad will take on Teutopolis at 7 p.m. Monday in the Salem Super-Sectional with a state tournament berth on the line.
Teutopolis defeated Mount Carmel 49-31 Thursday to win the Casey-Westfield Sectional
Central got two quick 3-pointers from Sophie Rickhoff on the way to a 16-5 lead after one quarter and was never challenged again. The Cougars' suffocating defense was the biggest reason and they even shut Nashville out in the third quarter.
"That is Cougars 'D,''' said Central's Torre Kohrmann, who led all scorers with 16 points. "That's what we practice for and that what we live for in the Central Cougar basketball program is our defense --and we really showed that tonight."
Kohrmann got no argument on that point from Nashville coach Wayne Harre. His 28-4 team had piled up some impressive wins this season, but had no answer for the Cougars.
Nashville was the last team to beat Central, knocking the Cougars out of the sectional playoffs last season.
"We had the horses this year and last year they had the horses," Rueter said. "We were able to get it done tonight."
"There were times when it looked like there was nowhere to go," said Harre, whose team missed its first seven shots of the second half before finally connecting with 6 minutes, 22 seconds remaining in regulation. "You've got to give them a little credit. I thought being down 11 at the end of half, that was pretty good. I was happy."
Nashville's top scorer was Shawn Rennegarbe with eight points.
Along with its defense, Central had too much size and strength inside led by Kendra Wilken (12 points) and Maddie Timmermann (10 points).
"They wear on you," Harre said. "Last year we had the bodies that could bang, we don't have those kind of bodies this year. We kept trying, we threw everything at them we could. But when they shoot it from the arc like that it's hard to beat them."
Rickhoff's 3s helped stake Central to a 9-2 lead and the Cougars quickly pushed it to 16-2. Kohrmann dropped in seven points in the opening quarter.
Nashville tried to fight back, but was unable to crack Central's aggressive defense on most possessions. The Hornettes had six turnovers in the first half, but got a bucket by Kiley Pelker just before halftime to trim their deficit to 24-13.
Nashville's leading scorer, senior guard Jordi Harre, was held to six points by Central's Taylor Rakers. Harre didn't score until the fourth quarter.
"The kids played really well tonight," Rueter said. "Obviously they had this one in the back of their mind all year, so it was great to come out and execute and play the way they did."
Knowing that Nashville would likely hold the ball if it grabbed an early lead, Rueter was pleased to see his team immediately take command on offense.
"We knew that was going to be part of their game plan coming in, trying to take as much time off the clock as they could every possession," he said. "We got off to a big lead early and made that impossible."