Highland used a 22-0 scoring run in the first half to coast into the regional title game with a 59-29 win over Freeburg Tuesday in the semifinal of the IHSA Class 3A Breese Central Regional.
A key member of the Bulldogs team which placed third in the Class 3A State Tournament a year ago, senior forward Alex LaPorta combined with 6-foot-1 senior center Hayley Taylor to score 10 of the Bulldogs’ first 12 points before senior guard Madison Wellen, junior guard Rece Portell and freshman guard Ellie Brown found the range.
During the 22-0 run, which occurred during a seven-minute stretch between the first and second quarters, Highland (27-3) increased its lead to 24-3. Freeburg (13-16) would get no closer than 18 points the rest of the game.
“I thought we came out and played with a lot of energy early. We wanted to play fast, put pressure on and maybe get them (Freeburg) to play out of their element,” said Highland coach Mike Arbuthnot, whose team increased its school-record winning streak to 19 games.
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Freshman point guard Brown canned a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight of her game-high 16 points in the second quarter as the Bulldogs lead grew to 40-13 at halftime.
“I thought we were very nervous early in the first half, and that’s to be expected. ... I just wanted us to play hard, and I thought we did that,” Freeburg coach Lori Crunk said. “We had nine wins last year and 13 this year. We’re improving.”
Kayla Mueller led Freeburg with 10 points.
LaPorta added 10 points for Highland, which got all 15 players on the roster into the game with a dozen of them numbering in the scoring column.
Wellen and Taylor each finished with six points for the Bulldogs.
Also scoring for Highland were sophomores Kayla Eads and Mae Riffel each with four points, senior Alisse Koishor with three points, and Portell, senior Abby Melosi, senior Katie Kampwerth, junior Lauren Baer and sophomore Lexi Taylor all with two points apiece.
Breese Central 56, Waterloo 26
Central juniors Clarece Jansen and Carson Newkirk combined for 31 points, and the defense held Waterloo to just 13 first-half points to allow the Cougars also cruised home with a 30-point victory in the semifinal of the Class 3A regional they hosted.
Waterloo (11-14) had only one lead, when it was 2-0 in the opening minute of the game. When 6-foot senior Kathryn Finnerty picked up her second foul not two minutes into the first quarter, it opened things up inside for Jansen and Newkirk.
The duo scored 10 of the Central’s 18 first quarter points as the Cougars (16-13) took an 18-2 lead.
“I thought we came out and played well early. Our pressure was effective, and when Waterloo got into a foul trouble, we were able to get the ball down low and get some good shots at the basket. Both players (Newkirk and Jansen) did a nice job tonight,” Cougars coach Nathan Rueter said. “We’re certainly going to have to play better on Thursday to have a chance against Highland.”
The Cougars (16-13) will get their chance to play Highland in the regional title game at 7 p.m. Thursday. Highland defeated Freeburg 59-29 in Tuesday’s other semifinal. The regional winner will advance to the Waterloo Sectional next week.
Finnerty, who along with senior Taylor Augustine led Waterloo with eight points, put Waterloo ahead. Four possessions later Finnerty was on the bench next to coach Matt Lucash.
“We got off to a good start, scored early and had a 2-0 lead. Then with 1 1/2 minutes gone in the game, my best player is on the bench with two fouls. It’s just very unfortunate,” Lucash said.
Junior Faye Meissner added six of her 15 points in the first quarter. The Cougars lead 33-13 at halftime.
Newkirk led Central with 16 points. Jansen also added 15 points for the Cougars.