By doing a much better job defensively on Althoff leading scorer Kyleigh Vaught, the Mater Dei Knights earned their second-straight regional championship.
Mater Dei held the high-scoring Vaught to 11 points Thursday and shut down Althoff with lockdown defense all over the court in a dominant 60-40 victory to win the Class 2A Althoff Girls Basketball Regional.
Vaught scored a combined 51 points in the two previous meetings against Mater Dei, with each team winning a game. This time she faced a lot of double-team defense and finished with just 11 points in her final high school game.
“I thought our kids did a good job doubling down, and they doubled down quick; they didn’t wait,” Mater Dei coach Dave Kohnen said. “If she hesitated one bit, we were all over it, and we had an opportunity to knock the ball out a couple times...”
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Mater Dei (18-10) advances to the Johnson City Sectional and will face Sesser-Valier (26-1) in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Monday.
Along with a strong defensive night, Mater Dei’s Logan Braundmeier poured in 14 of her game-high 20 points in the first half, and Kierra Winkeler contributed 15 points.
“Tonight I think we actually knew what was on the line,” said Braundmeier, whose big night came despite her averaging just nine points before Thursday. “We knew it was do or die. If we win we go on, and if we lose we go home — the season’s over. I think that motivated us the most.
“It feels awesome. I couldn’t be more proud of our team, and I can’t wait for Monday.”
Althoff got 11 points from Vaught, 10 from Maggie Reimer and seven from Amanda Kaltwasser.
Althoff didn’t help itself by scoring the game’s first basket and then watching the Knights go on a 10-0 run. Mater Dei led 19-9 after the first quarter, but the Crusaders stayed close and cut the Knights lead to 26-20 during the second quarter.
The Knights led 30-22 at halftime, then blew things open by outscoring Althoff 16-6 in the third quarter.
“Dave had a great game plan, and they shot the ball very, very well,” Althoff coach Nick Knolhoff said after his team finished the season 20-10. “We made a couple mistakes there in the beginning that opened it up to that 10-2 start. We could just never get over the hump and catch back up.”
With Althoff’s defense focused more on Kelsey Gerdes, the Knights’ top scorer, Braundmeier hit five of her first seven shots.
“Logan really came out popping,” Kohnen said, of Braundmeier, who had her second-highest scoring game this season after netting 23 on Jan. 17 against O’Fallon.
“We weren’t really game-planning for her to be the leading scorer for them, (and) I thought we did a good job of stopping Gerdes at the beginning,” Knolhoff said. “She had three at half, and then here comes Logan with 14 (by halftime). They’re hard to guard at all five positions.”