The Okawville Rockets held the powerful Winchester West Central offense to one field goal in the fourth quarter and broke loose for a 48-40 win Monday in the semifinals of the Class 1A Hardin-Calhoun Sectional.
After watching their third-quarter eight-point lead cut to 34-33 heading into the final period, the Rockets picked it up on the defensive end of the floor.
With junior Madison Hackstadt scoring on a three-point play and Madelyn Tepe each scoring on jump shots, Okawville (23-6) held the Cougars without a point for nearly the first five minutes of the fourth quarter as it increased its lead to eight points.
Casean Tebbe canned a short jumper from just inside the lane with 3:50 left to give Okawville a 41-33 lead.
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Sophomore guard Kathryn Lohman then made four of six free throws down the stretch to clinch the win for Okawville, which advances to the title game at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Rockets will face the winner of the second semifinal Tuesday between Lebanon and defending Class 1A state champion Hardin-Calhoun.
With the game on the line on Monday, Okawville coach Michelle Hasheider-Burianek gave an emotional talk between the third and fourth quarters. The Rockets responded.
“Coach was pretty upset. She just told us that we had to play better on the defensive end of the court,” Tepe said. “She said that if we stopped penetration that we would win the game and we did that.”
Okawville trailed just 12-9 late in the first quarter and 18-17 just before halftime. Hackstadt, who led all scorers with 17 points, scored twice in the final 60 seconds in the first half to give Okawville a 21-18 lead at halftime.
That lead ballooned to as many as eight points in the third quarter as Hackstadt scored twice and Lohman hit a 3-point shot before the Cougars rallied.
Winchester West Central (27-4), getting eight third quarter points from Danielle Starks, cut the lead to one and had two chances in the final seconds but failed to cash in.
It was then when Hasheider-Burianek made her plea.
“I got on them pretty good. We had to pick it on the defensive and that’s what we did,’’ Hasheider-Burianek said. “The big kid (Starks) hurt us inside, but when it was time to pick it up and get some stops, we did that. We believe in playing good hard defense and in the fourth quarter we picked it up.
“It was a team effort and I couldn’t be any prouder of this group of girls.’’
Tepe, who held Cougars all-stater Annika Kaufmann to just nine points, gave Okawville a 36-33 lead to start the fourth quarter and when Hackstadt and Tebbe both scored on consecutive possessions, the Rockets lead was 41-33 with 3:50 left.
Cougars senior Sydney Rock then scored the first points of the period for her team pm two free throws with 3:36 left to cut the deficit to six points. But Okawville made four of six free throws down the stretch to keep the lead safe.
“Coach is always on us to close out games when we have the chance. We had let a couple get away when we had leads earlier in the season. Tonight we played well down the stretch,” Hackstadt said. “The difference was on the defensive end. We played well tonight and got stops when we needed them.”
Hackstadt led Okawville with 17 points, while Tepe added 13 and Lohman, who added a pair of 3-point baskets, added 10. Starks had 15 for the Cougars who were only 6-for-33 from beyond the 3-point line.
“We just didn’t hit the shots,” West Central coach Brian Bettis said. “We had open looks that we just didn’t make tonight. It’s that simple.”