For the O’Fallon girls, it was all about intensity and the will to win Friday at the Mascoutah Invitational Tournament.
And for the first time in school history, the Panthers did just that.
Senior Sydney Thurwalker scored 16 points and combined with freshman Amelia Bell to dominate in the post as the Panthers clinched their first title in the 40-year history of the tournament with a 65-57 win over Southwestern Conference rival Belleville East at Mascoutah High School.
Playing in just her 14th game as Panther after transferring from Belleville West, Thurwalker scored eight of her points in the first quarter as O’Fallon (13-1) jumped out to a 20-16 lead. The Lancers, chasing O’Fallon for much of the night, took a 36-35 lead midway in the third quarter on a conventional 3-point play by junior Bryce Dowell.
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But Bell scored two of her 12 points, and senior Jayla Stubblefield hit a 3-point jumper as the Panthers retook the lead and momentum of the game. O’Fallon led 47-42 after three quarters, and while the Lancers (10-6) closed the gap in the final eight minutes, O’Fallon clinched the win by making 13 of 19 free throw attempts.
“Our intensity level was just incredible tonight,” O’Fallon coach Nick Knolhoff said. “The girls were ready to play. We had a game plan coming in, and we stuck with it.”
Junior Ashley Schloer added 12 points, and Stubblefield chipped in with 10 for O’Fallon, which advanced to the title game with a semifinal win over Okawville earlier in the day.
Dowell led Belleville East with 16 points, while senior Brittney Nitz added 13. Nitz hit two long 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep her team within range. Junior Kaylah Rainey added 12 points for East.
Highland 60, Okawville 33
Ellie Brown scored 16 points, and Emmy Nyquist added nine as Highland (11-4) routed Okawville in the third-place game.
Audrey Jansen paced Okawville (11-3) with 11 points.
Central 40, Nashville 19
Nearing the end of an outstanding four-year career, senior Faye Meissner scored 17 points, and the Cougars (13-2) held Nashville in check as they won the fifth-place trophy.
Carson Newkirk added 11 points for the Cougars, while junior Paige Kasten scored seven points to lead Nashville.
Mater Dei 58, Althoff 23
Junior Kierra Winkeler led a balanced Mater Dei attack with 17 points, and Shannon Lampe added 13 as the Knights romped past Althoff in the consolation final.
The Knights improved to 11-5 for the season.
Althoff, which split four games in the three-day tournament, was led by junior Gabby Siekmann with seven points.
Belleville East juniors Kaylah Rainey and B’Aunce Carter highlight the 2017 Mascoutah Invitational Tournament all-tournament team. Other first-team selections included Sydney Thurwalker, of O’Fallon; Ellie Brown, of Highland; and Faye Meissner, of Central.
Second-team selections were Okawville’s Kathryn Lohman and Madelyn Tepe; Jayla Stubblefield, of O’Fallon; Paige Kasten, of Nashville; and Kierra Winkeler, of Mater Dei.