Often times in the postseason, the name of the game is simply surviving. On Wednesday at Central High School, that’s exactly what the Althoff Crusaders did.
Junior forward Maggie Reimer scored 20 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter while junior Kyleigh Vaught added 18 as Althoff held off the 3-point barrage of the Wesclin Warriors for a 55-51 win in the semifinals of the Class 2A Central Girls Basketball Regional Tournament.
Seeded fourth, Althoff (9-17) looked sharp early. Getting nine first-quarter points from Reimer, the Crusaders jumped out to a 16-5 first quarter lead and then expanded their advantage to 13 points before Wesclin (11-16), started to find its shooting touch.
With Lindenwood University-Belleville recruit Karly Haukapp connecting on on two of three-point field goals, the Warriors closed to within 26-22 at halftime. Wesclin took its first lead since early in the game — 37-36 — with 1:56 left in the third quarter on a basket by Mayghen Mugele. But Vaught came down on the Crusaders next possession to hit a 3-point field goal to give her team back the lead.
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Although Wesclin would tie the game in the fourth quarter, it never again led as Althoff, led by its dynamic duo of Vaught and Reimer, moved into the regional title game on Thursday where it will take on the top-ranked team in the state and host Central at 7 p.m.
“You know what? We’re looking forward to it. We’re going to come in here tomorrow night in front of their fans and play as hard as we can,” Althoff coach Nick Knolhoff said. “Tonight we played well and down the stretch we were able to be strong on the boards and we made our free throws. I think we were 20-of-32 from the foul line. When you go to the line 32 times you should win and that exactly what we did.”
While the game came down to the final two minutes, Althoff’s first quarter was the difference in the game. Playing energized, the Crusaders came out and seemed to be on the verge of an easy win in the first 10 minutes.
“We had a game plan and we followed it pefectlty in the first quarter,” Knolhoff said. “We felt coming in that Wesclin played basically five players and so we wanted to play an up tempo game and see if we couldn’t wear them down a little bit. But after the first quarter we got in a little foul trouble, turned the ball over a few times and our shot selection wssn’t the best.”
Also what happened was that Wesclin’s 3-point shooting attack got on track. With Haukapp and Cami Meddows combining for six of the Warriors eight 3-point field goals, the Warriors got back in the game and almost advanced to the regional title game.
“The difference in the basketball game was the first quarter. They (Althoff) came out and got the big lead on us,” Wesclin coach Ben Crawford said. “After that first quarter I thought we out played them. Give credit to our girls. They kept fighting all night and got back in the game. We gave ourselves a chance coming down to the last two minutes of the game. That’s all I can ask.’’
Ellie Martz added 10 points for Althoff while Amanda Kaltwasser added eight. Haukapp led Wesclin with 16 points.
Central 90, Carlyle 40
As the top-ranked Class 2A team in the state, Central lived up to its billing in the 50-point out over its Cahokia Conference rival Carlyle.
Looking well rested and healthy after sitting out the Cougars regular-season ending loss at Belleville East six days ago, senior all-state center Kendra Wilken tallied of her 15 points while senior guards Olivia Page and Grace Yaunches combined for 15 more as Central (24-5) rolled up a 41-15 lead.
Carlyle, which advanced to the semifinal with an upset win over Roxana on Monday, would get no closer.
Central coach Nathan Rueter went to his bench early and often throughout the final two quarters.
“I thought we came out and played well. We shot the ball extremely well tonight and that was good too see,” Rueter said. “This is what we’ve been pointing towards all year and hopefully we can carry this kind of effort over to tomorrow and continue to build on it.’’
Yaunches led Central with 16 points, while Wilken (15), Page (12) and Breanne Jansen (11) were also in double figures for the Cougars.
Wilken and Faye Meissner both returned to the court on Wednesday after missing time with soreness and injuries.
“We’re as healthy as we’re going to get,” Rueter said. “I think being able to do what we have been able to do with (resting) some of the players the last couple of weeks, showed tonight.”
Ashton Pieron led Carlyle with 16 points.