Two key 3-pointers helped the Mascoutah Indians turn the tables on Triad on Wednesday.
Sophomore Amaya Keeling and senior Maddie Nekola erased the Knights’ five-point lead by hitting consective 3-pointers to close the third quarter, and Mascoutah carried the momentum into the fourth quarter and held off Triad 41-36 in the semifinals of the Class 3A Triad Regional.
The sixth-seeded Indians (16-12), who lost twice to third-seeded Triad during the regular season, will face second-seeded Highland (26-4) in the title game at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“There was a moment or two where we were not very patient,” Mascoutah coach Terry Moeller said. “That was what one of the timeouts were called for. I’ll be darned, we go out there (after the timeout) and the first look we get is a 3-point look and I think (Keeling) sinks it. You go, ‘OK, so much for coaching. Let them play the game.’
“But there’s still things we have to do as a team in terms of taking care of the basketball.”
Junior Tennaye Green led the Indians with 13 points, while Nekola finished with 12.
“It was a big team effort,” the 5-foot-10 Green said. “The difference is we played to win. We didn’t doubt ourselves and we came out strong and stayed strong.”
There was a moment or two where we were not very patient. That was what one of the timeouts were called for. I’ll be darned, we go out there (after the timeout) and the first look we get is a 3-point look and I think (Keeling) sinks it. You go, ‘OK, so much for coaching. Let them play the game.’
Mascoutah coach Terry Moeller
The Indians, namely Keeling, held Triad senior Sophie Thompson to 10 points, 10 under her average. Senior Sam Woods also scored 10 points. The Knights finished 23-4.
Thompson, coming off a career-high 34 points last Thursday against Waterloo, finished her career with 1,601 points, a Triad record.
“Credit Mascoutah. They played really well tonight and took us out of our ballgame,” Knights coach Josh Hunt said. “In turn, they made more plays down the stretch than we did in the fourth quarter. That was the difference in the game.”
The game was tied at 10 after one quarter, but Mascoutah grabbed a 19-14 lead at halftime as senior Kennedy Bryant scored on a pair of drives to the basket.
Triad collected itself in the third quarter, opening with a 11-2 run culminated by a 3-pointer from senior Abby Burroughs with 5:22 to play in the period that made it 25-21.
Credit Mascoutah. They played really well tonight and took us out of our ballgame. In turn, they made more plays down the stretch than we did in the fourth quarter. That was the difference in the game.
Triad coach Josh Hunt
The Knights led 29-24 when junior Morgan Chigas scored with 2:20 left in the third quarter. Moeller called a timeout Keeling and Nekola followed with their 3-pointers 34 seconds apart.
“They hit two big 3s and played with the lead for the majority of the fourth quarter,” Hunt said. “It is what it is. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it done this evening.”
Moeller’s, Hunt’s final thoughts
Triad scored the first three points of the fourth quarter to lead 32-30, but the Indians took the lead for good on Green’s basket in the lane made it 33-32 with 3:51 remaining.
Nekola’s two free throws with 38.1 seconds left made it 39-34, and after Thompson missed two free throws, Nekola made two more free throws to seal the game.
“There was a tremendous amount of defensive effort,” Moeller said. “We exectuted our game plan defensively. We knew about three of their go-to plays that I think we did a pretty good job taking away tonight, and it forced them into some other situations. They didn’t get many second (chances), if any. There were a few putbacks, but we controlled the boards.”
Hunt felt badly for his players.
“I’ve got a lot of girls in there really disappointed, especially those three seniors (Burroughs, Thompson and Woods) who have been through so much,” he said. “They deserve so much better than this, but in the end, it’s life-learning lessons. They’ll bounce back. They’re great kids who are going to be successful in life.
“I’m as proud as can be of my team. Our effort was there. Just our execution wasn’t there.”
Highland 54, Jerseyville 34
The Bulldogs used a 21-0 run over the first two quarters and easily dismissed the Panthers to reach the championship game.
Senior Amanda Ponce and junior Madison Wellen scored 13 points apiece to lead Highland while junior Alex LaPorta finished with nine points.
“We came out and our pressure ‘D’ was pretty good early,” Bulldogs coach Mike Arbuthnot said. “We wanted to force 10 (junior Mackenzie Thurston) away from the basket because she likes to penetrate. We put Amanda (Taylor, a junior) on 33, (Bethany) Muenstermann, so she didn’t get any looks. We knew those were their top two scorers and we wanted to make sure we stopped those two. We did a pretty good job in the first half.”
Taylor fell hard on her face with 5:46 to play in the second quarter as she fought for a loose ball with Jerseyville senior Mikayla Kraut, who was called for a foul.
Taylor walked off after being attended to on the court, but she remained behind the bench and received treatment until the start of the third quarter when a stretcher arrived to cart her to an ambulance and a local hospital. The second half began after she left.
“She came down face-first and she’s got a couple of teeth that are loose,” Arbuthnot said. “She showed some early signs of a concussion. Initially, she was fine, but wen she got up and moved around a little bit when we got her off, she got a little bit lightheaded.
“Most of it’s precautionary. It scared the kids. No doubt about it. We settled them down. I let them know everything was precautionary. She was awake and squeezing (hands) and not showing any signs of negative things. Once I told them that, the kids relaxed a little bit. But it’s still scary seeing a teammate being carried off.”
Jerseyville finished 13-15.