Highland senior guard Madison Wellen scored 11 straight points in less than a two-minute span in the second quarter to help ignite the Lady Bulldogs to a 65-33 win over Althoff on Tuesday in a quarterfinal round game at the 31st annual Highland Scott Credit Union Highland Girls Basketball Tournament.
Fresh off an first round upset win over Hillsboro on Monday, Althoff (16-8) had a two-point lead (23-21) early in the second quarter when Wellen connected on a 3-point shot to put Highland (17-3) ahead to stay. She followed that up with eight more points on a old-fashioned three-point play, another bomb from behind the arc and then finished her 11-point scoring blitz with a 16-foot jumper.
Senior forward Alex LaPorta converted a conventional three-point play and senior guard Abby Melosi and freshman guard Ellie Brown hit buckets to cap off an 18-6 run and widen Highland’s margin to 39-29 at halftime.
“We feel like we’re playing well enough to win this thing,” said Wellen, who pumped in a game-high 21 points and hopes to help Highland end a 30-year drought of not winning its own tournament since the inaugural edition in 1987.
The second half was dominated by the Bulldogs’ defense, as it allowed just four points in a 26-4 scoring run as the Bulldogs breezed into the semifinals. Highland put the game out of reach after scoring the first 16 points of the third quarter to take a commanding 55-29 lead.
“We’ve always struggled with that second-round game,” said LaPorta, who collected 15 points and 13 rebounds. “So, it was nice to come out and get this win. Now, we’ve just got to focus for the next two games.”
Next up for Highland will be the O’Fallon Panthers (14-5), who beat Mater Dei 81-75 in Tuesday’s other quarterfinal. The Bulldogs, who defeated O’Fallon 57-39 in the quarterfinals of the Mascoutah Invitational on Dec. 28, won for the ninth time in a row and is ranked third in the latest Class 3A state poll.
“Obviously we are playing very well right now,” Highland coach Mike Arbuthnot said. “But these kids have bought into what we’re trying to do. This was just a great defensive effort from every kid that dressed and every kid that played. It’s a special group of girls in that it doesn’t matter who is scoring the points. All that matters is that we’re winning basketball games.”
Althoff was led by senior Maggie Reimer, who had 12 points, while senior guard Kyleigh Vaught scored 10.
Also chipping in points for the Bulldogs were Brown and junior guard Rece Portell with seven points apiece, senior post players Hayley Taylor and Katie Kampwerth with five and four points, respectively, and junior Lauren Baer and Kayla Eads each with two points.