Highland and Civic Memorial both cruised to easy victories Tuesday at the IHSA Class 3A Waterloo Sectional, setting up a fourth showdown this season between the Mississippi Valley Conference girls basketball rival powers.
Highland crushed Carterville 69-43 in the semifinals, while Civic Memorial blew past Murphysboro 60-39, setting up a second-straight sectional final rematch.
Civic Memorial (30-2), ranked third in Class 3A, will face fourth-ranked Highland (29-3) at 7 p.m. Thursday for the championship. Highland has a 21-game winning streak, while Civic Memorial has won 13 straight.
“I guess it’s a matchup everybody’s been talking about,” Highland coach Mike Arbuthnot said. “We’ve kind of stayed away from it just because it’s a long season, and a lot of things happen. It should be a lot of fun. We respect each other, and I guess this is the way it’s supposed to be.
Civic Memorial defeated Mississippi Valley Conference rival Highland 57-45 and 58-53 in the first two meetings this season before Highland won 51-48 in the third contest.
Thursday’s sectional final is a rematch of the 2016 sectional final, which Highland won 49-42 over the Eagles in Benton on the way to the state tournament.
“It’s a lot of fun; it’s a great rivalry,” Arbuthnot said. “I know they’ll be ready to play, and hey, it’s for a sectional championship. It couldn’t be any better.”
Highland 6-foot senior forward Alex LaPorta racked up team highs in all of the following statistics: 21 points (on 9-of-17 field goals), nine rebounds (three offensive), five steals and four rebounds in the Carterville win.
LaPorta said beating Civic Memorial in the previous meeting could help the Bulldogs gain an edge.
“That gives us confidence for sure, but we knew ... every single game we played against them, we knew that we could have won,” LaPorta said. “It’s just a matter of executing down the stretch, and we’re confident we can do that (Thursday).”
Also for the Bulldogs, senior guard Madison Wellen also hit double digits with 13 points.
“We’re a take-it-one-game-at-a-time team, but it was hard not to think about what would happen if we won this game,” Wellen said. “The fourth round, this is the most important one. All those other ones kind of led up to this.”
LaPorta shredded Carterville (27-4) inside, scoring 15 points in the first half.
“Alex is important for us all the time.” Arbuthnot said. “When we see that we’ve got opportunities to get her the ball, we’ll give it to her. We felt like going into this thing that we had a mismatch in there, and we were going to try to attack it as much as we could.”
Civic Memorial star senior and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville recruit Allie Troeckler averages more than 23 points, but Civic Memorial’s all-time leading scorer was held to only 11 points in Highland’s 61-58 win on Jan. 7.
“She’s such a great player; we’ve got to be able to contain her,” Arbuthnot said. “You’ve kind of got to pick your poison — either you give up the 3s, or are you going to stop Troeckler? Obviously going in we’re going to try to do both.”
Also chalking up numbers for the Bulldogs were junior guard Rece Portell with eight points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal; freshman guard Ellie Brown with six points, three assists and one rebound; senior guard Abby Melosi with six points, two boards and one assist; senior center Hayley Taylor with four points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal; senior guard Alisse Koishor with four points, four boards, one assist and one steal; junior forward Lauren Baer with three points and three boards; and sophomore Kayla Eads and freshman Megan Kronk (one rebound) each with two points.
Civic Memorial 60, Murphysboro 39
CM got 22 points, 11 rebounds (five offensive), three steals and two assists from star senior and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville recruit Allie Troeckler, and 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals from Kaylee Eaton in the win over Murphysboro.
Troeckler spent most of the first quarter on the bench in foul trouble and still led the Eagles with 22 points in a sectional semifinal victory over Murphysboro.
Troeckler, who has scored at least 11 points in all 32 games this season while averaging 23.3 points, scored 18 of those 22 points after halftime. Kaylee Eaton had 14 of her 18 points in the first half for Civic Memorial, which led 32-15 at halftime.
Murphysboro (22-8) got 14 points each from Mikayla Brasel and Angel Jones, and 11 from Kayla Wallace.