Civic Memorial coach Jonathan Denney said he had been waiting for sophomore Anna Hall to have a breakout game.
It could not have come at a better time as the 5-foot-10 sophomore post player racked up a double-double with a career-high 21 points and 12 rebounds to help the Eagles rout host Highland 52-25 Wednesday in the battle of the two perennial Mississippi Valley Conference powers.
Civic Memorial (11-1) remained unbeaten in league play while the Bulldogs (8-3) suffered their first defeat in the MVC, second in a row overall.
“That’s the coming out party I’ve been waiting for,” Denney said of Hall. “She really kind of locked into a role position last year but I told her at the beginning of the season that she is a double-double type of kid. And if she can get double-doubles for us, we’re going to be pretty good.
“But it was a great time for her to come out and play the way she did. I am proud of Anna Hall, she was big time tonight.”
Hall and her teammates exposed Highland’s lack of inside attack and focused on Highland’s strength — its three-pronged guard attack. Ellie Brown, Rece Portell and Emmy Nyquist had to work hard for every single point and combined to score just 16 points, with Brown scoring half of them.
Civic Memorial used a 14-2 run in the first quarter to go on top 16-5 after one quarter of play. The Bulldogs trailed 24-16 early in the third quarter, but the Eagles reeled off 17 points to blow the game wide open.
“Coach told us they were way smaller than we are so if we were going to win, we have really got to work inside, and that’s really what we did,” Hall said. “We definitely worked inside and used our advantage over them. It’s definitely a great time (to have a big game) because I knew we were going to have to come out strong if we really wanted to win.
“And it’s a great test to show how far we have come at mid-season...But we definitely can still improve from this game.”
Highland coach Mike Arbuthnot said he was worried about his team’s offense coming into the game after it was exposed a bit in the 48-41 home loss to Mater Dei four days earlier.
“We’re not an offensive juggernaut,” he said. “(CM) did a good job of taking away our three guards. Our three guards didn’t really get many looks at all. The credit goes to them, they were prepared to play. I thought we settled down a bit in the second quarter, but then in the second half (CM) came out in and they made a few adjustments and they just blitzed us.”
The Eagles also also got 11 points from senior Kaylee Eaton, nine points from sophomore Kourtland Tyrus and eight points from senior Alaira Tyrus.
Also scoring for Highland were senior Lauren Baer with four points, freshman Taylor Kesner with three points and junior Mae Riffel with two points.
“We have seen Highland play a few times and they are lacking a bit in the post, and we wanted to take advantage of that both on the boards and getting the ball inside,” Denney said. “ I thought our girls executed great and I can’t say enough good things about each and every one of them.”
Mater Dei 48, Highland 41
Things looked good early for the Lady Bulldogs as sophomore guard Ellie Brown (10) and junior guard Emmy Nyquist (eight) combined to score all of their team’s points, half of which came on long-range bombs. Their hot shooting led the Lady Bulldogs to an 18-8 lead in the first 52 seconds of the second quarter.
However, the Knights (6-4) ratcheted up their level of play and closed out the half on an 18-5 run, fueled in large part to the play of junior Ciara Perkes and senior Myah Beckmann.
Perkes drilled three 3-pointers, the last of which gave Mater Dei the lead for good at 21-20 with 2:15 remaining in the first half. Beckmann tossed in six points, including a 3-pointer to make it 24-20 less than a minute after Perkes gave the Knights a lead they would never relinquish.
Mate Dei led 26-23 at the half.
Highland, which only shot 34 percent (15 of 44) from the field, stayed close throughout the second half but could never quite get over the hump and pull even, let alone grab the lead, as the Knights always seemed to have the answer.
Mater Dei showed good, balanced scoring. Perkes led the Knights in scoring with all of her 12 points coming in the first half. Junior Abby Braundmeier chipped in 10 points, with six coming in the third quarter to help hold the Lady Bulldogs at bay. Beckmann and sophomore Shannon Lampe each threw in nine points for the Knights.
Brown paced Highland with 15 points and had two rebounds one steal, while Nyquist finished with 10 points and shared team-high honors in assists with senior guard Rece Portell, with each dishing out four.
Portell also led the Lady Bulldogs with seven rebounds and two steals to go with nine points.
Also making contributions for Highland were senior Lauren Baer with four points, three rebounds and one assist; sophomore Ashlyn Klucker with three points and one assist; junior Mae Riffel with five boards and one assist; and junior Kayla Eads with three rebounds and one steal.
Highland 66, Centralia 35
The Lady Bulldogs came out a bit lackluster and actually trailed the Orphans 11-9 after the first quarter of play.
But Highland responded in the second quarter, outscoring Centralia (1-8) 20-7 to take 29-18 lead at the break.
The Lady Bulldogs inched the lead out two more in the third quarter before exploding for a 26-8 final eight minutes of play to rout the Orphans for the second time this season.
“I thought we played well on defense,” Portell said. “On offense, we came out somewhat flat, again, and didn’t click in our half-court execution like we have before. The team still won by 30, though. Emmy (Nyquist) shot pretty good tonight, which helped our offense. Overall, the subs contributed, and we all played hard.”
Highland again only shot 34 percent (19 for 56), 24 steals and 34 rebounds helped make up for the cold shooting.
Ten different players registered in the scoring column for the Lady Bulldogs. Brown and Nyquist again led Highland. Brown scored a game-high 17 points. She also shared game-high honors with Nyquist with five assists apiece, and added three steals. Nyquist added 15 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, and also had the five assists and three steals.
Also logging stats for Highland were Eads with eight points, four rebounds and three steals, Portell with six points, four boards, a game-high seven steals and one assist, sophomore Megan Kronk with six points, three assists and two steals, freshman Bella LaPorta with four points, five rebounds and one steal, freshman Kirsten Taylor with four points and one board, Klucker with three points, four rebounds, four steals and two assists, Baer with two points, two boards, one assist and one steal, Riffel with one point, game-high eight rebounds and two assists.