Highland finally got its elusive signature win Tuesday night with a 44-36 upset of Teutopolis in the quarterfinals of the 32nd Annual Highland Scott Credit Union Girls Basketball Tournament.
“We were looking for a signature win as we went through this season and we were able to get one tonight,” Highland coach Mike Arbuthnot said. “We hope this spearheads us into a lot of special things as the rest of the season goes on.”
Highland’s trio of guards led the way to the victory, with sophomore Ellie Brown and senior Rece Portell scoring in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Brown poured in eight of her points in the first quarter to help the Bulldogs forge an 11-11 tie with Tuetopolis after one quarter of play.
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Portell dumped in eight of her points in the third quarter to help Highland build its eight-points lead heading into the final eight minutes.
Junior Emmy Nyquist chipped in nine points, with four of them coming from the free-throw line in the final 53 seconds.
Junior Mae Riffel also sank a pair of foul shots with 37.3 ticks left.
The Bulldogs (14-6) advance to face O’Fallon (18-2) in the semifinals at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Junior Sadie Bueker scored a game-high 16 points for Teutopolis (21-3), which will face Mater Dei (16-6) in the fifth-place semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Highland used a 12-5 run to stretch a precarious 20-19 lead into a 32-24 advantage. The Lady Shoes could never catch up, although they chopped it down to 37-36 on a senior Jolene Buekeer’s layup.
But the Bulldogs made enough free throws and played tough enough defense to seal the deal.
“I liked our defensive effort down the stretch, holding a T-Town team to 36 points says a lot and that’s pretty cool,” Arbuthnot said. “I am happy any time we can beat a team the caliber of T-Town and we’re able to advance and get to that Final Four. Knowing we’re going to get to play on Saturday no matter what is a good feeling.”
O’Fallon 40, Mater Dei 37
Trailing 33-32, O’Fallon ran a set play to perfection and it ended with junior Reyna Bullock drilling a 3-pointer from the wing to give the Panthers (18-2) the lead for good with 2:37 remaining in the game.
Mater Dei (16-6) scrapped all the way to the end but O’Fallon sophomore Kayla Gordon scored her team’s final six points, the final three coming from the charity stripe, to help hold the Knights at bay.
Both teams featured balanced scoring.
The Panthers were paced by junior Ashley Schloer’s 11 points and senior Jayla Stubblefield finished right behind her with 10 points. Gordon wound up with eight points, six coming in the final 1:59.
Mater Dei received 13 points from junior Kierra Winkeler and 10 points from senior Myah Beckmann.
But defense played a key role in the game for both teams as there were a plethora of turnovers.
“Defense is what we preach and our defensive pressure has been key for us in our last five or six games,” O’Fallon coach Nick Knolhoff said. “Some nights the ball just doesn’t go in. Tonight we really didn’t play well at all on the offensive end. It was a great game plan by (Mater Dei) coach (Dave) Kohnen over there, that’s why he is a Hall of Famer. I knew they would be prepared and be ready.
“It’s sad to see that after how hard these two teams played, they’ve got to leave with a loss. But our defensive pressure really got to their guards...I am just so proud of these girls for how they gutted out a win. That was all heart on the defensive end by us.”
Belleville West 46, Althoff 36
The Maroons (4-14) outscored the Crusaders (11-13) 14-4 in the fourth quarter to stay alive in an elimination game.
Belleville West junior Mikayla notched a game-best 12 points and sophomore Shaniah Nunn added 11 points for the Maroons, who advanced to the consolation semifinals where they will face Hillsboro at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Althoff was led by junior Gabby Siekmann’s nine points.