Although the final score didn’t show it, it was just another typical Highland-Civic Memorial showdown on Saturday night.
Civic Memorial jumped out to a 20-2 lead and then held off a furious Highland comeback, emerging with a 57-45 win in the championship of the Salem Thanksgiving Tournament.
The familiar Mississippi Valley Conference opponents tangled four times last season, with Highland winning all four by a combined 15 points. Civic (5-0) almost equaled that total Saturday, but that was mostly due to late free throws.
Highland’s Hayley Taylor opened the scoring with a layup, but Civic scored the final 15 points of the first quarter and the first five of the second. Allie Troeckler scored the Eagles’ first 8 points and finished with 18, but even after the two-time All-State senior was sidelined because of early foul trouble, the Eagles continued to build the lead.
“We just came out not ready to play,” Highland coach Mike Arbuthnot said. “Their toughness got to us a little bit and we just got out of sync offensively. We just didn’t step up.”
The Bulldogs (3-2) never went away, though. They trailed by 15 late in the third quarter, but Madison Wellen hit a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 10 going into the final period.
Freshman guard Ellie Brown scored all nine of her points in the first half of the fourth quarter as Highland sliced Civic’s lead to four points on two different occasions. A pair of layups by freshman Anna Hall helped stretch the lead back out, and Troeckler sank four free throws in the final minute to ice the game.
“Highland will never give up,” Civic Memorial coach Jonathan Denney said. “They’re always going to keep fighting. Maybe next time we’ll be down 20-2 and we’ll have to fight back. We’re probably going to see them three more times, and each one is going to be a battle.”
Civic Memorial’s defense kept Highland’s Alex LaPorta mostly in check, limiting the senior post to just two points in the first half and 10 for the game. That was despite Troeckler spending a large portion of the game on the sidelines. In addition to scoring 12 points, Hall, a 5-foot-11 freshman, handled most of the defensive duties against LaPorta when Troeckler wasn’t in.
Troeckler was named the Tournament MVP, with teammate Alaira Tyrus earning second-team All-Tournament honors. LaPorta and Wellin were first-team selections, as was Belleville East’s Kaylah Rainey. East’s Brittney Nitz and Althoff’s Kyleigh Vaught earned second-team honors.
Civic Memorial hosts Waterloo, while Highland hosts Triad. Both Mississippi Valley Conference openers are Thursday night.