While many of the names may have changed from a year ago, Central guard Grace Yaunches remained a thorn in the side of the Belleville West Maroons on Saturday at the O’Fallon Tip-Classic.
The hard-fought 33-31 Cougars win spoiled the the coaching debut of the Maroons’ coach Seth Garrett. Yaunches scored 17 points, including 11 in the second half, to push the Class 2A state power cougars to win.
Yaunches, whose clutch 3-point shooting helped Central hold off Belleville West in the title game of the Mascoutah Holiday Tournament a year ago, tallied nine of her 17 points in the third quarter as the Cougars (2-0) used a 14-2 scoring run to take a commanding 29-18 lead.
“We’ve all seen what Grace can do in these kinds of situations,” said Central coach Nathan Reuter. “She has the ability to hit big shots.’’
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Senior Kendra Wilken added 12 points for Central which tallied only four points in the fourth quarter then watched as a young Belleville West squad saw its comeback attempt fall short.
West (0-1) was led by freshman Chamya Darough who tallied 14 points and senior Erika Harvey tallied 10 points.
Two bad quarters haunt Maroons
Facing a Cougars squad which was the Class 2A state tournament runner-up a year ago, West trailed by 11 points after scoring just two points in the third quarter.
West also had a tough start on Saturday, netting only four points in the first quarter as it fell behind 9-4.
While the Maroons never took the lead, they did make things interesting for Central in the fourth quarter.
Darough, a lightning-quick guard, nailed a 3-point basket then followed with an acrobatic layup as West cut the Cougars lead to six points.
A behind the head no-look pass to Harvey who scored on a layup cut the lead to four points.
When Darough hit a short jumper with under 90 seconds remaining, the Maroons were within two points.
But despite having three chances to tie the game or take the lead in the final 30 seconds, West couldn’t hit the big shot.
“We gave ourselves a chance. I’m proud of the way we fought back. The girls didn’t quit when we were down 11 points in the fourth quarter,’’ Garrett said.
“But we scored a combined six points in the first and third quarters and we shot 29 percent from the game. I have no explanation as to why we came out so sluggish to start the game and then again in the third quarter. It’s something we need to address.’’
Central, which got 16 points from Yaunches and 14 from Wiilken in a 46-44 win over Chatham-Glenwood in the first game of the day, was plagued by sloppy play in the second half against Belleville West.
“Very sloppy,” Reuter said. “I don’t know whether it was the fact that this was our second game of the day or that that we were playing on more of college court then a high school court or what it was.”
He added, “We have some work to do.’’
Belleville West will play Riverview Gardens at 5:30 p.m. on Monday at the O’Fallon Tournament. Central will play Hazelwood Central on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.