With the score tied at 36 in the semifinals of the Wesclin Holiday Tournament, Lebanon coach Chad Cruthis went against the odds as he set up a last play against Mount Olive.
Instead of going what everybody in the gym expected him to do which was call a play for standout sophomor sensation Kendra Bass, Cruthis instead set up an option to go to freshman Emily Reinneck.
It was Reinneck’s response which caught the veteran coach by surprise.
“We has just tied the game a few seconds earlier and during the time out before the last play, we knew they (Mount Olive) would be expecting the ball to go to one of the either Kendra or Krista Bass. I looked at Emily and said if this play works, you are going to get a good shot and you are going to make it,” Cruthis said. “She has this big old smile on her face.
“Well sure enough, she hit the shot to put us up 38-36 and the girls were all smiling when they came over to the bench. I warned them that there were still three seconds left. But luckily they (Mount Olive) missed the shot and we went on to win the game. We didn’t play our best that night, but sometimes good teams have a knack of finding ways to win. That night we did that.”
Ranked sixth in the Associated Press Class 1A state poll, Lebanon went on to defeat New Athens 50-33 the next night — its third win of the season over the Yellowjackets — to win the title and remain undefeated.
Now 15-0 following a 68-30 shellacking of Staunton on Tuesday, the Greyhounds are the lone undefeated team in the metro-east.
“It’s nice for the kids to be ranked and undefeated right now, but it’s not a big goal of ours,” Cruthis said. “It’s in February when want to be undefeated because one loss in the the tournament means your season is over.”
The Greyhounds figure to be pushed again heading into the postseason. In two weeks, they will play in the always competitive Carrollton Tournament where they will most likely get chance to play Class 1A state power Hardin-Calhoun. Civic Memorial, featuring high scoring junior all-stater Allie Troeckler is also in the tournament field.
In addition to the tournament title won by Lebanon, Highland, Edwardsville and Waterloo also won championships during the holidays.
Highland, which will host its Highland Tournament beginning on Jan. 16, got a brilliant performance from senior Amanda Ponce and her Bulldogs teammates as they captured the Mascoutah Girls Invitational title, beating Class 2A state power Central 46-44 in the final.
Central is ranked first in the Class 2A state rankings which were released on Tuesday.
Edwardsville, led by its outstanding quartet of Rachel Pranger, Criste’on Waters, Makenzie Silvey and Kate Martin, had little trouble in winning its own Edwardsville Christmas Tournament, while Waterloo pulled off a surprise by winning the Gibault Candy Cane Classic the week before Christmas.
Loaded field highlights Highland Tournament
The premier girls midseason tournament in southern Illinois is the Highland Tournament, which begins on Jan. 16. It figures to be one of the best in recent years.
The top three ranked Class 2A teams in the state — Central, Hillsboro and Teutopolis — headline the tournament which also includes Highland, once-beaten Triad, Okawville, Salem, Belleville West and Belleville East.
The tounament begins with eight first-round games on Jan. 16 and continues through the week with the title game set for Jan. 23.
An all state player a year ago, Civic Memorial junior Allie Troeckler continues to light up area scoreboards.
The top scorer in the metro-east at 19 points per game, the 5-foot-10 Troeckler was voted as the most valuable player at the Jerseyville Holiday Tournament. In four games, Troeckler totaled 98 points, 40 rebounds, 17 steals, and 12 blocked shots.
The Eagles are 9-6 for the season.
Belleville News-Democrat Polls
Rankings for metro-east teams; voting done by area coaches and the News-Democrat sports staff. First place votes are in parentheses. Records are through Tuesday.
Large school rankings (Class 3A-4A)
Also receiving votes: O’Fallon (9-5), Mascoutah (10-5), Collinsville (8-6), Civic Memorial (9-6), Jerseyville (8-7), Columbia (11-5), East St. Louis (4-6), Waterloo (5-6)
Small school rankings (Class 1A-2A)
Also receiving votes: Dupo (10-3), Roxana (8-8), Red Bud (7-9), Wesclin (7-9).