Before getting off the bus after arriving at Illinois College for the Class 2A Supersectional on Monday, Camp Point Central coach Matt Long left his team with one thought.
“I told them to believe they were going to win.” Long said.
Playing before a crowd of over 1,500 screaming fans, the Panthers not only believed it, they went out and shocked the Central Cougars.
Junior Colby McClelland scored 28 points and freshman Delaney Lantz made four straight free throws in the final 30 seconds as the Panthers stunned Central 50-47 at the Class 2A Jacksonville Supersectional.
Looking for its second straight trip to the Class 2A State Tournament, Central (27-6) led just once — 13-11 — early in the second quarter as the Panthers took the momentum early and never let the Central get fully on track.
Camp Point (28-5) eventually built a 40-29 lead early in the fourth quarter before Central finally wad able to show the type play which has made it the premier small school team in southern Illinois.
With Kendra Wilken scoring 13 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter, the Cougars closed to within 48-47 with 29.7 seconds remaining when Wilken tallied on a conventional 3-point play.
The Panthers then turned the ball over and Central had a chance to take the lead.
But following a timeout, Wilken was called for a 3-second in the lane violation and the Panthers got the ball back.
Lantz, who was a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line, increased the Panthers lead to 50-47 with 4.1 seconds remaining and the Cougars failed to get a shot off as time expired.
“Not bad for a freshman. I’m not sure Delaney realizes what she just did under immense pressure” Long said. “We thought we had a chance to pull this off and the girls went out and executed very well.”
Camp Point Central will advance to the Class 2A state tournament semifinals on Friday where it will take on Byron at 8:15 p.m., at Redbird Arena in Normal.
Central, playing without sophomore guard Faye Meissner for much of the night, fell behind 9-2 as McClelland scored all nine points. Meissner, who suffered a knee injury last week in practice, and played less than five minutes on Monday.
“We knew coming in that they (Camp Point) would cause some matchup problems for us and they did,” a dejected Cougars coach Nathan Rueter said. “We’ve been battling the injuries issue all year and I think tonight it finally caught up with us.”
“We kept battling all night and the girls gave everything they had. It just seemed like we could never get over the hump. It seemed like they got all of the loose balls and they got most of the breaks.”
Central didn’t help itself from the foul line. The Cougars were only 9-of-18, while the Panthers went 23-of-29.
McClelland showed no signs of being intimidated by the Cougars. The 5-8 junior connected on 10-12 from the floor and made 7 of 10 from the foul line.
“I don’t think many people knew about Colby outside of our area,” Long said. “She’s a heck of a player.”
Kaylee Schrand added 10 points for Central.