Okawville juniors Madelyn Tepe and Audrey Jansen combined to score nine first-quarter points as the Rockets defeated the Mount Olive Wildcats 52-38 on Thursday in the title game of the IHSA Class 1A Valmeyer Regional.
Making its third-straight appearance in a regional final, Okawville (22-6) came out connecting from all over the floor against the No. 7 team in the state, and the Rockets led 14-4 with just under four minutes left in the opening quarter.
Mount Olive (25-4) made runs at the No. 10 Rockets twice in the second half, closing to within four points early in the third quarter. But whenever coach Michelle Hasheider-Burianek’s team needed a defensive stop or a basket, it got one, as it captured its first regional championship since the 2012-13 season.
“It means a lot. This is such a great group of kids, and they really played so well as a team. That’s what this was tonight. It was a total team effort and a total effort by everyone to help us win this regional title,” Hasheider said. “We beat a good team — a very good team — in Mount Olive. I think its a shame that you had two teams like this playing in a regional title game.”
Jansen led Okawville with 16 points, while Tepe added 10. The win sends Okawville into the Hardin-Calhoun Sectional on Monday where it will take on Winchester, which defeated Berry Western 47-34 on Thursday to win the Jacksonville Routt Regional.
Getting six or more points from four players, Okawville led 28-21 at halftime. But the Wildcats rallied in the early part of the third quarter. Okawville’s leading scorer — junior Madison Hackstadt — picked up her third and fourth fouls in the first 3:28 of the period, and after Wildcats senior Zoe Murphy scored four of her 14 points, Mount Olive was within four.
But Okawville responded. Jansen scored on a short jumper, added a free throw, then scored on an offensive rebound. When freshman Megan Schleifer came off the bench to score four points, Okawville again had control of the game.
The Rockets led 41-29 after three quarters, and Mount Olive would get no closer than eight points the rest of the game. Jansen, suffering from a cold and coughing hard after the game, said the team working together was the difference on the night.
“We have worked so hard to get to this point. To be able to win a regional championship with these girls, it’s just a great feeling,” Jansen said. “I was able to score tonight, but my teammates were the ones who saw I was open and got me the basketball. I couldn’t have done it without the team. We are a total team, and tonight we gave a great team effort. I couldn’t be any happier.”
Kathryn Lohman and Hackstadt added eight points each, while Schleifer added six points for Okawville. Murphy’s 14 points led Mount Olive, while Jill Niehaus added 10.