Mater Dei and Central combined for more than 20 turnovers in the first half, but cleaned up play before Central committed the game-deciding turnover in the final second of Mater Dei’s 39-37 semifinal win at the Scott Credit Union Highland Girls Basketball Tournament.
“This is a big win for us. I thought our guards did a good job getting pressure at the end, and didn’t let them get going,” said Mater Dei coach Dave Kohnen.
With Central trailing 39-37, Wilken took a pass on the wing in the final seconds and drove before traveling with 0.2 seconds left in the game.
“I felt like they were going inside. I did my best to stay to low to help, but when they were all spread out I had to stay with my person so they didn’t get the wide-open three like they did last game,” said Mater Dei senior guard Olivia Theising.
The Lady Knights brought a strong defense Wednesday that allowed only two Lady Cougars to score field goals.
Wilken and junior Kaylee Schrand scored all but one Central point.
“I’ve been preaching to these kids from November on that we can play man defense, and we can play it hard,” Kohnen said. “It took some getting in shape, doing the right things, and listening. I thought our defense was wonderful tonight.”
Wilken heated up in the third quarter after eight first half points. The center scored three straight buckets in the middle of third to give Central its first lead since at 31-27 since the opening minutes.
“We played about as poorly as we can play, and still took a lead in the second half,” said Central coach Nathan Rueter.
After Mater Dei allowed two Wilken baskets on two Central possessions to start the game, it tightened on the defensive end.
“It was our weak side help. Our kids did a good job of rotating down to help under the bucket. We were doubling up on Kendra, and then we rotated down on the guards. You can’t see it in stats, but coaches see it,” Kohnen said.
Offensively, Theising led Mater Dei with 13 points, many of which came in the lane.
“I realized when [Wilken] was outside I had a better chance to get to the hoop, so I took it to my advantage when she was on the opposite side,” Theising said.
Mater Dei got points from seven players, but were greatly helped by timely baskets by two sophomores off the bench. Logan Braundmeier tallied six points while Kelsey Gerdes added four on consecutive possessions that disrupted a 9-0 Lady Cougar run that narrowed the score to 23-22 with 3:03 left in the third.
“Kelsey had two big buckets there, and they came at a time when we weren’t scoring,” Kohnen said.
The Lady Knights avenged a December 8 loss in which the Lady Cougars won 43-40 on buzzer-beating three by junior Grace Yaunches. Central again had the last possession in a tight contest, but finished with a different result.
“It is a good feeling. They are a really good team, but getting this under our belt is really good. We know going into this, it wasn’t going to be easy,” Theising said.
Wilken met her 20.5 points per game average with 20, and Schrand scored 15.
Mater Dei earned its sixth straight win to advance to the championship Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The winner of Thursday’s 8 p.m. semifinal between Belleville West and the host Lady Bulldogs awaits the Knights.
Central plays in the third-place game Saturday at 1 p.m.
Triad 61, Althoff 58
A flawless fourth-quarter performance at the free throw line by Sophie Thompson helped Triad edge Althoff 61-58 in a consolation semifinal.
Thompson made six free throws in the final minute, and scored 14 of her 28 points in the fourth.
The Lady Knights advance to the consolation championship against Wesclin Saturday at 10 a.m.
A tied game at halftime stayed a one possession game for much of the second half. Triad rallied late in the third quarter with a 6-0 run that gave the Lady Knights a 41-38 edge. Althoff never regained the lead.
The Lady Crusaders,which got a game-high 31 points from guard Kyleigh Vaught, knotted up the game at 49 with 3:30 remaining, and Althoff’s Mary Jackson dropped in a bucket with 14 seconds left to bring the them within one point at 57-56.
Divine Lane and Maggie Riemer each poured in 10 points for Althoff, and Sam Woods gave Triad a 12-point effort.
Wesclin 51, Hillsboro 41
Wesclin pulled away from the Hillsboro Lady Hilltoppers to win 51-41 behind 13 points each from Carly Haukapp and Zoe Christopher.
The Lady Warriors led 26-13 at halftime, but led by just two points early in the final quarter.
Lady Hilltopper Carly Cameron scored 15 points to lead Hillsboro. Jaicie Halleman added 12.
Wesclin plays in the consolation championship Saturday.