Valmeyer committed 31 turnovers Wednesday night, but still navigated its way into the championship game of the Class 1A Gibault Regional.
Freshman Emmi Stuart had 11 points, sophomore Bethan Brinkman had 10 and junior Helen Weber chipped in with nine as the third-seeded Pirates outscored fourth-seeded Metro-East Lutheran 47-42 in the semifinals.
Valmeyer (11-15) will face top-seeded Lebanon (21-4) for the title at 7 p.m. Thursday. Lebanon defeated fourth-seeded Gibault 44-29 in the other semifinal. The Greyhounds eliminated Valmeyer in the regional semifinals last year.
“This is the first year that I know of that the girls have played for a regional championship,” Pirates coach Neil Siburt said. “It doesn’t normally happen for us. Hopefully, it’s the start of more things to come. We’ll see.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
Lebanon already has defeated Valmeyer three times this season, with each victory coming in convincing fashion: 49-24 on Dec. 4, 61-29 on Dec. 29 and 60-33 on Feb. 3.
Siburt said Valmeyer must find a way to contain Lebanon freshman Kendra Bass, who scored 24 points in the Greyhounds’ win over Gibault.
“She drives hard to the bucket and she finishes,” Siburt said. “She’s one of their best overall players. Her game is driving, and she’s very good at it. She’s the first one in (off the bench) and immediately she’s attacking the basket.”
Valmeyer had 18 turnovers in the first half, but Metro-East Lutheran (13-12) was unable to fully capitalize as it led just 17-16 at the intermission.
The Pirates scored the first eight points of the third quarter to lead 24-17, only to see the Knights score nine straight to lead 26-24. Senior Emilee Marcuzzo culminated the outburst with a 3-pointer at the 1:12 mark.
Valmeyer rallied, taking a 29-26 lead when sophomore Blair Brady beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer from the left corner.
After junior Abby Yurchuck opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to bring Metro-East Lutheran into a 29-all tie, Brady put the Pirates ahead for good at 31-29. Valmeyer built the lead to 41-33 and remained in contrrol down the stretch.
“We just couldn’t seem to find the basket tonight,” Knights coach Rob Stock said. “As well as we’ve shot throughout the year, it really failed us tonight. That’s too bad because we’re so much better of a team than what we played tonight. It’s disappointing for the girls to have it end this way.”
Junior Audry Paitz led Metro-East Lutheran with 13 points. Marcuzzo added eight.
Lebanon 44, Gibault 29: The 5-foot-4 Bass came off the bench and paid instant dividends, scoring 18 of her 24 points in the first half as the Greyhounds were never threatened.
Lebanon led 11-6 after one quarter, 29-12 at halftime and 37-22 after three quarters.
“She was obviously the key to us getting jump-started,” said Greyhounds coach Chad Cruthis, whose team forced 17 turnovers. “At this point, it’s all about advancing and moving on. Our whole thing was trying to wear them down. I think they were very fatigued.”
Gibault coach Brian Hart said Bass was too much for the Hawks to handle.
“We have a lot of matchup issues with that team because they’re so fast,” said Hart, whose team finished 6-18. “We had a problem with (Bass). She’s hard to guard because she can take you off the dribble at the perimeter and she can also post up. That puts us in a tough position.”