Handing New Athens its only loss of the season Friday didn’t seem like such a good idea Thursday to Christ Our Rock Lutheran.
The second-seeded Silver Stallions, of Centralia, spotted the top-seeded Yellow Jackets an 11-0 lead less than five minutes into the game and never recovered in a 51-28 loss in the championship game of the Class 1A New Athens Regional.
Six days earlier on the same floor, Christ Our Rock Lutheran had defeated the Yellow Jackets 45-37. New Athens didn’t have to wait long to atone for its misWstep.
“We were very fired up at the beginning of the game. We knew what we had to do,” said 6-foot New Athens senior Denae White, who had 14 points and six rebounds. “We knew they were going to be out to get us again. We had to come out ready to go.
“Our defense broke down in practice the other day, but we came in and worked hard. We let them in the lane too much Friday. Nothing was going our way. Tonight is how we play. Last Friday night was not how we were supposed to play.”
New Athens (26-1) will face Lebanon (23-4) in the semifinals of the Okawville Sectional at 7:30 p.m. Monday. The top-seeded Greyhounds blasted third-seeded Valmeyer 67-31 on Thursday in the championship game of the Gibault Regional.
Christ Our Rock Lutheran, which was outscored by New Athens 19-0 in the second quarter and trailed 32-5 at halftime, finished 20-7.
“This is a resilient group,” Yellow Jackets coach Erik Hager said, referring to the loss to Christ Our Rock Lutheran. “Later (Friday) evening, they were fine, and that next morning, we kind of already shook it off. They bounced back quick, but it stung. It really motivated this group.”
Junior Abby Marlow chipped in with 11 points for the Yellow Jackets. Senior Anisa Al-Bori had eight points, seven steals and five assists, and junior Alina Lance had six points and four assists. New Athens shot 48 percent (21-for-44) and forced 21 turnovers.
Freshman Georgia Agan scored 11 points, eight in the second half, to lead the Silver Stallions, who won the second half 23-19. That came as little consolation to Christ Our Rock Lutheran coach Dan Kueper.
“We were going to go out and pretend the game was 0-0,” Kueper said of his team’s mindset heading into the third quarter. “We were just going to try to outplay them in the second half, and I think we did.
“We were Cinderella here last Friday. Tonight, the clock struck midnight. I think we made them a little mad beating them on their home floor and ruining their (perfect) season.”
Marlow opened the game with a 3-pointer. Lance followed with two free throws and Al-Bori scored in the lane before consecutive baskets by White put the Yellow Jackets ahead 11-0 with 3:33 to play in the first quarter.
The Silver Stallions closed within 11-5 on a basket by senior Sabrina Maschhoff and a three-point play by Agan, but Al-Bori’s basket made it 13-5 at the end of the period and began an overwhelming 21-0 run.
After Agan’s basket, Christ Our Rock Lutheran didn’t score again until Agan connected at the 7:05 mark of the third quarter, a span of 10:35.
“I thought we stood too much in the first half,” said Kueper, whose team shot 28 percent (11-for-39) and was 1-for-15 on 3-pointers (7 percent).
New Athens continued to hammer away in the early stages of the third quarter, extending its advantage to a game-high 27 points (38-11) on Marlow’s basket with 4:12 to play. The Yellow Jackets’ lead was 40-17 heading into the fourth quarter.
Hager played his reserves for the final four minutes of the game.
“We did a lot of things right tonight, and hopefully that carries us into the sectional,” Hager said. “We weren’t as sharp (in the second half). I think a little bit of that is they became complacent. We can’t let that happen the further we go.”
Lebanon 67, Valmeyer 31
Lebanon won the Gibault Class 1A Regional with a 67-31 win over Valmeyer.
The Greyhounds, 22-4, advance to the Okawville Sectional where they will fact New Athens.
Valmeyer’s season ends at 12-16.