Girls Basketball

O’Fallon’s Akoro is a force East can’t overcome

O'Fallon sophomore Celeste Akoro reached double figures on offense and on defense.

The 11 points she scored certainly helped the Panthers to a 50-41 win over Belleville East in the first round of their own 4A regional. But her unofficial 12 blocked shots that kept 24 points off the scoreboard were particularly frustrating for the Lancers.

That school-record effort won't be official until O'Fallon coach Ryan Massey reviews video of the game to verify that he really saw what he thinks he saw.

"What a force Celeste Akoro was," Massey said. "I think she had six or seven blocks in the first half. I'm going to recheck the stats because she might have had a school record. They weren't calling those fouls up high, they weren't calling body fouls and that's good for her because she blocked a lot of shots up high.

"I can tell they were frustrated because if I was playing for them I would have been frustrated."

With the win, O'Fallon (12-14) advances to the regional semifinal game against top-seeded Belleville West at the Panther Dome Wednesday.

Belleville East defeated O'Fallon in two the teams' three regular-season meetings. But Lancer coach Amanda Kemezvs agreed that Akoro presented a challenge her young team could not overcome.

Even after falling behind by eight points early in the second half, three-point baskets by Ellisha Davis and Kelsey Smith and pressure defense helped the Lancers close the score to 21-20 at halftime.

But Akoro blocked a series of shots to boost an O'Fallon defensive effort that held the Lancers to just three third-quarter points.

She scored a stick-back bucket and Marta Durk scored on two short jumpers to key an 8-0 O'Fallon run that put the Panthers up 36-23 heading into the fourth quarter.

"We didn't have an asnwer for (Akoro) down low and we couldn't figure out how to get around her blocks," Kemezvs said. "That deflated us a little bit because we'd get some good looks then get blocked or not be able to finish shots. It kind of took the wind out of our sales."

Akoro's presense inside also opened up opportunities for others on offense, Massey said.

Junior Becca Althoff's 16 points were within one of her season-best performance against Normal Community High School Jan 31. Sophmore Marta Durk also pitched in 15 for O'Fallon.

""Becca made her first four free throws which got her off a to a positive start offensively, which I think is a key for her," Massey said. "Becca did a tremendous job attacking tonight. I love when we attack the rim and Becca does a tremendous job in doing that. Marta did a good job attacking the rim, too."

Also scoring for O'Fallon were Veach and Susie Hubbard with three each and Dominique Watson-Blake with two.

East got 12 point each from Davis and senior Erin Holl. Senior Annie Eversman contributed five points, including a clutch 3-pointer to bring the Lancers within 10 points with more than two minutes remaining. Also scoring for East were Tamar Mosby with four, Danielle Hawthorne and Kelsey Smith with three each, and Morgan St. James with one.

"I told the girls after the game the seniors will be really hard to replace in terms of the leadership and hustle they give us every day," Kemezvs said. "Bt we do have a lot of talent coming up. We have a lot of special things coming our way. If you look at how we progressed throughout the season, there have been big, big changes. So I'm really proud of that. We're just not all the way there yet."

Mascoutah 3A Regional

Waterloo 45, Cahokia 42: Taylor Augustine scored a game-high 24 and Kathryn Finnerty added 14 to boost the Warriors to a 45-42 first-round win over Cahokia. Waterloo (8-17) will face Columbia (17-9) in the semifinal game Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Cahokia’s season ends at 6-14.

Althoff 60, Freeburg 34: The Crusaders got 16 points from Maggie Riemer and 12 from Kyleigh Vaught to advance to the Mascoutah semifinals. Althoff (12-14) will take on Mascoutah (12-14) Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Also scoring for Althoff were Madison Weilbacher with seven, Divine Lane with six, Rachel Mertens with five, Rachel Collins with four, Taje Ruffin with four, Cambri Alexander with two, Mary Jackson with two, and Amanda Kaltwasser with two. For Freeburg, Julia Whitwort had 15, Emily Vahlkamp had nine, Abby Mirly scored six, and Alison Hofmann and Lauren Thoma each had two.

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