Central junior Allyson Fehrmann connected on three straight 3-pointers in the first quarter to get the Cougars off and running as they went on for a 42-29 win over Freeburg on Thursday in the title game of the Class 3A Freeburg Regional.
Just one week after a 22-point win over the Midgets to end the regular season, the Cougars (26-3) jumped out to a 16-4 lead over a cold-shooting Freeburg team that also committed seven turnovers in the first quarter.
The Midgets (22-7) rallied to within six points early in the second half, but with senior Faye Meissner scoring 13 of her 16 points in the final two quarters, the Cougars pulled away down the stretch as they captured their first Class 3A regional title. Central, a longtime Class 2A team, is competing in Class 3A for just the second time.
"Last year wasn't the kind of season any of us wanted, and at the end of it, we were asked to write down our goals for this year. I wrote 'state' on my card,'' Meissner said. "There was no doubt in my mind that we would have a state-caliber team this year.''
The Cougars took the first step toward the state tournament with their win Thursday. The next will come at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Carbondale Sectional, where Central will take on Cahokia Conference rival Salem. The Wildcats defeated Carbondale 46-43 to win the Mount Vernon Regional Thursday.
The win over Freeburg was the third of the season for Central. But after Midgets coach Lori Crunk recently announced her retirement from coaching after 20 years, the Cougars expected a battle Thursday.
But with Fehrmann knocking down 3-point shots early and the Cougars playing well on the defensive end and controlling the backboards, Freebrug never got on track.
"We knew Freeburg would be ready to play. Lori does a great job of preparing her basketball team,'' Central coach Nathan Rueter said. "Allyson has had her ups and downs this year, but tonight she helped get us out to a big lead.
"You win by playing good defense and doing the rebounding. I thought we did a good job all night of playing defense, and I thought we controlled the boards for the most part.''
Colleen Cockrell led Freeburg with seven points. The 6-foot junior picked up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game and spent time on the bench.
Crunk said Central was just too strong for her team.
"You aren't going to win if you don’t make many shots," she said. "Still, this takes nothing away from this team or these girls. We've had a very good season.''