Girls Basketball

It’s two goals down and one to go as Althoff wins Class 2A Wesclin Regional title

Althoff senior Tiffani Siekmann did her part to make sure the Crusaders reached one season-long goal and kept hopes for a third one alive Thursday in the title game of the Class 2A Wesclin Regional.

Siekmann connected on a go-ahead short-range jumper with just over 30 seconds remaining and the Crusaders defense did the rest as Althoff captured its first regional championship in nearly a decade with a 40-39 win over the Sesser-Valier Red Devils.

The Crusaders (20-9) trailed 39-36 with just under two minutes remaining following a 3-point basket by Red Devils junior guard Sami McGowan. Following a pair of free throws by sophomore Anaya Davis that cut the Crusaders deficit to 39-38 with 32 seconds left, Siekmann gave Althoff its first regional title since the 2009-10 season with her clutch hoop.

“This means a lot because we really wanted to reach our second goal of the season tonight. The first one was to win the (South Seven Conference title) and we did that; to win a regional was the second one,’’ Siekmann said. “The third goal? To get to the state tournament.

“On the last shot, I just wanted to go up strong and make the shot.’’

The win lifts Althoff into the Red Bud Sectional on Monday where it will take on Hamilton County beginning at 7:30 p.m. Hamilton County defeated Vienna 44-33 Thursday at the Vienna Regional.

Sesser-Valier (21-6) led by as many as nine points midway through the second quarter. But a couple of baskets by Davis and one each by Karinna Gall and Siekmann cut the Red Devils’ lead to 15-14 at halftime.

Neither team would lead by more than five points in the final two quarters. The win provided a little happiness for Althoff coach Brianna Ankenbrandt, who has had to deal with the pain of the deaths of her grandfather on Tuesday and her uncle on Wednesday.

“It’s been a very rough couple of days,’’ an emotional Ankenbrandt said following the game. “This win means more to me than I can ever explain. We are family and the girls knew I needed this. I needed something joyful.

“We are never out of the game. We’ve been down before but my girls always seem to find a way to fight back. We were able to have that little run right there before the end of the first half. We felt good at halftime and when the second half started, I just told my guard to keep shooting the basketball. This is a huge win for our basketball program.’’

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Dean Criddle has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat for 32 years as a sports writer. Dean graduated from SIUE with a double major in journalism and English, is married and lives in Belleville.