Effingham senior guard Carsyn Fearday couldn’t buy a basket in the first half of the Flaming Hearts’ girls basketball sectional title game matchup Thursday with the Mater Dei Knights.
In the second half, Fearday and the rest of the Flaming Hearts couldn’t miss.
Penetrating at will against the foul-plagued Knights, Fearday scored 18 of her 20 points in the second half as Effingham earned its second straight trip to the Class 3A ‘Elite 8’ with a come-from-behind 42-40 win at Salem High School.
Effingham, which shot just 10.5 percent (2-of-19) from the field and trailed 20-11 at halftime, got back into the game quickly in the third period when Fearday and Abby Weis combined for 20 points.
Mater Dei junior Shannon Lampe, one of several Knights in foul trouble for much of the night, connected on a 3-point shot early in the fourth quarter to put her team on top once again. But when Fearday, who was 10-of-10 from the free throw line, made two foul shots and then followed with a short jumper with just under four minutes left, Effingham had the lead for good.
“They (Mater Dei) were playing zone and that allowed me to get the ball. My teammates kept getting me the basketball,’’ Fearday said. “Coach (Jeff) Schafer just reminded us at halftime that we had come back from 22 points and won before. He didn’t like the look in our eyes.’’
Trailing 42-38, the Knights (23-8) closed to within 42-40 on a basket with under 45 seconds left by Abby Braundmeier and had possession of the basketball with a chance to tie or win the game in the final seconds. But when Kierra Winkeler was called for an illegal screen with 3.9 seconds remaining, the Flaming Hearts were in the Class 3A Springfield Super-Sectional on Monday against Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin.
“I reminded the girls that we were down 26 the other night and won. We just had to play team basketball and we caught up pretty fast,’’ Schafer said. “He (Mater Dei coach Dave Kohnen) is a great coach. You had 10 kids out there who knew what they were doing. It was basically their back cuts against our freelancing and shooting. We made some shots and hit our free throws.”
The Flaming Hearts were 8 of 15 from the field in the second half and made 18 of 22 from the free throw line on the night.
“At halftime, I just said to the girls that by the looks in their eyes, that there was no reason for even to go back out there. If they didn’t believe that we could come back and win that there was no reason for us to go back on the court,’’ Schafer said with a smile. “It was probably the best halftime speech I had ever given.’’
Weis added 15 points for Effingham. Mater Dei, playing its normal great defense and dominating on the offensive boards, appeared to be in control for over two quarters. But Lampe picked up two fouls in the opening three minutes of the game, and other Knights players were also in early foul trouble.
“The foul trouble I thought prevented us from really getting into the flow of the game. But still, on the last play we had it set up for a 3-point shot. But Kierra (Winkeler) was called for the foul,’ Kohnen said. “There were breaks that went their (Effingham’s) way tonight. It just wasn’t meant to be.’’
Lampe led Mater Dei with 11 points. The Knights shot 36 percent (16-of-44) from the floor.