The last present has long been opened and egg nog is gone, but Christmas came for the Belleville East Lancers on Monday — three days late — at Mascoutah High School.
Freshman Kayla Rainey scored on a layup with 14 seconds remaining as Belleville East overcame horrendous free throw shooting to defeat Mater Dei 37-36 at the Mascoutah Girls Basketball Invitational.
Just 4-of-13 from the free throw line for the day, the Lancers (8-4) made just 1-of-8 free throw attempts in the final 55 seconds, but used their athleticism and the clutch shot by Rainey to hold off the ice cold Knights (4-6).
Mater Dei led 31-26 heading into the final quarter, but coach David Kohnen’s team managed only two field goals and scored just five points in the nine minutes as it fell into a losers bracket contest with McCluer South on Tuesday.
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Meanwhile, Belleville East coach Amanda Kemezys, although unhappy with the free throw shooting and sometimes sloppy play of her team, to be pleased with the Lancers defense.
A key steal by senior Chermaine King which led to a layup by Jailyn McClenny tied the game at 34 with 56 seconds left and led to a frantic finish.
“For us to miss as many opportunities and miss as many free throws as we did and still be able to win the game is truly a Christmas miracle,” Kemezys said. “To our credit, we had some players step up. Chermaine (King) made a big steal for us which was one of the big plays of the game. But that’s why she’s in the game. For her defense.”
Following McClenny’s game-tying basket and a pair of Lancers possessions which saw them miss four straight free throws, McClenny made a free throw with 36.1 seconds remaining to give East a 35-34 lead.
Mater Dei’s Logan Braundmeier then gave the Knights their final lead with a short jumper with 30 seconds left — 36-35. But overcoming the urge to call the timeout to set up a final play, Kemezys let Rainey do what she does best, create with her quit.
“I thought about calling a timeout to set up a play, but decided against it,” Kemezys said. “I’m pleased with our effort. Mater Dei is a quality program and it's always great to be able to come to the Mascoutah Tournament and get a win.”
Rainey led Belleville East with 12 points — 10 coming in the second half. Braundmeier and Myah Beckmann had nine points each for Mater Dei.
Mater Dei, which had beaten Okawville and Mascoutah heading into tournament play, couldn’t overcome missed opportunities down the stretch.
“We’re on the verge of being a very good basketball team, but it's like I told the girls, we can’t keep making the turnovers and not being able to take advantage of our scoring chances,” Kohnen said.”
In other games on Monday
Belleville West 76, Mount Vernon 52
Senior Erika Harvey scored 27 points while freshman B’Aunce Carter added 18 — making 9-of-9 from the field — as Belleville West advanced into the quarterfinals over a shaken Mount Vernon squad.
The game, scheduled for a 7 p.m. tipoff was delayed by more than 35 minutes when the bus carrying the Mount Vernon team was engulfed by high waters at Silver Creek. Law enforcement, emergency rescue and medical personnel rushed to the scene and nobody was injured.
Mascoutah High School personnel then dried the Rams uniforms and the game, although delayed, was played.
“I asked the girls if they wanted to play and every one of the 12 said they wanted to so we played. I would have been perfectly fine with it if they would have said they didn’t want too,’’ Rams head coach Jeff Lonnon said. “We would have taken the forfeit and gone home.”
“I think we were a still a little bit in shock in the first quarter. But after then I thought we competed hard. I was very proud of our effort.”
As was first year Belleville West coach Seth Garrett who watched as his team rolled up a 19-point lead in the first quarter as Harvey, tallied 14 of her game-high 27 points.
“I told the girls during the delay that the only thing we can control is how we play. We can’t control how Mount Vernon handles this. But I’m sure they were a little shaken. Who wouldn’t be in that situation,” Garrett said. “Erika (Harvey) had a great first quarter and we played very well in the first half. At halftime, I called our first two-quarters efficient.”
Highland 56, Althoff 40
Amanda Ponce and sophomore Rece Portell canned 3-point field goals less than a minute apart midway through the third quarter to key a 10-2 Bulldogs scoring run as Highland pulled away for the win in the opening game of the tournament.
Althoff, getting a combined 17 first half points from juniors Kyleigh Vaught and Maggie Reimer, trailed just 23-22 before the Bulldogs (7-3) shook off the post-holiday rust to pull away in the third quarter.
“It had been eight or nine days since we had played a game and as much as you to try and simulate game conditions in practice it just isn’t the same as the real thing. I think it took us a half to get back into it,” Bulldogs coach Mike Arbuthnot said. “Plus, Althoff is a very well coached team. I know their record (2-10) doesn’t show it, but they have played a lot of good teams close.
“I was pleased with how we came out and played in the second half. We were able to get more players involved and I thought Alex (LaPorta) did a great job on the boards.”
Ponce led Highland (7-3) with 21 points while Reimer paced Althoff with 20 points and Vaught added 14.
O’Fallon 52, Nashville 45
Senior guard Becca Althoff scored 14 points — including four 3-point field goals in the first half — and the depth and size of the Panthers helped hold off the Hornets late as the Panthers (6-4) advanced into the quarterfinals with the seven-point win.
Althoff, a 5-7 guard, connected on three of her first four 3-point field goal attempts in the first quarter as O’Fallon took a 19-16 lead. Nashville (7-3), which got 14 points from Paige Kasten and 11 from Mackenzie McFeron, made a couple of runs, cutting its deficit to two points late in the third quarter.
But Panthers senior Marta Durk tallied 10 of her 12 points in the second half to help her team hold on for the win.
Central 65, Christopher 33
All-state senior Kendra Wilken scored 14 of her 24 points in the first half as the two-time defending champion Cougars rolled past the Lady Bearcats.
Making its debut in the 38th annual Mascoutah Invitational, Christopher got a rude tournament welcome from Central, ranked first in the preseason Class 2A state poll, as coach Nathan Rueter’s squad jumped out to a 22-8 first quarter lead and never was threatened.
“We didn’t know a lot about them (Christopher) but we knew enough. We knew that they had a very good player in No. 12 (Autumn Gunter) and she was. But I didn’t think we played that well early, Rueter said. “I thought we picked it up in the second quarter and they (Bearcats) kind of worn down a little bit.”
Senior Kaylee Schrand added 10 points for Central (11-1). Gunter paced Christopher with 20 points.
Mascoutah 52, Riverview Gardens 35
Senior guard Maddie Nekola connected on three 3-point field goals and scored 16 points while Katie Jokisch added 16 points as the Indians moved into a quarterfinal round game against Belleville West with an easy win over the overmatched Rams.
With Jokisch scoring eight of her points in the first half, the Indians (8-3) broke out to an 11-point then continued to extend that lead in the final two quarters.
“There were a couple of times in the first half when we tried to play up-tempo and that’s not we usually play. We’re more of a team that likes to set up the offense and work for a good shot. When we did that we were effective,” Mascoutah coach Terry Moeller said. “We did a good job on defense and I thought we rebounded well as well.”
“We’re just glad to be able to get a win and move into the quarterfinals against Belleville West.’’
Centralia 47, Okawville 45
Braniqueka Englekins broke a 37-all tie with a 3-point field goal midway in the fourth quarter and Niayr Maines scored seven of her 11 points in the closing minutes as the Annies defeated Okawville in a first round game.
Getting a combined 13 fourth quarter points from Madison Hackstadt and Audrey Jansen, Okawville (9-4) built a nine-point lead before the Annies (6-7) rallied to nip the young Lady Rockets.
“We had some chances get away from us and Centralia, to their credit, kept battling,” Okawville coach Michelle Hasheider-Burianek said. “They had a couple of layups go down and we were never the same after that.”
Jansen and Hackstadt led Okawville with 11 points each.