Mater Dei senior Mason Toennies scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, and the Knights played solid defense throughout as they defeated Highland 45-38 on Wednesday in a semifinal game at the Class 3A Mater Dei Regional.
A physical 6-foot-8 center, Toennies tallied eight points in the third quarter as the Knights increased an eight-point halftime advantage to 34-18.
Mater Dei (18-11) will face Cahokia (19-10) in the regional championship game at 7 p.m. Friday. Highland ends its season with a record of 10-20.
Highland, which had nearly as many turnovers (13) as points (16) late in the third period, made the final three minutes interesting. With sophomore Sam LaPorta and junior Stephen Schniers combining to score 11 fourth-quarter points, the Bulldogs began to close the gap.
A 3-point basket by Jake Kruse and a 3-point play by LaPorta cut the Knights’ lead to six points with under two minutes remaining.
But after two missed opportunities by Highland, Toennies hit two free throws to increase the lead to 44-36 with 1:29 seconds remaining. Highland would get no closer than six points the rest of the night.
“I didn’t think we played that well. We were tentative,” Knights coach Ron Schadegg said. “If we make a few of the five layups we missed in the first half, we make it a little easier on ourselves in the fourth quarter. But at this time of the year, the goal is to advance, and you do that by having more points at the end of the game than your opponent. We did that tonight.”
With senior Cordell Beckmann scoring five of his nine points early, Mater Dei took a 9-4 lead after one quarter. The Knights would never trail. With Toennies starting to assert himself in the post, Mater Dei increased its lead to 18-10 at halftime.
“We knew they (Mater Dei) would cause some matchup problems for us, and they did,” Highland coach Brian Perkes said. “Toennies hurt us inside, but Beckmann I thought really hurt us in the first half. He was able to penetrate and get good shots both for himself and his teammates.”
Toennies had 18 points for Mater Dei.
LaPorta led Highland with 14 points.