NORMAL – Eight minutes was the amount of actual clock time, but it had to seem much longer for Eureka.
That was the drought the Hornets sustained during third place game of the state tournament in a 45-32 defeat to Teutopolis at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena on Feb. 24.
In the Feb. 23 semifinal, Chicago Harlan rallied to end the Hornets’ 19-game win streak with a 55-50 triumph.
Getting fouled on a shot attempt with no time left on the clock at the end of the third quarter, Lauren Ausmus was awarded two free throws, which she converted, to make the score 34-32 in favor of the Wooden Shoes (28-7).
Eureka (28-5) was stuck on 32 the rest of the way, as they missed on their last 11 shots.
“They took the shots they gave us,” Hornets’ coach Jerry Prina said. “They just did not go down. We had a couple putback attempts and they were contested. We stopped matching them with buckets because to the point of the fourth quarter we just could not get anything to drop. It was not a matter of us not trying or not executing. It was just a matter of our shot not being there.”
Right before the close of the first half, Teutopolis shifted into a box-and-defense, as Morgan Mette was the one to guard high-scoring Hornet Tessa Leman.
“She’s our best defender,” said Wooden Shoes’ coach Laurie Thompson. “She draws the job of the opponents’ best player every night. Number five (Leman) is a very good player. Morgan did a heck of a job on her. Her teammates helped her as well.”
Eureka built as large of a lead as nine on three occasions, lastly at 19-10 on a Leman field goal.
“I do not think they had much of a choice,” commented Prina of Teutopolis’ switch to the junk defense. “They were surprised at how some of our role players were knocking down shots. Our girls came out ready to play. We executed the gameplan.”
The difference in the game was the offensive output of Teutopolis reserve Claire Bushar. Coming in with a seasonal average of just under three per contest, the junior forward netted a season-best 13 points. The Wooden Shoes enjoyed a 15 to three edge in bench points.
“When she gets the ball, no one takes it away from her,” said Thompson. “That (is) her job. When she gets out of there, she’s a beast on the boards and that’s what she needed to do. That’s what she did and the bonus was obviously the scoring.”
Jolene Bueker’s 15 points led Teutopolis, who began the season 19-0.
Leman was the lone Eureka player in double figures with 10 points before she fouled out with three minutes and five seconds left.
“I (am) very thankful, thankful for all the support I’ve had throughout all four of my years,” summed up Leman. “I’m just thankful for all the opportunities Eureka basketball has given me.”
The 32 points were tied for the fewest the Hornets scored in a game. They also had 32 in a loss in mid-November to Washington.
A 15-2 Harlan run in the third sent Falcons (26-7) into the lead at 42-33 late in the quarter. They were led by junior point guard Teneil Robertson, who finished with 16 points.
“I believe I have the best point guard in the state of Illinois,” declared Harlan coach Eddie Niles about Robertson. “She knows how to read the defenses well. She’s do whatever we need. That’s a D-I (Division I) kid there.”
Daijahnay Winston also had 16 points, while Kimeira Burks (11) and Aquila Anderson (10) also finished in double figures. The Falcons advanced despite connecting on only four of 20 from distance.
Leman’s 26 points paced the Hornets with 19 of those in the opening half. She was held in check in the second when the Falcons employed a box-and-one.
”Anytime you get beat, you’ve got to give credit first to the team that beat you,” Prina pointed out. “They earned the right to move on.”
In the battle of Chicago, Marshall (22-7) outlasted Harlan 53-44 in the title game.