LEXINGTON — The El Paso-Gridley High School girls basketball team unveiled a spread offense that had Tremont foiled for a quarter of their quarterfinal in the McLean County/Heart of Illinois Conference Tournament on Monday.
However, the top-seeded Turks solved the puzzle in time to notch a 45-33 victory. Tremont (18-1) will face No. 4 seed Fieldcrest (13-7) in Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. semifinal at Shirk Center.
Fieldcrest advanced with a 51-46 win over No. 5 seed Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland (14-8). The Falcons will meet No. 8 seed EPG (7-16) in a 6 p.m. game Thursday at Flanagan.
After falling behind, 16-12, Tremont used a second-quarter zone to hold the four-time defending champion Titans without a field goal for the next nine minutes. That put the Turks ahead to stay at 25-18.
“It was what he felt he had to do to have the best chance to beat us,” said Tremont coach Justin Wahls of the four-corner offense. “Our girls hadn’t seen it before, but now they have so they know what to do now.”
EPG coach Kyle Bobbitt got the idea for the spread from his game last year against state runner-up Prophetstown.
“That’s kind of what they did to me,” he said. “I knew Tremont liked to pressure up. We have a young team so I told them, ‘if we spread it out, that’s in our favor.’”
Having a strong 1-2 punch in the post was in Tremont’s favor as 5-foot-9 Wesley Woodard had 18 points and five rebounds while 6-2 Lauren Hartman added 12 points.
Freshman Aubrey Staton led EPG with 14 points and nine boards. She was joined in the starting lineup by three sophomores and a junior.
“We’re still trying to learn,” Bobbitt said. “Tremont is balanced. They’ve got a point guard (Jill Runyon) that does everything for them.”
Fieldcrest sophomore Gwen Lohr-Fandel found out Monday afternoon she’d make her first start in place of Brooke Klendworth, who has mononucleosis. Lohr-Fandel responded with a season-high four 3-pointers en route to 18 points.
“For a four-hour notice, she did a great job tonight,” said Knight coach Ron Kreiser. “That (Klendworth’s absence) was a huge loss. Her defense, we needed it tonight.”
Fieldcrest especially needed it when FCW made a 10-0 run in the third quarter to get within 36-31. The Falcons shrank what had been a 17-point deficit all the way to 40-37 with 7:49 left before running out of steam.
FCW also ran out of Rachael Quaritsch’s leadership as an injury with 1:52 left in the third quarter put her out of the game. She and Caitlyn Klein each scored 10 points.
“Rachael got injured and we kind of had to regroup a little bit,” said Falcons coach Ron Spencer. “We made a run at the end, but the effort wasn’t there when it needed to be, which was the first quarter.”
Fieldcrest, which led 14-12 after one quarter, got 16 points from Illinois State track recruit Tessa Holland. Teammate Madison Tjaden added 11 points with help from three 3-pointers.