Staying healthy was a problem all year for the Collinsville girls basketball team, and it was once again a factor in the Kahoks' final game of the season.
With 6-foot senior Karla Halde sidelined by a knee injury, the host Kahoks lost 45-34 to Belleville West on Feb. 12 in the semifinals of the Class 4A Collinsville Regional.
It was the third loss this season to West for Collinsville, which finished at 12-15 overall and 6-8 in the Southwestern Conference. West (22-27, 12-2) beat Granite City in the regional final and was scheduled to face Edwardsville (29-0, 14-0) Tuesday in a sectional semifinal at Alton.
"It was always a guess as to who was going to be able to start for us," Collinsville coach Lori Billy said. "It was not only injuries, it was illness. We had a lot of problems with the flu."
West's Jesheon Cooper, a 6-5 junior, had 11 points and 12 rebounds while teammates Erika Harvey and Shay Fluker added 11 and 10 points, respectively. Sophomore Aubreeney Brady led Collinsville with 12 points.
"The last time we played West (a 58-39 Maroons win on Feb. 7), Cooper had only three points and Karla pretty much took her out of the game," Billy said. "Not having Karla this time, she was able to score and grab rebounds simply because she was taller.
"But we led 6-1 until about 40 seconds left in the first quarter and it was 6-3 at the end of the quarter. We used a box-and-one (defense) to try to take out Fluker and we did a good job jumping out and helping with her.
"In the third quarter, it got away from us a little and they led by nine or 10. We got it down to four points with a chance to get within two and missed a wide-open layup, and on the put-back, the ball bounced in and came back out. At that point, I felt like we had to start fouling, but it was a closer game than the score indicates."
In a first-round game on Monday, Collinsville beat O'Fallon 61-57 in overtime as Brady scored a career-high 25 points. Sophomore Sammi Buettner added 15 points.
"It's always hard to beat a good team twice and doing it three times is really tough," Billy said. "O'Fallon always hard, but without Karla out, Aubreeney carried us throughout the game.
"She had never been a point guard until this year, but we put the ball in her hands and lived and died with her. She learned on the fly. I'm looking forward to what she can become on the next couple years."
The injuries and illnesses tested Collinsville's depth, with mostly positive results.
"We had some kids who stepped up and took charge and came out to play," said Billy, who lost junior Lexie Thompson for the final 13 games with a torn ACL. "Our seniors (Halde, Katie McCarthy and Brooke Meyer) led the team as far as knowing their roles and getting the job done. They battled through some things and as a result, they weren't consistent, but they wanted to go out on the floor and play no matter what.
"In the post, (freshman) Kassidy Smith and Sammi Buettner got a ton of varsity experience, with Kassidy starting most of the year and Sammi starting by the end of the season. At guard, Lexie and Aubreeney will be back. (Freshman) Julie Scheiter (who averaged 6.9 points in 17 games) has a lot of basketball knowledge and ability.
"(Freshman) Caity Brombolich helped us a lot toward the end of the season and (sophomores) Paige Giaocolleto and Sophie Sharos also contributed. It's a good feeling knowing that we have so many people coming back that were solid for us."