By Brad Cameron
BEARDSTOWN, Ill. — The West Hancock Titans overcame a sluggish start to advance to the fifth-place game of the Lady Tiger Classic.
West Hancock trailed by 14 points in the second quarter, but the Titans used their full-court pressure defense to cut the deficit to two by halftime. West Hancock used a 9-0 run in the third quarter to take the lead for good, and the Titans went on to defeat Macomb 57-51 Friday.
West Hancock won three of four games during the first three days of the tournament. The Titans ended the tournament playing for fifth-place against Hancock County rival Illini West.
“They played extremely hard,” said West Hancock Head Coach Adam Brumbaugh. “I didn’t know where our legs would be. I didn’t know where our attitudes would be after the loss to West Central, but they bounced back beyond my expectations. We were a little sluggish in that first quarter, but once they get warmed up, this team is capable of getting red hot, and that’s what they did.”
West Hancock struggled in the opening quarter. The Titans scored off an offensive rebound by Alexis Dooley in the first minute of the game, but it was the only field goal the team would make in the quarter. West Hancock was 1 of 16 from the field and 4 of 12 from the foul line through the opening eight minutes. Macomb, meanwhile, was 8 of 11 from the field in the quarter in building a 17-6 lead.
“We dug ourselves a hole,” Brumbaugh said. “We started out in our zone, which we’ve had a lot of success with this past week. Macomb kind of dissected it. We missed a ton of shots in the first half.”
Yanni Sadler’s drive and basket put Macomb ahead 24-10. The lead was 13 with 3:15 left in the second quarter, but West Hancock scored the final 11 points of the first half.
Aleetha Mulch started the run with a three-pointer. Madison Harmon turned a steal into a basket to make the score 26-18. Mulch hit a jumper from the wing after Harmon grabbed an offensive rebound to cut the margin to six.
Another steal and offensive rebound by Allison Dewald trimmed the lead to four, and Dooley made two free throws with one second left in the second quarter to close the gap to 26-24.
“The kids were getting frustrated, and they wanted to switch it up,” Brumbaugh said. “We went to our press and made a nice run at the end of the second quarter. I thought despite shooting as poorly as we had, to make that ran gave us a chance going into halftime that anything could happen. We rode that momentum in.”
West Hancock shot 21.6 percent (8 of 37) from the field and only 35 percent (7 of 20) from the free throw line in the opening half, but the Titans stayed in the game by grabbing 14 offensive rebounds and forcing 19 turnovers in the first two quarters.
“Our goal is to send four to the boards,” Brumbaugh said. “We don’t always do it, but when we do it, I think we’re effective. We get opportunities and even if we miss, we hope we’re around somebody to harass them a little bit and get a trapping opportunity or something to put pressure on them 90 feet away from the basket. By sending those rebounders in that’s a by-product of if we don’t get that rebound, hopefully we’re there to make something happen defensively.”
Shelby Koehler opened the third quarter with a basket to tie the game, but Macomb answered with four straight points for a 30-26 lead. The Titans, however, responded with another run to give them the lead for good.
Carly Runge hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to one, and Dooley put back an offensive rebound to give West Hancock its first lead since 3-2 early in the game. Koehler added a basket off an offensive rebound, and Runge scored on a drive to the basket to give the Titans a 35-30 lead.
Macomb closed to within 37-35, but Koehler scored the next four points to stretch the lead to six. West Hancock went on to take a 45-39 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Macomb scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to pull to within one, but Dewald hit a shot from the top of the key, and Keaghan Shacklett followed with a basket after Dewald grabbed an offensive rebound to make the score 49-44 with 5:50 remaining.
Macomb would not get closer than three points the rest of the game. West Hancock showed great patience in the final four minutes, taking time off the clock on the offensive end before getting the shots it wanted.
“They showed maturity down the stretch,” Brumbaugh said of his team in the final minutes of the game. “They showed they are ready to finish big games like that.”
Koehler led a balanced offensive attack with 11 points and six rebounds. Dooley had nine points and nine rebounds. Hammel scored nine points. Harmon contributed seven points and seven rebounds. Dewald had six points and three assists, and Mulch, Runge and Shacklett each tossed in five points.
“We’ve had six different scorers lead us in scoring this year,” Brumbaugh said. “They are very unselfish. They move that ball. Whoever is hot, they shoot it. They have confidence in each other. If they are open, they want them to shoot it. If not, they are disciplined enough to find that open teammate. We’re extremely unselfish. We’re fairly balanced. A team can’t focus on one player on our team. That’s a huge benefit to our team.”
Saddler had 14 points to lead Macomb. Kayla Vestal added 10 points, and Erin Sullivan finished with seven points.