Lady Panthers keep it close for a half, but fall to Breese Mater Dei in championship

Kenzie Rushing had a team-high 18 points against Mater Dei. (Doug Daniels Photos)

By Doug Daniels

1351sports.com / pinckneyvillesports.com

February 8, 2018

  (Pinckneyville, Ill.) - Pinckneyville gave Mater Dei a fight for a half, but couldn't sustain that performance after the break, scoring only seven points after halftime in their 51-31 loss in the Class 2A Regional championship game at PCHS on Thursday night.
  "Their pressure bothered us to begin with, and we kind of adapted to that, and what killed us at the end is when they kind of sagged and said I dare you to shoot it," said Pinckneyville head coach Alan Engelhardt. "That's been our achilles heel this year, when teams go zone and back off of us. We've just got to hit some shots. The problem is we weren't even getting shots, a lot of times staring down passes. They've got a couple nice athletes on the wing that we threw the ball to."
  The Lady Knights had the lead from the first quarter on, but the Lady Panthers kept it close for sixteen minutes. Mater Dei threatened to pull away early in the second quarter at 16-8, but PCHS's Kenzie Rushing scored five straight points on free throws and a layup off of a steal to trim the lead down to three with 5:24 left in the first half.
  Later in the period, the Knights had the lead back up to eight, but a three-pointer and a stick-back by Rushing that came just before the break had Pinckneyville within five at 29-24 headed to halftime.
  Mater Dei switched up some things defensively at the break to take away Rushing, playing more zone defense, and the effects were almost immediate. The Lady Knights rattled off the first 13 points of the third quarter and held Pinckneyville scoreless until a three by Megan Breslin with 2:08 left on the clock. By then, Mater Dei had total control of the game up 42-27.
  "When they went zone, they basically said don't let (Rushing) drive," Engelhardt said. "Her big thing is she is a nice finisher around the rim. They didn't let her get near the rim in the second half, so they did a nice job taking her away. Again, that's where someone else needs to hit a perimeter shot. When she drives and they take her away, we should be able to pitch. We just didn't have that."
  "They did a better job checking us off in the second half, they made a nice adjustment that way. I probably ran with the same kids a little bit more than usual and I thought we wore down a little bit. I was trying to keep kids in there who could score."
  Rushing was the only Lady Panther to score more than 4 points, finishing with 18. Haliegh Kling and Aubrey Bruns each had 4 points, M. Breslin 3 and Sarah Breslin 2. PCHS was again without one of their key players, Bella Pasquino, who was out with an illness for both Regional games.
  Pinckneyville finishes with a record of 15-14, and has a lot to look forward to next season and in the years to come, as not a single player on the varsity roster will graduate this spring.
  "It's a rare situation," Engelhardt said. "Normally when you're done, you're talking about the seniors. With this group it's twelve kids that will be back. For us, it's about working on skill. It's about finding a couple more kids who are consistent and can knock down the jump shot, having a couple kids who can handle it a little bit more. The size and physical ability is there, for us it's a lot about skill work right now."

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