FARMER CITY — Jamison Brandt added a new chapter to the book, “Ways to Win Basketball Games.”
There are the tried-and-true methods: making a game-winning basket; blocking a potential game-winning shot; or rebounding a missed shot before the opponents can attempt a possible game-winner.
Brandt’s section could be titled, “Do Nothing.” That’s right. Absolutely nothing, as in stand out of bounds with the ball in your hands and do nothing.
There are only certain precious moments in a game where this strategy could be employed, and the Blue Ridge junior found the ideal time in the final five seconds of Wednesday’s regional tournament semifinal contest.
With 10 minutes remaining in the Class 1A battle between Brandt’s Blue Ridge team and Heritage, the final five seconds didn’t appear too significant. Blue Ridge held a 12-point lead.
That was before Heritage senior Mary Happ had 61/2 of the best minutes of her career. She scored 13 of her team-high 18 points in the final 6:17. When she swished her second three-pointer during the last 20 seconds, Heritage trailed 50-49.
That was when Brandt displayed her basketball IQ. Happ’s final shot was attempted with 5.3 seconds left on the clock. By the time Brandt retrieved the ball, fewer than five seconds were left.
She stood out of bounds, making no attempt to throw the ball inbounds. She let the clock expire, preserving the Knights’ one-point triumph. Brandt did so on her own, without the urging of others.
“She realizes situations,” Blue Ridge coach Stephanie Schroeder said. “She has the smarts.”
Heritage had no way to stop the clock and Blue Ridge wasn’t risking a turnover or the possibility of a player getting fouled who would miss free throws and set the stage for more heroics from Happ.
“That was such a smart play on her part,” Heritage coach Kami White said.
In the first quarter, Brandt got the job done on the offensive end, scoring 11 of her 16 points as Blue Ridge led 17-13.
Then, it was time for Knights sophomore Gabby Pearl to shine. Starting 12 seconds into the second quarter, Pearl scored 24 of her team’s next 29 points, a dominant stretch that extended into the game’s final minute.
Pearl is 6-foot. Brandt is 5-9. The tallest Heritage starter was 5-7.
“We can’t compete with that size,” White said. “We need to take growing pills.”
Pearl also grabbed a game-high 17 rebounds, nine on the offensive end.
Blue Ridge’s margin of victory came courtesy of a free throw by sophomore Miranda Gillis, who hadn’t attempted any shots until going to the line with 12.4 seconds remaining. She hit 1 of 2.
Blue Ridge will face Heart of Illinois rival Fisher — the top-seeded team — in Thursday night's 7:30 title game. The Bunnies overpowered Urbana Uni High 50-35 behind a double-double from 6-2 junior Caitlin Cole (18 points, 10 rebounds).
“The key was when and where we were able to get her the ball,” Fisher coach Ken Ingold said. “Tonight, we gave her the ball in positions where she was able to score. When we give her a good pass, she’s pretty effective.”
Three Bunnies — Sydney Blackwell, Kelcie Fredrickson and Hannah Varner — hit first-quarter three-pointers. That opened up the inside for Cole, who scored nine second-quarter points. Blackwell had 10 points, and Varner had seven rebounds.
Senior Emma Hoyer led Uni High (10-17) with 21 points. Senior Kaila Simpson hauled down a team-high nine rebounds.
In other 1A action:
Arcola 48, Okaw Valley 32. Cara Edwards and Taylor Edwards each scored 17 points for the second-seeded Purple Riders, who will play top-seeded Central A&M for the title in Moweaqua.
In Class 2A:
Sullivan 66, Meridian 32. Asia Morrison scored a game-high 19 points for the second-seeded Redskins, who will play top-seeded Pana for the championship in Tuscola. Emily Neuhauser added 17 points in the victory.