Confident Eagles move on
CHAMPAIGN — Beginning, middle and end. The Rantoul and Urbana girls' basketball teams met at each of those segments this season.
The first time, Urbana dominated at the Blue Star Country Classic on Nov. 17.
Then, Rantoul came through in the Charleston Holiday Tournament on Dec. 30.
The third time, Monday night at Combes Gym, Rantoul not only won the season series with a 47-35 victory, but extended its season to at least one more night at the Class 3A Champaign Central Regional. The Eagles' reward? A regional semifinal against top seed and state-ranked Centennial (25-5) at 6 tonight.
"We can compete with every team that we play," Rantoul forward Hannah Wascher said. "Sometimes before games we get the demeanor that we're going to lose if a team has a better record than us. I'm just going to go into tomorrow thinking we can compete with them, and hopefully come out with a win."
Wascher had a strong game inside with 21 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks to pace the Eagles in their regional quarterfinal win. She wasn't the only Hannah who had a strong game, though, for Rantoul (6-22).
Sophomore forward Hannah Cargo came through with 13 points, including two timely three-pointers, to form a solid 1-2 duo with Wascher.
"Regionals is what you build for, so if you're going to come play, now's the time to play," Rantoul head coach Jeff McKaufsky said. "(Cargo) advanced in the three-point shootout, so that might have given her a little boost. She came out ready to play tonight."
Junior guard Diamond Walker added seven points and five rebounds to give Rantoul other scoring options besides the always dependable Wascher.
"They came out in man, and we knew we could take advantage of that inside," McKaufsky said. "Then they went to a 2-3 (zone) in the second quarter, and we knew we were going to get outside shots. They both knocked down some big shots there."
Rantoul only held a 25-21 lead with 5:58 left in the third quarter after Urbana (3-21) junior guard Jessica Mack sank a long jumper.
The Eagles (6-22) resopnded with a 10-0 run during the next three minutes to take a 35-21 lead with 2:32 left. Cargo kickstarted the run with a three-pointer from the left wing off an assist from junior forward Kalista Lutes.
"She hit a couple threes, which was huge for them, because we were keying on Wascher, and Walker had a couple looks as well," Urbana coach Aimee Smith said. "Wascher inside is tough. She's a phenomenal player, both offensively and defensively."
Urbana was led by 10 points from Kanetra Towns and eight points and eight rebounds from Karida Shelby.