Class 3A girls' hoops: Chargers cash in
RANTOUL — Centennial won a girls’ basketball game on Valentine’s Day for the second year in a row.
For senior Stacia Simmons, Thursday’s outcome was much sweeter.
“This is the anniversary of when I tore my ACL,” the Charger guard said.
Last year, her season ended on Feb. 14. This year, it continued into next week thanks to the defensive efforts of Simmons, Chantal Meacham and Zsayla Brummett.
They helped hold Mahomet-Seymour to nine field goals in a 51-31 triumph in Thursday’s Class 3A regional championship game at Rantoul High School.
“It feels great to get to play in the regional championship game,” said Simmons, whose junior season was finished in the semifinals.
M-S stayed in contention early, trailing 10-8 after one quarter when Maggie Schmidt nailed a 40-foot buzzer-beating three-point shot.
She had all eight M-S points in the quarter but was limited to one basket thereafter.
“Meacham did a great job on Schmidt,” Centennial coach Susan Thomas said, “and Stacia did an outstanding job on (Kristen) Belyea.”
Belyea finished with four points.
“We got stops early, and kept them off the boards,” Simmons said. “Defense wins games.”
When Thomas turned to her bench, help was on call.
“Zsayla came in and had two tough assignments. She was either on Schmidt or Belyea, and she did a fantastic job,” Thomas said.
In the first half, the Chargers’ defense was responsible for the team’s 26-16 cushion. Starters from each team had scored 16 points.
Led by Jasmine Kyler (seven points) and Nikki Bilger (three points), Centennial had 10 first-half points off the bench.
“They’ve gotten enough minutes during the season, they feel comfortable coming in and doing that,” Thomas said. “We thought coming in we were a little deeper.”
Chelsea Cross led Centennial with 13 points. Meacham added 11, including three baskets from three-point range. Schmidt (13 points) was the lone double-digit scorer for M-S. Teammate Hannah Charter grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
“Centennial is a very complete basketball team,” M-S coach Nathan Seal said. “Defensively, they cause you fits. They made it hard for us to score.”
M-S, which had nine second-period turnovers, reduced that total to six during the final half.
“Our girls played 32 minutes as hard as they could play,” Seal said. “Our effort was there.”
The teams were tied once (3-3) before Centennial took control for its 29th win in 32 games. For the seniors, it marked their third regional title in the sport in four years.
“We want to keep it going,” point guard Katelynn Martinez said.
She’s not the only one who feels that way.
“Every game gets a little bit more emotional,” Thomas said. “I want the season to never end because I love coaching them so much.”
Centennial has won more regional titles in girls’ basketball (22) than any other sport (boys or girls) in school history.
The program’s last sectional title was in 2004.