Iroquois West sectional roundup: Rivals to play in title game

Iroquois West sectional roundup: Rivals to play in title game

GILMAN — Winning by 22 points couldn't have been Dave Beery's pregame prediction for how his Monticello girls' basketball squad would fare against 30-1 Watseka in a Class 2A Iroquois West Sectional semifinal Monday night.

Right?

"Would you be surprised if I said maybe?" Beery said.

Good guess, Coach.

Senior Zanna Myers deposited 25 points as Monticello stifled one of the area's leading scorers, Summer Cramer, en route to a 54-32 thumping of the Warriors and a date in Thursday night's sectional championship game.

"I feel like we were really prepared," Beery continued. "I felt like we had a great game plan. I'm not saying I expected it, but I'm saying I'm not surprised. I thought we had it in us."

That became clear from the outset, as the Sages (22-4) set the tempo early and controlled it throughout the night. Monticello fed Myers and fellow senior Tatum McCall (11 points) repeatedly, with perhaps the biggest indicator of the Sages' dominance shining through a trio of three-pointers by Myers in the first eight minutes.

Meanwhile, senior Emily Wilson made life difficult for Cramer on the other end. Cramer, who came into the game averaging 17.1 points and tallied her 1,000th career point earlier in the season, could get very little done against Wilson — inside or beyond the arc — after swishing a three in the game's first possession.

Reinforcements never arrived, either, as junior Kennedy Bauer's eight points rated second for the Warriors (30-2).

"Our first opportunity in the offense wasn't there, (and) I didn't think we showed a lot of patience trusting the offense after that," Watseka coach Barry Bauer said. "We took some long shots that ended up being long rebounds that ended up being layups at the other end, and it just kind of snowballed."

Wilson said the strategy for halting Cramer was to push her left as often as possible. And it paid dividends, even with Watseka holding a size advantage in the paint.

"I feel pretty good about it," Wilson said. "I could've shut her down a little more, but I feel like we executed it pretty well. If we could shut her down, we were pretty certain we could shut the rest of the team down, too."

In the Warriors' only other setback of the seaso, a 42-39 loss to Paxton-Buckley-Loda on Jan. 20, Cramer was also limited to 11 points. History essentialy repeated itself Monday, but Monticello also made sure the margin of victory was not so slim.

Beery said his defensive presence was required at recent practices due to player absences. At one point, he was tasked with guarding Myers.

With that, he gained a better understanding why opponents have such a hard time stopping the youngster.

"I can tell you ... she's quicker than Grease Lightning," Beery said. "The thing that she does really well is she cuts hard and she accelerates. She's kind of like a mongoose or something, she just kind of lulls you to sleep and, bam, she's gone."

Myers scored at least four points in each quarter and was complemented not only by McCall, but also two or more baskets apiece from three other Sages.

Monticello dedicated its performance to a Tuscola girls' hoops athlete who is dealing with a medical issue. Each Sage donned a wristband with the number 14, and a poster behind the Monticello bench read "We play and pray for 14."

"Their coach (Tim Kohlbecker) and I are good friends, and they're a friendly rival of ours," Beery said. "She has a pretty serious medical condition, and we just wanted to do a little something to try to support her."

Next up for the Sages is a familiar foe in Illini Prairie Conference opponent St. Joseph-Ogden. The Spartans doused Monticello 52-51 on Jan. 15 thanks to a buzzer-beating shot from sophomore Hannah Dukeman.

Though the rivalry will be moved roughly 69 miles from Monticello, Wilson said there still will be plenty of fire as the Sages vie for their first sectional title since 1999.

"I'm so excited," she said. "I can't wait. We're going to come out ready to play on Thursday."

Spartans handle Blue Devils. The Peyton Crowe show moved from the 2A St. Thomas More Regional to the Iroquois West Sectional on Monday. And just like that, St. Joseph-Ogden girls' basketball moved within a single win of their first sectional crown since 2007.

Crowe, a junior, poured in 28 points, including 19 in the opening half, as the Spartans breezed past Peotone 61-46 in a sectional semifinal.

Junior Bree Trimble added 21 points as SJ-O (21-8) dominated the glass and silenced Peotone's sister duo of Josie and Mae Graffeo until the game was out of reach.

"They're definitely good players," Spartans coach Kevin Taylor said of Crowe and Trimble. "We thought we ran some good sets for them to get some good looks. You've got to be ready every time you get on the floor, otherwise it could be your last time."

Crowe was particularly unstoppable in the second quarter, draining two three-pointers and tallying 12 points. Had it not been for Blue Devils sophomore Courtney Burks replicating that effort in the same period, the result could've been even more lopsided.

"She has the ability to shake loose," Peotone coach Steve Strough said, "and when we don't cover our responsibility, they make you pay."

SJ-O paired Crowe's success with strong ball-handling, as it didn't commit a turnover until the 37-second mark of the first quarter.

On top of that, the Spartans overcame a size disadvantage presented by the Blue Devils and crashed the boards with fury. Strough cited that as a main difference on the night, especially in the opening period. Pacing Peotone was senior Josie Graffeo with 20 points.

Taylor wasn't willing to offer a preferred title-game opponent before Monticello and Watseka tipped off, instead opting to point to the present vibe surrounding his program as a reason it can cash in Thursday.

"I think it helps our confidence," Taylor said. "We scouted Peotone, and we felt coming in we matched up well and were ready for them. But when you hit shots, it definitely helps confidence."