PEORIA, Ill. — On Christmas break from school, the girls on the Moline basketball team are studying chemistry.
So far, they grade out with an A+.
“The tournament is all about getting used to each other,” said Moline coach Tracy Sant Amour, whose team won its pool play with its best two games of its season, wins of 65-25 over East Peoria and 44-29 over Peoria Notre Dame. “We have been talking about chemistry and how important it is to us and putting all of that together."
“You can have great players, but if you don’t have chemistry and communication, it doesn’t mean anything.”
While doing that, the Maroons have managed to find the ingredients to much-improved free-throw shooting and better ball control.
Going into the tournament, Moline had shot 56.6 percent from the line, and had been only 46.5 percent in Western Big 6 games. “Seriously, there were games where we would shoot something like 11 percent” from the line, sighed Sant Amour.
In these two wins, though, the Maroons combined to shoot 16-of-18 for 88.9 percent.
Cierra McNamee averaged 10 points and 7.5 rebounds over the two games.
State Farm Classic
Rock Island 55, Bethalto Civic Memorial 43: Rock Island pulled away after holding a six-point lead to grab a win over Bethalto Civic Memorial.
On their first three possessions of the second half, the Rocks got a 3-pointer from Bre Williams, a layup from Carlee Camlin and a baseline bucket from Hannah Simmer.
In a blink, the six-point lead was 13 and the Rocks (14-0) went on to hand a fellow state-ranked squad its first loss of the season, 55-43. Rocky meets defending Class 3A state champion Peoria Richwoods tonight at 7 in the winner's bracket semifinals.
Brea Beal finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds, six blocked shots, three assists and three steals.
Alleman 44, St. Thomas More 39: Pioneer coach Megan McCracken pleaded for someone to step up and take charge. It finally happened in the second half as Gabbi Loiz took over on offense and Natika Woods did the little things to rally Alleman after halftime for the win.
"We had two games lately where we were in a position to win a game and no one wanted to take charge, and we lost both," McCracken said. "Finally, our seniors did it. Gabbi did the things on the scoreboard and Natika did the things that you can't count, like making plays on defense or setting screens."
After being held to four points on 2-of-8 shooting in the first half, Loiz missed just one of her seven shots and made all six free throws after halftime to finish with 24 points.
Geneseo 54, Normal U-High 30: There was no hangover from a lopsided Wednesday loss to Chicago Kenwood for the Maple Leafs.
"We just got back to our game," Geneseo coach Scott Hardison said. "Kenwood made it very difficult to play our game. We just went back to doing what we do. We defended well and we made shots."
Hannah Himmelman led the Leafs (13-1) with 11 points, Maddi Barickman added 10 and Abbi Barickman notched nine.
IC Catholic 36, Sherrard 33: A great start for the Sherrard Tigers had the hopes high, however a drought of more than 11 minutes cost them in a tight contest.
"We were up 17-10 in the second quarter and didn't score until under a minute left in the third quarter," Sherrard coach Doug Swanson said. "Offensively, we got very passive and had way too many empty possessions without a shot or even an opening."
The Tigers battled back to get within two late, but a Carly Whitsell's shot in the lane rolled off and ICC held on for the win.
"We are just a young team and no one wanted to step up and make the big play late," Swanson said. "What I like is we never quit competing, we just need to finish the fight."
Whitsell led the Tigers (5-10) with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Sherrard lost again later on Thursday, falling to St. Thomas More 37-36. The Tigers had a six-point lead late in the game, but let it get away and a foul in the closing seconds gave STM two free throws to win it.
Rockford Lutheran 62, Annawan 39: Not often do you hear a coach so enthusiastic after a 23-point loss, but Annawan's Jason Burkiewicz came away from Thursday's loss very positive.
"Wins and losses don't always matter to me," Burkiewicz said. "That was the best team we have seen all year. I thought we showed max effort and that's all I am looking for. We're very young and still learning. If we play with the effort we showed today in the game (Wednesday) we win that game by 30."
The Bravettes were hurt by 33 turnovers and Burkiewicz attests that to youth and a strong Lutheran team.
Emily Miller led the Bravettes (8-5) with 14 points and seven rebounds.
The Bravettes reached the winner's circle in an evening game, pounding Peoria Christian 59-20.
Mercer County 58, Morrison 40: Mercer County was able to celebrate more than just a 58-40 win in the Cliff Warkins Memorial Basketball Classic against Morrison, as one of their seniors was able to achieve a career milestone.
Dani Hagens surpassed 1,000 career points in the third quarter on a shot near the basket. Mercer County fans let out a roar as the bucket fell, and Golden Eagles head coach Katie Engwall immediately called time out so the team could celebrate and Hagens received the game ball. Engwall doesn’t usually like to recognize individual accomplishments, but said she was ecstatic for her senior forward.
“It’s obviously special,” Engwall said. “I’ve been her coach for four years, and she’s had to overcome a lot. She was on pace to hit 1,000 career points as a junior, but a leg injury sidelined her for most of last year. She’s a good athlete, but basketball isn’t natural to her. That’s why this means so much to her, because of all of the hard work she’s put in. Hours and hours of hard work.”
Hagens made it a goal for herself to reach 1,000 career points and says she’s relieved to finally have it.
“It feels really good to get 1,000 points,” Hagens said. “But it feels even better to be able to get it in a win. It’s been a goal of mine for a while.”
Monmouth-Roseville 52, Rockridge 35: There was no sluggishness to open the contest between Monmouth-Roseville and Rockridge, with both teams pushing the pace of play early and the Titans leading 25-14 after the first quarter.
Orion 61, Erie-Prophetstown 51: Led by an incredible 38 points from Danielle Taets, who recently eclipsed 1,000 career points, Orion took down the Panthers. Taets went an impressive 16-16 from the charity stripe and led the Chargers in their comeback as they trailed 32-30 at the half. The Panthers made eight 3-point baskets in the contest, including four from Emma Camper. Her 17 points led the way for E-P.
Dixon KSB Tourney
United Township 62, Rockford Guilford 47: The Panther girls opened with the victory over Rockford Guilford but lost to Burlington Central 81-27 in the semifinals and will play for third against Eastland tonight at 6 p.m.
Lisle's Holiday Cage Classic
Riverdale 29, Wheaton St. Francis 18: The Rams led 8-1 at halftime after pitching a first-quarter shutout. Morgan Caves and Brooke Smeltzly each scored six points for Riverdale.
Lee Westerman Tourney
Bushnell PC 46, Galva 23: Galva scored no more than six points in any quarter, with Darrah Schilling leading the team with 14 points. BPC's Madison Allen scored a game-high 25 points.