ANNA — Sesser-Valier/Waltonville built a double-digit lead in the second quarter and never looked back on its way to a 61-38 victory Thursday over the host school in the championship game of the Anna-Jonesboro Class 2A Girls regional.
The Red Devils (27-1) won every quarter and didn’t let a solid A-J team get back in the game after halftime.
“These seniors have been so good for us, and they’ve averaged 24 wins a year,” said SVW coach Rick Metcalf. “I couldn’t be happier for them. What a good feeling. We’re going to enjoy it tonight and then start preparing for Mater Dei.”
Angel Helm buried a 3-pointer to give A-J its final lead of the contest, 8-6, halfway through the first quarter. SVW bounced back immediately.
Brooke Wilderman assisted to Taylor Frank for a basket, which started an 8-0 SVW streak. Hannah Garascia finished it off with a bucket in the paint, and the Red Devils took a 14-8 advantage.
Jasmin Foster banked in a jump shot in the final seconds of the opening quarter to pull A-J within four points.
Helm sank another triple to slice the A-J deficit to six about two minutes into the second quarter. But SVW always had answer.
Sami McCowen and Jaylin Haley drained 3-pointers to push the SVW lead to double digits.
“I scouted them four times this year,” Metcalf said. “Coach (Matt) Denny does a really good job, and they constantly switch their defense and their offense. I thought we were prepared for everything.”
Garascia knocked down a 3-pointer to give SVW a 34-23 advantage at halftime. Foster hit a 3-pointer early in the third quarter, and A-J trailed by just 10.
SVW began to pull away after that. The Wildcats (17-13) never could make a big enough dent in the SVW lead to have a chance to win.
“They are good all the way around,” Denny said. “We’re getting there, though. We had our first winning season in over 10 years at the varsity level. We beat Nashville and West Frankfort this year. It’s good for our young kids to see this.”
The Red Devils earned their fourth regional crown in the past six years on Thursday night.
“Even though my teams over the years have so many of these, you’ve got to treat it like it’s new every time because this could be the only one these kids get,” Metcalf said. “We get a parade tonight going back into Sesser, so that’s pretty cool. There are too many bad things that happen in life, so you’ve got to enjoy the good things. Those good things are fleeting, and these girls have been able to savor a lot of success over four years. I’m very proud of all of them.”
Haley led all scorers with 22 points, and Garascia added 16. Helm paced A-J with 10.
SVW takes on Breese Mater Dei at 7 p.m. Monday in the semifinals of the Johnston City Class 2A Sectional.