NASHVILLE — The two top girls basketball teams in the River-to-River Mississippi Division battled it out Thursday night at Assembly Hall, with 21-time champion Nashville coming from behind to beat defending champion Carterville, 54-51, to reclaim at least a tie for the conference title.
"I figured that was how it was going to be tonight," said Nashville coach Doug Althoff. "It’s a big game where the juices are flowing and we fell behind early, but after I got them settled down they responded. They play that 1-2-2 which spreads things out and I just told them to take what they give you. What made all the difference was making them cover Karly Stanowski in the middle, which opened things up. Everybody did something tonight."
Nashville (18-6) improved to 8-0 in the conference while Carterville (19-5) fell to 6-2 with two games left on the conference schedule.
"We’re in the driver’s seat," Althoff said. "We’ve got two games left and all we have to do is win one and we win the conference outright."
Nashville’s senior guard Paige Kasten came into the game needing eight points to join the 1,000 point club, and achieved that feat with 1:55 remaining in the second quarter at the line. Kasten finished with 18 points.
"My teammate Karly had done it earlier in the season and she was pushing me to do it, too," Kasten said.
Kasten scored her first points on two 3-pointers spanning the late first and early second quarter. She drew a foul while attempting a layup with 2:25 left in the first half and made her first free throw, but missed her second, leaving her a point shy.
"I wasn’t thinking anything good when I missed that second free throw, but there was a lot of game left," Kasten said.
She didn’t have to wait long. Thirty seconds later she was fouled again, and this time she swished both.
Nashville had come back from an eight-point deficit early in the first quarter to take a one-point lead going into the second quarter, and held onto that lead at the half.
Kasten sank a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left in the third quarter to give the Hornettes a 41-38 lead. After Carterville cut the lead to two, Nashville extended its lead to seven points with 1:50 left to play on Karston’s fourth 3-pointer and a layup by Stanowski.
Carterville mounted a rally, starting with a 3-pointer Abbey Crain. Sabrina Kollbaum got two of those back on a fast break layup, but when Carterville had to foul, Kollbaum and Rachael Kell missed the front ends of one-and-ones.
Crain then drew a foul and made two foul shots to cut the lead to four with 19.5 remaining. Libby Ahlers then was fouled and also missed the front end of her one-and-one with 18.8 left.
Megan Barton scored on a putback, and the Lions trailed by two with 10 seconds remaining. Kasten was fouled and made her first, but missed her second to leave Carterville a chance, but Crain slipped on her 3-point attempt, sending the shot off the mark to preserve the win.
"That’s kind of what we did against Okawville, too, but we made enough free throws this time," Althoff said. "In a game like this you lose your legs. It’s hard to make a free throw when you are gassed like that."
Carterville got off to fast start taking a 10-2 lead, including a 3-pointer by Jeniah Thompson. The Hornettes cut the lead to four, but Thompson expanded the lead back to six on a layup, but 11 seconds later Thompson picked up her third foul and was sent to the bench
Kasten started a 7-0 run with her first 3-pointer with Stanowski and Kollbaum following with layups to give the Hornettes a 13-12 lead after the first quarter.
"They’re tough," said Carterville coach Matt Crain. "They went to the sectional final last year and might do it again. We didn’t lose to them bad. I told my girls I was disappointed we lost and disappointed for you, but I’m not mad at them. We now have to take the next four games and learn from it."