PINCKNEYVILLE — After seeing Jeniah Thompson struggle with foul trouble during last week’s Rangerette Classic at Benton, Carterville coach Matt Crain asked her to play more aggressively.
One look at the stat sheet on Tuesday night suggests Thompson listened.
On just 16 shot attempts, the 5-9 sophomore poured in a career-high 32 points as the Lions downed Pinckeyville for the second time in less than a week, posting a 62-44 SIRR Mississippi decision in Duster Thomas Gym.
“She has a chance to be really special,” Carterville coach Matt Crain said of Thompson. “We needed every one of those points tonight.”
Thompson gave the Panthers the assortment pack. She scored off the drive when they used bigger players against her. When they opted for guards to take away her penetration, Thompson simply ran into the post and overpowered them.
When they fouled her, Thompson knocked down all seven free throws. For good measure, she even squared up and knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing late in the third quarter.
“Few teams in Southern Illinois are going to be able to match up with her,” Pinckneyville coach Alan Engelhardt said.
Engelhardt said this game was very similar to the Lions’ 62-43 victory on Thursday night in Benton. Carterville (13-4, 4-1) got off to big runs in each half, opening the game with a 14-2 spurt behind six points each from Thompson and Abbey Crain, and ripping off nine in a row to open the second half.
The spurt that opened the third quarter decided the game. Coming off their best stretch, an 11-2 run to close the first half, the Panthers (8-9, 3-2) got the ball to start the third quarter. They attracted a pair of fouls and missed a wide-open layup in a possession that lasted about a minute.
It ended with one of their 26 turnovers and a transition bucket from Megan Barton. By the time Pinckneyville got on the board in the third quarter with a 3-pointer from Taylor Witges, it trailed by 16. The game’s remainder was a medium-paced race to the final horn.
“We just turned it over too much,” Engelhardt said. “Not only is it a possession you don’t get, it’s two points they get at the other end.”
Witges tallied nine points to lead the Panthers. Crain finished with 10 for the Lions, which stayed a loss behind conference leader Nashville.
“I haven’t eaten all day, I was so nervous about this game,” Matt Crain said. “They do such a good job with positional defense here. I was worried about this being a trap game, but I liked the energy we had at the start.”