DU QUOIN — Haleigh Keeling made just enough free throws down the stretch and scored a game-high 11 points as Vienna knocked off Hamilton County, 43-40, in the championship game of the Du Quoin Class 2A regional Thursday in girls prep basketball.
The Eagles (22-8) led for most of the final three quarters, but the Foxes kept it close. Hamilton County finished its terrific season with a record of 25-4.
“Absolutely, this was a big one,” said Vienna coach Jamie Kerley. “This was one of the goals we set, but we were very adamant about the process. You’re going to have bad nights, but it’s the process that pays off in the end.”
Lindsey Holhubner didn’t have a big night scoring for Vienna, but she was the best player on the floor. Holhubner either blocked or altered numerous shots. She also had five steals. The senior finished with 10 points.
“I’ve said this about her since the Marion tournament to start the season,” Kerley said. “We will miss Lindsey Holhubner more as a defender than we will as an offensive player. She’s a very talented offensive player, but she’s above and beyond most high school players at defense. She is a game-changer.”
After Hamilton County led for nearly all of the first quarter, Holhubner helped her team gain the advantage in the second period.
Holhubner scored in the paint and sank two free throws around several sparking defensive plays. The Vienna forward blocked two Hamilton County shots on one possession and followed that up with steals on the next two possessions.
Meanwhile, the Foxes just couldn’t find any rhythm on offense. Vienna took a 24-19 with three minutes left in the third quarter. That seemed to wake up the Foxes, who embarked on a 9-1 run.
Kaleigh Dodson and Taylie Payne recorded stick-backs during the run, which saw Hamilton County grab a brief 26-24 edge.
But the Eagles used a 6-0 run early in the fourth quarter to amass a six-point advantage.
Keeling could have made things easier on herself and her team late, but she split her free throws on four straight trips to the line in the final 90 seconds.
The Vienna point guard did do a nice job of handling the Foxes tremendous pressure defense.
“Haleigh got her braces off today,” Kerley said of Keeling. “I told her not to change anything before the regional championship game. We had good guard play, and she was a big part of that.”
Jevin Shreve and Dodson led Hamilton County with 10 points apiece. Alyssa Jones contributed nine points for Vienna.
The Eagles move on to the Hamilton County Sectional, and they will face Breese Mater Dei, a 51-31 winner over Pinckneyville on Thursday night. The game takes place at 6 p.m. Tuesday.