WOODLAWN — Only four points separated Goreville and Christopher with 1:39 to play when the Lady Blackcats’ Lexi King dove into a pile of players near midcourt.
Somehow, King emerged from the pile with the basketball. Lunging forward, she got the ball to Schylar Messmer, who made the lay up and then finished the three-point play. Messmer’s score gave Goreville a 38-31 lead and pushed the Blackcats to a 45-35 win in the Woodlawn Class 1A sectional.
Goreville advances to the Salem Supersectional on Monday night to face Hardin-Calhoun.
“Those kids were just scrambling for the ball and scrambling for the ball,” said Goreville coach Mike Helton. “Our defense has just been really special here lately.”
That play was pretty much a microcosm of the game as both teams played tenacious defense. No more than five points had separated the two teams prior to Messmer’s layup.
Goreville led for the vast majority of the game, although Christopher held one-point advantages at the end of the half and after three quarters. Sophomore Rebecca Henson hit a half-court shot to close the half, giving Christopher a 19-18 lead.
She also scored from close range at the end of the third quarter to put Christopher on top 28-27.
But, Goreville regained the lead for good when freshman Payton Sopczak knocked down a 3-pointer on the Lady Blackcats’ first possession. Goreville struggled to get the ball inside against the Christopher zone. Six of the Blackcats’ 13 field goals came from beyond the arc.
“We’ve got three or four kids that can make threes,” Helton said. “Sometimes it’s just moving the ball well enough to get an open shot and finding the kid that can put one in.”
“That was the whole plan from the beginning, to force them to beat us from the outside,” said Christopher coach Seiger Shurtz. “I think for the most part we held them in check. They hit a few shots when they needed to, and good basketball teams do that.”
In the meantime, Goreville’s man-to-man created fits for Christopher. The Bearcats committed 14 turnovers and struggle to sustain a consistent attack.
Maddie Gossett had 15 points for Christopher, but she was the only Lady Bearcat in double figures.
“Even when they were able to go someplace they had someone on them all the time,” Helton said. “We did a great job even when we got beat off the dribble of getting over and helping. We did a great job of sealing the lane.”
“That’s something we’ve struggled with all year, attacking a man-to-man defense,” Shurtz said. “I don’t think it was so much them, don’t get me wrong, they play good defense, but we didn’t execute on the offensive end. That was one of our keys tonight. When you don’t execute on the offensive end and score points, it’s kind of hard to win a basketball game.”
Ashlyn Darnell led Goreville with 11 points while Messmer scored 10.
“We didn’t start off putting the ball in the basket very well, but we did a nice job on defense,” Helton said. “We did a great job overall. What we’ve done here lately is defensive rebound the ball and move the ball and eventually a couple shots go down. Things worked out all right.”