HERRIN — Despite trailing nearly the entire game and playing without its leading scorer for most of the second half, the Murphysboro girls basketball team got the job done Thursday night.
Arie Ciganovich made a free throw with 12 seconds left, and Murphysboro knocked off Benton, 43-41, in the championship game of the Herrin Class 3A Regional.
Mikayla Brasel picked up her third foul and a technical foul just 24 seconds into the third quarter. Murphysboro was already down eight points at that time. But the Red Devils slowly chipped away and got back in the game without the program’s all-time leading scorer.
“Brasel fouled out, and Arie Ciganovich and Angel Jones and Kayla Walker, all of them stepped up,” said Murphysboro coach Keith Jones. “They filled the void, and that was big. I’m just happy for them getting that regional. We haven’t won one since before I was born. So, I’m pretty happy with it.”
Ciganovich buried a 3-pointer to cap off an 8-0 Murphysboro run to start the fourth quarter, and the Red Devils grabbed a 33-31 edge. But Brasel fouled out of the game at the 4:30 mark of the final quarter.
Benton’s Ally Gischer picked up her fourth foul late in the third quarter. But the senior still came up huge for her team down the stretch.
Gischer drained two free throws and sank a 3-pointer to give the Rangerettes a 40-35 lead with two minutes left in the game.
That’s when Kayla Walker took over for the Red Devils. Walker drove to the rim for three baskets in the final 90 seconds of play.
“When Brasel’s out, we say let’s look to Walker,” Jones said. “She’s our next best option of getting to the rim. I can’t believe it myself, really.”
It was probably difficult for most people, from both schools, to believe that Benton didn’t win this game the way it was going. The Rangerettes (17-14) amassed a 13-point lead in the second quarter. But Benton struggled mightily on offense over the final 16 minutes.
“You just take care of what you need to take care of and you win the game,” said Benton coach Andy Sloan. “Just some costly turnovers, and we shot ourselves in the foot. It’s just disappointing. We didn’t play well at all in the third quarter and on into the fourth.”
With Brasel on the bench, Angel Jones always seemed to be where the action was at in the second half. The senior was diving all over the place for loose balls and giving her team a much-needed spark.
“Energy,” Coach Jones said of his senior forward. “What I say about Angel is that a lot of her stuff doesn’t show up in the stat book. She is an X-factor.”
Ciganovich led Murphysboro with 13 points, and Brasel added 11. Kaylee Pedigo paced Benton with 13 points, and Gischer contributed 12.
Murphysboro (22-7) takes on Bethalto Civic Memorial in the semifinals of the Waterloo Sectional at 6 p.m. Tuesday.