GOREVILLE – Mounds Meridian draws New Athens in the Class A girls sectional final at Goreville Thursday night.
Meridian rolled to an easy 65-36 win over Webber Township in Monday’s first semi-final game while it took Danika White’s last-second shot to give New Athens a 51-49 win over Gallatin County in the nightcap.
Gallatin County entered the fourth quarter trailing 37-23, but took the lead three times before White scored on an inbounds play with just over two seconds remaining.
Hailey Chubb, who went over 3,000 points last week, scored 32 for the Hawks, 16 in the decisive fourth quarter. And, with the game tied at 49, Chubb came out of nowhere to block a potential game-winning shot by Julia Drake.
However, White got free on the inbounds play and banked in a short jumper for the game winner.
“We told the girls to match up and communicate,” said Gallatin County coach Tiffany Sauls. “Of all times to communicate, and we lost her. We lost White coming off that screen.”
In the meantime, Chubb spent long periods of time on the bench in foul trouble. She picked up two fouls early in the first quarter and her third early in the second. But, when she was on the floor, New Athens limited her effectiveness for three quarters with a sticky box-and-one.
“Other teams we’ve played throughout the year, we haven’t had anybody match up with Chubb,” Sauls said. “That slowed our offense down. When you take her out of the picture you have four sophomores really trying to take over a role they’ve never had to do. That’s a struggle for us.”
With Chubb on the bench, the Hawks endured a drought of 8:20 without a field goal. New Athens went on a 20-1 run during that span.
“We didn’t really show up the first half,” Sauls said. “I think if we would have brought the same effort we had the fourth quarter we would have been fine.”
No other Gallatin County player finished in double figures.
White scored 23 for the Yellow Jackets. She was the only New Athens player in double figures.
In the first game, Meridian’s defense and strength on the boards was simply too much for Webber Township.
Webber turned the ball over 18 times against the Meridian pressure.
“That’s what I push,” said Meridian coach Jerry Johnson. “I push defense. Defense is our offense. We’re not big enough to do much, but we can play defense. We practice it every day, pressure defense. No matter where the ball is we put pressure on the ball and don’t let up until we hear the whistle blow or we get the ball.”
The turnovers led to numerous scoring chances. Post player Rakyah Jeter led the Lady Bobcats with 17 points. She also dominated the boards.
“She’s a rebounding machine,” Johnson said. “She was a cheerleader when I first got her. That’s what I made her into. She’s a monster.”
The Lady Bobcats took the lead for good with 4:55 remaining in the first quarter when Jeter dumped in an offensive rebound. Alexis Crain, who scored 14 points, scored on an inbounds play and Jeter scored again from the low post.
By the end of the quarter Meridian led 17-9 and Webber never threatened.
Johnson also got a solid offensive effort from sophomore Kaycee Nichols. She came off the bench to hit three treys and score 13 points.
Emma Moser led Webber with 19 points.
Thursday’s championship game is at 7 p.m.
firstname.lastname@example.org / 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler