SESSER — Someone snuck into the gym at Sesser-Valier Monday night and slapped invisible lids over both rims.
No one could make a shot for about 2 ½ quarters. The S-V-W girls and Du Quoin were stuck on a 16-13 score in the middle of the third quarter, with only five players combined managing to get on the scoresheet.
But the better team finally identified itself late in the third quarter. The Red Devils closed the period with a 10-1 run and steadily pulled away for a 35-17 non-conference decision, their 20th win against only two losses.
“In a game like this where the ball won’t drop, you have to be able to play good defense,” S-V-W coach Rick Metcalf said. “I thought we played good defense tonight. They only scored 17 points.”
Yet the Red Devils couldn’t shake the Indians (7-13), which have lost seven in a row, because no one else other than senior leader Paige Tucker could find the bucket in the first half. Tucker had 13 of their 16 points; the other three came on Jaice McCowen’s 3-pointer to start the second quarter.
Propped up by its own tough defense and S-V-W’s unusual inefficiency, Du Quoin trailed by just 16-10 at the half. When Chloe Hill stuck a 3-ball to start the third quarter, the Indians were within a possession. With a chance to tie, they got off two clean looks at game-tying 3s that went begging.
“Maybe we hit one of those shots, they start thinking that they’ve lost two of their last three,” Du Quoin coach Shawn File said.
Instead, the Indians fired and then finally fell back. McCowen converted a 3-point play, Sami McCowen drilled a 3 and Tucker scored as she was fouled. Peyton Wilderman added a bucket to complete a spurt that made it 26-14 after three quarters.
Sami McCowen erased what little chance existed for a Du Quoin rally with a 2 and a 3 in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. All the good the Indians did on defense was unspooled by six made field goals and 18 turnovers.
File said the teams Du Quoin has fallen to during its skid are a combined 119-35.
“It's a brutal schedule," he said. "We don't have an easy game on there."
Tucker finished with 16 for the Red Devils. Grace Haney scored seven to pace Du Quoin.
S-V-W can clinch its sixth straight Black Diamond Conference West title Wednesday night at Chester.
“We were picked third in the preseason,” Metcalf said. “At this point, we’re playing with house money.”