After loss in State Farm quarterfinals, Central-Southeastern coach questions if Winnebago is top Class 2A team in state


Central-Southeastern's Summer Ramsey is trapped on the baseline and surrounded by, from left, Winnebago's Annika Bielskis, Renee Rittmeyer and Campbell Shrank during Tuesday's quarterfinal game at Bloomington High School in the small-school bracket of the State Farm Holiday Classic. | David Adam

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Central-Southeastern coach Matt Long has a pretty good idea of what a good Class 2A girls basketball looks like. He guided the Panthers to third-place and fourth-place finishes at the state tournament in 2016 and 2017.

So after his team lost 33-21 to Winnebago, ranked No. 1 in the latest Class 2A state poll, but forced the Indians into missing 24 of 34 shots and 18 turnovers Tuesday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the girls small-school bracket at the State Farm Holiday Classic, Long left Bloomington High School unimpressed.

“I question if they’re the No. 1 team in the state now,” he said. “I thought we could have made some adjustments and probably played a little bit better, held a little tighter late in the second half. I’m not gonna take anything away from our kids. I thought they were tough and physical and tried to do the things we asked them to do. (Winnebago has) better athletes then us right now.”

Central-Southeastern led 6-3 midway through the first quarter after a 3-pointer by Summer Ramsey, and two free throws by Lauren Miller tied the score at 8 with 5:59 left in the second quarter. Winnebago switched from man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone that bamboozled the Panthers, who finished the half with 20 turnovers and 2-for-9 shooting from the field.

However, Central-SE only trailed 14-9 at halftime. The Indians missed 15 out of 20 shots and turned the ball over 11 times.

“We told the girls in pregame that if it’s a tight game, (Winnebago will) go to a 1-3-1, and if they do that, that shows you we have their respect,” Long said. “That’s their best defense, and nobody back home plays a 1-3-1. We just needed more time to work against it.”

Central-SE (8-5), which plays Annawan Wednesday morning in the fifth-place bracket, had just 11 turnovers in the second half. When Brilyn Lantz split a pair of Winnebago defenders and made an 8-foot shot with 2:18 left in the third quarter, the Panthers trailed 21-14. However, all-stater Miyah Brown banked in a 3-pointer a minute later to start a nine-point run that put the game away.

Lantz, who finished with five points, didn’t care to hear about moral victories afterward.

“I’m ticked off,” she said. “We just had a bunch of stupid turnovers. We were messy in the first half, and we just need to clean things up. We didn’t do anything special on defense, and obviously our energy and effort both were there tonight.”

Brown, who has signed to play next year at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., finished with 17 points to lead all scorers.

Winnebago remains unbeaten after 15 games. The Indians had outscored their opponents 890-379, winning by an average margin of 36.5 points.

Long was encouraged by how his team played.

“Defensively when we show up, and we have a tough mindset and we play physical, we can guard about anybody,” he said.  I was happy with what we did on the defensive end of the floor. 

“We had a walkthrough this morning and asked the kids, ‘We can try slowing down, or we can go get them and play man to man.’ And the kids said, ‘Let’s go get them. Let’s go be who we are.’ And that’s what we tried to do.”

Central-Southeastern is the only team in the state to play both No. 1-ranked Winnebago and No. 2-ranked Quincy Notre Dame. The Panthers lost to the Raiders 49-35 on Dec. 20 at the Pit.

“I think we’ve shown we can play with both of those teams,” Lantz said. “Honestly, if we played tough enough, I think we could beat both of them.”

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