C-SE knocks off SHG with dynamic defensive effort in second half of tourney quarterfinal

December 27, 2022 - Normal, Illinois - Southeastern's Lauren Miller is all smiles after her team knocked of Bishop McNamara in the first-round basketball game at the State Farm Holiday Classic on Tuesday. The Lady Panthers defeated the Fightin' Irish, 36-27. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Central-Southeastern's Lauren Miller, left, and Tori Fessler, center, helped the Panthers reach the semifinals of the State Farm Holiday Classic by upending second-seeded Springield Sacred Heart-Griffin on Wednesday night. | File photo courtesy Clark Brooks, PhotoNews Media

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Matt Long made it sound so simple.

“In the second half, I thought we had a lot of energy and effort and it turned the game for us,” the veteran Central-Southeastern girls basketball coach said.

The tenaciousness defensively brought about by playing with more energy and effort certainly did that.

A five-point halftime deficit turned into a four-point advantage heading to the fourth quarter Wednesday night in the quarterfinals of the State Farm Holiday Classic and the seventh-seeded Panthers made it stick, upending second-seeded Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin 39-35 at Bloomington High School.

The Panthers (10-2) will face third-seeded Brimfield at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the semifinals at Normal Community High School. Brimfield is the defending Class 1A state champion and advanced with a 45-43 victory over Rock Falls.

“They play a real nice zone,” Long said of Brimfield. “We’re going to have to have a good walk-through tomorrow and have a good game plan going in.”

The second-half defensive effort against SHG is a good blueprint to follow.

The Panthers held the Cyclones to 1-of-8 shooting from the field in the third quarter and limited them to two points before committing a foul on a 3-point attempt as time expired in the quarter. SHG’s Izzy Hassebrock made all three free throws to cut the deficit to 31-27.

C-SE outscored SHG 14-5 in the third quarter.

“I really felt we got up and got after it more,” Long said. “We got more physical with them. We created some turnovers and some easy opportunities on the offensive line.”

The Cyclones pulled within 31-29 with 4:24 remaining and got as close as 37-35 with 51.3 seconds remaining when Hassebrock hit a 3-pointer from the corner. The Panthers sealed the victory with free-throw shooting, going 9 of 12 from the line overall and 6 of 7 in the fourth quarter.

Brilyn Lantz went 4 of 5 in the fourth quarter and 5 of 7 overall. Amanda Stephens led the Panthers with 11 points, while Lantz and Lauren Miller each had eight.

“I was telling this to the girls recently, but we’ve been coming here for 28 years and every year, we’ve come back from here and we’ve been better,” Long said.

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