Lockdown defense carries Central-Southeastern into State Farm Holiday Classic title tilt

December 29, 2022 - Normal, Illinois - Camp Point's Brilyn Lantz rips the ball away from Brimfield's Kylee Vaugh during their State Farm Holiday Classic semifinal game. The Lady Panthers led at the half 16-5 and advanced to the title game on Friday after a 34-20 win.  (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Central-Southeastern's Brilyn Lantz rips the ball away from Brimfield's Kylee Vaugh during their semifinal game of the State Farm Holiday Classic on Thursday at Normal Community High School. | Photo courtesy Clark Brooks. PhotoNews Media

NORMAL, Ill. — Because of the widespread success of the Central-Southeastern girls basketball players across all sports, it’s easy to forget how youthful the Panthers are.

“I know,” C-SE coach Matt Long said.

Still, a majority of the time, C-SE has three sophomores, sometimes four, on the floor. That makes this week’s run to the title game of the State Farm Holiday Classic surprising and encouraging at the same time.

One day after upending second-seeded Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, the seventh-seeded Panthers took down third-seeded Brimfield — the defending Class 1A state champion — 34-20 on Thursday at Normal Community High School.

C-SE limited Brimfield to two points in the first quarter and just five points in the first half to improve to 11-2 and earn a spot opposite Paris (15-0) in the title game, which is set for 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Shirk Center on the Illinois Wesleyan University campus.

“They’re a monster, they’re a beast,” Long said. “We’re going to have to figure it out.”

Paris might be saying the same thing after watching C-SE’s defensive effort throughout this tournament.

“It was unbelievable the way we played,” Long said after the semifinal victory. “It’s only one game, but I didn’t think we’d be at this level this early.”

The preparation and commitment has made it so.

“We took their sets away from them,” Long said. “The kids locked in and paid attention during the walk-through. When we were supposed to deny, we denied. We just took away their sets. We did a great job of guarding them.”

The Panthers were solid offensively, too. Brilyn Lantz led the charge with 16 points, making two 3-pointers and going 8 of 14 from the free-throw line.

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