Pace no issue for Central-Southeastern as Panthers charge past Illini West in semifinals

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Central-Southeastern guard Karly Peters and the Panthers' defense limited Illini West to 26 points in the Panthers' semifinal victory Thursday in the CSE Lady Panther Classic in Camp Point, Ill. | Photo courtesy Mike Pritchard

CAMP POINT, Ill. — If given an option, Central-Southeastern girls basketball coach Matt Long likes his team to get up and down the floor as quickly as possible.

But that personal preference is not any sort of prerequisite for the Panthers to win.

Case in point: CSE’s 37-26 victory over Illini West in Thursday night’s semifinals of the 30th annual Lady Panther Classic.

CSE was able to adapt to Illini West’s deliberate style with minimal problem. Oh, there were a few rough junctures in the early going, but for the majority of the game, especially in the second half, the Panthers not only adapted to a slower game but excelled at it.

“We figured there would be few chances to get out into transition, knowing Illini West prefers to keep the pace slower,” Long said. “And that’s fine. If we can run, great. If not, we can also play at a slower pace.

“If we have our way, we’ll try to dictate tempo. If it’s a slower (style), we’ll just see how it goes.”

On this night, it went quite well.

The Panthers (17-2) managed a 14-13 lead at halftime, then took control in the third quarter when they scored more points (15) than they had during the entire first half. CSE led 29-21 going into the final quarter and was never seriously threatened.

CSE will play Brown County (20-2) in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game. Brown County collected a 47-43 victory against Unity in Thursday’s other semifinal.

Illini West (14-9) and Unity (21-3) will play at 6 p.m. Saturday for third place.

When it comes to offense, the CSE players mirror the mindset of their coach.

“We like a faster style, but we can adapt,” said 5-foot-6 sophomore guard Karly Peters, who led all scorers with 11 points, including a key 3-pointer that helped fuel the Panthers’ 15-8 scoring advantage in the third quarter.

Conversely, both Long and Peters also credited the CSE defense, especially in the second half, as a telling factor.

“We had missed a lot of defensive assignments in the first half,” Long said.

Peters said her coach emphasized at halftime a stronger defensive effort would be required. An improving defense has been a season-long theme, she said.

“Early in the season, our team chemistry and defense needed work,” Peters said. “We’ve improved a lot, but there’s still room for more improvement. Overall, though, we’re in a pretty good spot right now.”

CSE junior guard Brilyn Lantz was the game’s only other double-figure scorer with 10 points. Lantz also led the Panthers in rebounding with five. Sophomore guard Lauren Miller added eight points for the Panthers, hitting all eight of her free throws.

Illini West coach Grant Surprenant felt the slower tempo gave the Chargers their best chance at an upset.

“They like to push the ball, but that was not a pace we wanted,” he said. “We wanted a slower tempo. We wanted to make them have to beat us on the perimeter — and they made some shots.”

Forwards Reagan Reed (7) and Rylee Reed (6), plus guard Elly Krieg (6), combined for 19 of Illini West’s points. Rylee Reed also had five rebounds.

“We’re improving,” Surprenant said. “Effort-wise, we’re where we need to be. Early in the season, we were not.”

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