CSE notches record-tying 30th victory in 62-26 sectional semifinal blowout of Staunton


Central-Southeastern's Tori Fessler, right, defends Staunton's Ele Feldmann during Tuesday night's Class 2A girls basketball sectional semifinal game at Pleasant Plains High School. | David Adam

PLEASANT PLAINS, Ill. — Well, that didn’t take very long.

Central-Southeastern had all but secured a Class 2A girls basketball sectional semifinal victory over Staunton before some patrons had found their seats Tuesday night at Pleasant Plains High School.

CSE scored the first 18 points of the game, which quickly turned the contest into a yawner. The Panthers went on to win 62-26, completing a sectional championship matchup most have anticipated for the last few weeks.

CSE, ranked No. 5 in the state, will meet No. 1 Quincy Notre Dame at 7 p.m. Thursday. QND walloped Hillsboro 67-30 in the game preceding CSE’s equally one-sided victory.

“I’m excited,” CSE junior forward Parker Crim said of the pairing. “Staying focused will be important.”

Lauren Miller’s 15 points, plus 12 from Abbey McMillen and 10 from Brilyn Lantz, triggered CSE’s potent offense. The Panthers also received eight points apiece from Crim and Karly Peters en route to raising their record to 30-4, tying the school record for victories established during the 2016-17 season.

Moments after his club’s decisive victory, CSE coach Matt Long’s thoughts were already turning toward Notre Dame (32-1), which won its 25th straight game.

“QND is as good of a team as I have seen,” said Long, completing his 30th season as the Panthers’ coach. “They’ve got three girls — Abbey Schreacke, Blair Eftink and Sage Stratton — who would all probably be all-state if they weren’t all on the same team.”

Long joked about the quick turnaround that will be needed for the QND game.

“It looks like another sleepless night in Camp Point,” he said.

Long planned to begin preparation for Thursday shortly after the team arrived back home late Tuesday night.

CSE has won 11 of its last 12 games. A 48-47 loss to Unity on Feb. 9 is the lone blemish in that stretch. The Panthers will be facing Notre Dame for a second time this season. QND handed them a 47-33 defeat in late November.

Notre Dame coach Eric Orne has the utmost of respect for the CSE program.

“Central-Southeastern can beat anyone,” Orne said after his team’s game. “This will be a great game of emotions. Both teams know one another, and both will be hungry. We’re going to have a battle on our hands.”

Long likes where his club is now.

“I think we’ve improved a lot since that first time we played QND — and, of course, they have, too — but I think our kids have grown up a lot since that first game,” Long said.

Especially on defense.

In three tournament games, CSE has allowed an average of 29.7 points. The Panthers have held 15 opponents below 30 points this season.

“We’ve worked a lot on our defense,” McMillen said. “We’re getting where we need to be (defensively).”

CSE’s 18-0 burst during the first six minutes against Staunton (26-7) was highlighted by a defense that forced five turnovers and smothered the Bulldogs’ attempts at an inside attack. CSE forced 20 turnovers during the game.

McMillen felt CSE remained sharp against Staunton, even with the big league it held throughout the game, The Suns led at the quarter breaks 23-6, 40-15 and 56-20. The entire fourth quarter was played with a running clock.

“We kept focused, and we did not let down,” McMillen said.

Crim says the club’s defense is not a finished product.

‘”Our defense (remains) a work in progress,” said Crim, whose five rebounds tied her for team honors with Miller and Tori Fessler. “We still haven’t played our best game.”

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