WELLMAN — It is hard to win a girls basketball game when a team makes just three field goals in the first half and the other team drains six with five of them 3-pointers.
Mid-Prairie overcame that first half to win a Class 3A Region 5 quarterfinal Saturday over Mt. Vernon, 48-42, despite trailing 6-4 after the first quarter and 20-17 at halftime.
“They would’ve only had 11 points if that girl hadn’t made all those threes,” MP coach Stephen Bender said. “They were real physical, so we got some free throws.”
Mid-Prairie hit 9 of 12 free throws in the first half.
“Coming out at half time, we knew we had to start playing better on defense,” Mid-Prairie senior Kessa Jones said. “We did not expect them to shoot that well. They played their hearts out. The third quarter had me worried, but I thought we did better in the fourth quarter.”
Mt. Vernon shot 26.8 percent from 3-point land on the season, but canned 8 of 19 for 42 percent Saturday. The percentage went down as the Mustangs jacked up threes in the fourth quarter to catch up.
The Golden Hawks opened the second half on a 7-2 run. The game was tied at 28 after three periods. They started the fourth quarter on a 7-3 run.
“We started running off of screens more,” Jones said. “We pulled the ball out to slow things down more. We wanted time to tick off, but we wanted to keep our composure.”
Shae Becker finished with a game-high 15 points for Mid-Prairie, but had five points at halftime as the Mustangs were determined to not let her shoot.
“They are very aggressive on defense,” Bender said. “They like to double the post. They will even double the wing. I’m just glad our girls were able to execute to get the win.”
Bender eventually changed his offense in the third quarter to free up Becker, who had five assists and six rebounds in the game.
“Once we did that, we got some lay-ups by Maddie (Nonnenmann) and hit some open threes,” Bender said.
Caitlyn Riggan hit two of her three triples in the second half and finished with 11 points. Nonnenmann had eight points and eight rebounds.
With the score tied at 40, Becker was fouled with 1 minute, 5 seconds left and sent to the line for a one and one. Bender called timeout.
“A lot of coaches don’t like to do that because they think that it ices the player,” Mid-Prairie’s coach said. “What I told Shae was, I called the timeout for you to catch your breath. As tired as we were, I wanted her to get some rest before she shot. The first one rolled around and went in and she hit the second one. That was huge.”
Becker hit another two free throws 20 seconds later, but the Mustangs called time after a made field goal got them within 44-42 with 29.7 seconds left.
An intense defense let Jones run long and haul in a pass for an easy two points.
“We ran our slip play and Kessa knocked down that layup,” Bender said. “That play has worked pretty much every time we have ran it this year. I’m extremely proud of the girls. Everyone stepped out. As good of a defensive team as that is, most teams don’t score on them. I think the average they give up is 31. To score 48 on them makes me really proud of the girls.”
Mid-Prairie is 12-9 and now gets to face Center Point-Urbana for the third time in the last four years, that includes a 48-43 loss at the state tournament in 2016. CPU is ranked third with a 19-2 record. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Center Point.