BEECHER — Despite only playing two games in the past two weeks, Beecher looked about as good it has all season Tuesday.
The Bobcats’ ball movement was stellar — they finished shots at the rim and showed no signs of any sort of rust. That trio of things led the Bobcats to a comfortable 51-30 victory against Momence in a Class 2A regional semifinal.
“We had some really competitive practices while dealing with the weather, and these girls have completely bought in,” Beecher coach Adam Keen said. “They know what’s in front of them, and they want it.”
The Bobcats’ unselfishness was on full display, as they made 17 shots from the floor and combined for 14 assists, led by four from Margaret Landis in addition to her six points and seven rebounds.
Cierra Welch and Kaylie Sippel also joined the fun with three assists along with game-highs of 14 points and four rebounds apiece.
“These girls know each other so well and mesh perfectly,” Keen said. “They look for another one on the court, and they’re at a point where they realize each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Anyone can score on this team, and we have good ball handlers who can create opportunities for score.”
Freshman forward Rhiannon Saller was the beneficiary of the Bobcats’ early ball movement. She filled the lane and found herself in the right spots that rewarded her with eight first-quarter points.
From that point, the Bobcats continued to pour it on in the paint, where they made five more shots from 10-feet or closer and led 21-6 after the first quarter before cruising the rest of the way.
For Momence, the loss marked not only the end of careers for Mya Keen, Icis Amphy, Brooke Kelly and Alexis Ballard but also the end of the road for longtime coach Kris Holloway.
Holloway, who has been at the helm of the program since 1991, officially coached her final game in Momence red as she is retiring from her post.
“A lot of people thought I’d retire after Matti Lanie graduated after being our leading scorer for the last three years,” Holloway said. “But I told the girls before the year that this would be my final year coaching. Expectations were really low for us, and these girls rose to the challenge.”
While the winning seasons weren’t racking up as much this decade, Momence pieced together a 14-12 season including a 37-36 2A tournament win against rival Central just the night before.
“No one saw 14 wins coming this year,” Holloway said. “I’m beyond proud of this group.”
And it’s games such as that Central contest Holloway will miss the most, alongside interacting with the kids through her love of athletics.
“You don’t get that benefit with most jobs,” Holloway said. “I’ll still have these girls in class, and the bonds we developed will never go away.”
GC-M-S 51, Peotone 37
If three to five of Peotone’s shots would have just fallen, Tuesday’s night cap would have had a much different ending.
But the shooting problems that have plagued the Blue Devils all season had one final act, as their season came to a end at 18-11.
“We’ve been such a streaky team all year, whether its quarter by quarter or game by game,” Peotone coach Steve Strough said. “When we’re on, we’re on. And when we’re off, we’re really off. Tonight, it was an off night.”
GC-M-S wasted no time delivering the first shot to the mouth as it buried four 3-pointers and shot out to a quick 15-4 lead.
However, Peotone managed to absorb the blow and deliver a shot right back with an 11-2 run behind Mae Graffeo and Courtney Burks to cut the lead to one possession.
“GC-M-S put us on our heels early,” Strough said. “But we managed to claw our way back into the thick of things. Our confidence was high, but we couldn’t get that extra basket to put us over the top.”
But a 10-2 run from GC-M-S pushed the lead back up to 27-16 at the half, and that’s the closest the Blue Devils got for the rest of the night.
The Blue Devils return their core players of Burks, Graffeo, McKenna Evans, Sam Gwiazda and Rachel Paw next season but say goodbye to seniors Delaney Kelly, Mandy Massat and Yatzuri Jauregui.
“They’re great people and strong character kids,” Strough said. “They showed up everyday and led by example. It says a lot that they stuck with this for four years; they’ll definitely be missed.
“Hopefully, our core players can take the lessons from this loss and return with a hunger to win again next season.”
Beecher and GC-M-S square off in a Class 2A regional championship Thursday in Beecher.
“We have to continue doing what we did in this game,” Keen said. “Play with energy, pass the ball and make our shots. We have to cause havoc defensively and turn those extra chances into points.”