FARINA —The Tri-County Titans combined a tough defense and clutch free throw shooting in the final minutes of the game to down Okawville 57-50 in the Farina South Central Super-sectional …
FARINA —The Tri-County Titans combined a tough defense and clutch free throw shooting in the final minutes of the game to down Okawville 57-50 in the Farina South Central Super-sectional Monday, Feb. 24.
The victory earns the Titans their second consecutive trip to the IHSA Class 1A Final Four this weekend at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University. The Titans will play a familiar foe — Lanark Eastland — who they faced in last year in the state finals. Lanark defeated Chicago Hope Academy 77-38 Monday in the Streamwood Super-sectional.
Persistence. Pride. Work ethic. Commitment.
Those four words can describe what the Tri-County Titans girls basketball has established in the past four seasons including earning a fourth place finish in the 2019 Class 1A state tourney.
Going into this season, Coach Joe Morrisey had to figure out how to fill in four starting spots from graduating senior and live up to the pressure of last year's performance.
What TCT has done is not only win both the Lincoln Prairie Conference regular season and tournament titles — but win their fourth straight regional title and second straight sectional title heading into Monday night's Farina South Central Super-Sectional contest against the Okawville Rockets.
Both teams were full of youth and athleticism and had played tough and formidable schedules to prepare for this kind of moment.
With a near capacity crowd on hand and a berth in the IHSA Class 1A State Finals on the line, fTri-County’s players wanted to make the magic happen once again.
In the end, the magic came at the right time.
A strong display of ball handling plus a change in their defensive strategy along with more clutch free throw shooting propelled the Titans to a 57-50 win to punch their ticket to Redbird Arena for the second straight year.
After Okawville got up to an early 2-1 lead in the opening stanza, Tri-County went on a 9-0 run including five points each from the duo of Bella Dudley and Tayler Barry to go up 10-2. The Rockets responded moving the ball well against the Titans 1-3-1 zone getting points inside the paint as Delaney Toensing scored four of Okawville's eight points.
At the end of the first quarter, the Titans led 13-8.
Barry continued to go to work in the second quarter turning defense into offense and scoring 11 points. The Titans also got a boost from third guard as Melia Eskew who got into the swing of things by chipping in five points as Tri-County finished with 17. Okawville tried to counter with some more even ball distribution to the tune of 13 points but it wasn’t enough. Tri-County Titans took a 30-21 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
The Titans continued to go to Barry and Eskew in the third quarter as both players used strong dribble penetration to get looks in the lane. Barry added six more points and Eskew contributed four.
Tri-County got a shot in arm from Lillie Cox who added four points in the paint as part of a 16 point quarter.
The Rockets kept staying pace with the Titans with more even distribution of scoring with 15 points keeping within striking distance of the Titans.
Heading into the final quarter, the Titans led by 10 points — 46-36.
In the final eight minutes, the Titans switched from their 1-3-1 zone to playing man-to-man to counteract the quick cutting and passing of the Rockets.
Morrisey went to a delay offense to run some time off the clock, using great ball handling from Barry, Eskew and Dudley. Okawville was forced to foul.
That decision by the Rockets sent the Titans to the line 11 times, draining nine of them as part of their 11 point quarter.
Okawville did not go quietly, however, getting two three-pointers by Briley Rhodes, including one that cut the TItan lead to 50-46 late in the game.
The Titans got two clutch free throws by Dudley to make it a three possession game, sealing the seven point win and punching Tri-County’s ticket back to the state finals.
The Titans were 18 of 45 overall for 40 percent and 18 of 22 from the line for 81.8 percent. Tayler Barry led all scorers with 25 points while Melia Eskew had 11 and Bella Dudley added nine.
The Rockets were 18 of 50 for 36 percent and 10 of 13 from the line for 76.9 percent. Briley Rhodes had 14 points and Megan Rennegarbe added 10 in the loss.