JERSEYVILLE — Head coach Jonathan Denney and the Civic Memorial Eagles knew the Class 3A Jersey Regional was going to be a whopper of a test.
They passed the first round with flying colors.
The Eagles knocked off Breese Mater Dei 54-39 in the semifinals of the Jersey Regional Wednesday, advancing to battle Highland at 7 p.m. Thursday in the regional finale. Highland topped Triad 50-34 in the early game Wednesday in Jerseyville. Thursday will mark the fourth meeting between the Eagles and the Bulldogs. Highland is 3-0 in the previous meetings.
CM improved to 24-6 with the victory Wednesday, while Mater Dei concluded its season at 19-9.
In a contest knotted at 30-30 with 1:09 to go in the third quarter, the Eagles responded with a 15-2 run to take a comfortable 45-32 lead and never looked back.
“These girls worked their butts off the last four or five nights,” Denney said of the Eagles. “We had to miss practice because of weather a couple weeks ago, but they were ready to go. When you're talking about a young team like this a lot of people ask me, 'Are they ready?' And I'll say, 'I'll have to let you know after the game.' When I've thought they've been ready they haven't and when I thought maybe we weren't ready they've played some of their best games. Tonight we prepared and it showed and they executed the game plan pretty dang good.”
Mater Dei head coach Dave Kohnen wasn't displeased with how his Knights played Wednesday, he simply thought CM played better.
“They are really well coached. Coach Denney really prepared his kids well and they did a good job,” Kohnen said. “I thought our kids did a good job, too. It was a great ball game and then they got a little separation and we couldn't hit some shots and they hit. In a game like this a seven-point separation widens real quick because you have to do things you didn't really want to do.”
Tied 12-12 after one quarter and the Eagles clinging to a 27-24 edge at the break saw the game at a 30-30 stalemate midway through the third quarter. That's when CM's sophomore sensation stepped out and buried a 3-pointer, sparking the 15-2 run for the Eagles.
“We gave a little room there and she hit it,” Kohnen said. “And she had 17 at the half and she finished with 30. She's just an amazing player. She's a handful.”
Troeckler admitted perfecting a long-range jumper is something she's been polishing for her already potent arsenal.
“I've been working on my 3s both in practice and in games,” Troeckler said. “If it's open I'll take it and they left me open for it.”
Troeckler scored another basket, giving the Eagles a 35-30 lead after three quarters, but Denney was quick to point out it was more than just his sophomore star burying shots Wednesday. Freshman Alaira Tyus stepped out and sank a trey to open the fourth quarter, which looked to be a spark for CM as well.
“When (Troeckler) gets on the perimeter she's really been stepping in and looking for that outside shot,” said Denney. “She hit a couple big ones tonight as did Alaira Tyus I thought.”
The fourth quarter really opened up for the Eagles. Another 3-pointer by Troeckler at 6:10 elevated CM's lead to double digits for the first time at 41-31. The lead extended to 15 points on a pair of Troeckler free throws with 1:49 to go, leading to the final of 54-39.
Tyus joined Troeckler in double figures with 10 points, while Elizabeth Buckley chipped in seven off the bench, Katelyn Turbyfill had six and Cassie Hall netted one point.
Lauren Donnewald paced the Knights with 14 points. Chloe Beckman complemented her with 12 points.
Now the Eagles will prepare for Highland, a squad they are 0-3 against on the season. Denney hopes the fourth time is the charm.
“We played them four times last year and went 3-1. We're 0-3 right now, maybe this is our time,” Denney said. “It's going to take a great effort. They are a great team and they're well coached. They have some seniors that have been through some battles the last two or three years and a great point guard in (Amanda) Ponce. It's going to take something special, but I think these girls are looking forward to that challenge.”
Troeckler added, “We can beat them. We'll have our hands full, but play a good game and we can win.”
CLASS 3A JERSEY REGIONAL
CM 54, MATER DEI 39
Mater Dei 12 12 6 9 — 39
CM 12 15 8 19 — 54
CM (24-6) — Allie Troeckler 30, Alaira Tyus 10, Katelyn Turbyfill 6, Elizabeth Buckley 7, Cassie Hall 1. 2PT — 12 3PT — 4 FT — 18 PF — 14
MATER DEI — Chloe Beckman 12, Grace Chiarolanza 2, Olivia Theising 7, Lauren Donnewald 14, Logan Brandmeier 1, Kelsey Gerdes 3. 2PT — 7 3FG — 5 FT — 10 PF — 20