CARROLLTON - Hannah Niemeier said pressure defense is the trademark of the Civic Memorial High girls’ basketball team.
The Eagles used their swarming guarding to claim a tournament championship and establish a school record Saturday. They stifled Calhoun, 63-30, in the finals of the 40th annual Carrollton Invitational.
CM, now possessing a 25-2 record – the most wins in school history – embraced its first Carrollton title. The Eagles had finished second here three times, including last year.
“It’s really nice to win this championship,” CM coach Jonathan Denney said. “Our defense came out very strong and duplicated the performance we had against them in the Jersey Tournament.”
They won that game 75-42 en route to the Jersey title.
“We frustrated them with our defense and our guards did a great job,” Denney said.
Neimeier, a 5-foot-7 senior guard, was right in the middle of things. She scored 14 points and joined teammates Brittany Zipprich (12 points on four treys) and Lindsey Fencel in spurring the Eagles. Freshman Allie Troeckler also pitched in 10 points as Eagles made 23 of 59 shots.
“It was one of my better games and it might have been my best games,” Neimeier said. “We never had won this tournament before, so we really wanted to win it.”
Yet it was their defense that produced the most impressive numbers. Calhoun made 30 turnovers in scoring just 30 points on 9-for-32 shooting.
“We try to turn our defense into our offense by scoring off our defense,” Neimeier said.
Calhoun coach Aaron Baalman said the Eagles made things happen time and time again.
“They did a great job, so give them all of the credit,” he said. “They had a good game plan and speeded up things against us. We won’t face this kind of pressure again in Class 1A, so we can learn from it.”
Emma Baalman (nine points), Grace Baalman (eight points) and Kassidy Klocke (seven points) led the Warriors. However, Grace Baalman, a 6-2 freshman center, was hampered by foul trouble. She missed much of the second quarter and fouled out with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Host Carrollton defeated Jersey 55-37 in the third-place game and lifted its record to 19-6. The Panthers, falling to the Hawks for the second time this season, are 10-14. Granite City bested Brussels 49-35 for the consolation championship.
“I’m definitely thrilled to get third place,” Carrollton coach Brian Madson said. “Rachel Williams had an unbelievable game for us. She’s a ball magnet and Patsy Coonrod is a ball hawk.”
Williams, a 5-11 junior center, scored a game-best 30 points. Coonrod tossed in 11 more. Lia Roundcount’s nine points led Jersey.
“We had too many turnovers,” Panthers’ coach Stephanie Harris said of the 31 ball-handling mistakes. “It has been a problem all year. We have to learn to execute our offense better.”
Grace and Emma Baalman of Calhoun shared the Most Valuable Player award. CM’s Megan Trost, Fencel and Troeckler were named to the all-tournament team. So were Williams and Coonrod of Carrollton, Macy Thurston of Jersey, LaJarvia Brown and Jordann Wilson of Alton, Abby Porter of Marquette Catholic, Baylee Kiel of Brussels and Abby Lashmett of West Central.
Alton and Marquette Catholic didn’t face each other in the fifth-place final and it’s uncertain whether that game will be played. The Explorers begin regional competition Monday.
CM 63, CALHOUN 30
Calhoun 6 9 10 5 – 30
CM 12 19 19 13 – 63
Calhoun (22-3) – E. Baalman 9, White 2, E. Baalman 8, Klocke 7, Gerson 4. 2FG-8 3FG-1 FT-11 PF-14
CM (25-2) – Ballard 8, Fencel 4, Trost 7, Niemeier 14, Zipprich 12, Troeckler 10, Wieneke 3, Coffman 1, Guetersloh 1, Turbyfill 3. 2FG-17 3FG-6 FT-11 PF-13