JERSEYVILLE — They valiantly tried to unseat defending champion Calhoun on Tuesday in the Jersey Holiday Girls' Basketball Tournament.
Yet the Civic Memorial Eagles finished three points shy of that task at Havens Gym.
The top-seeded Warriors fended off the Eagles, 54-51, in Pool B play to put themselves in position for Wednesday’s tourney championship. It pits 13-1 Calhoun against 14-3 Southwestern for the title at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Piasa Birds bested Carrollton 60-36 late Tuesday.
CM, which slipped to 8-6, plays Collinsville at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the third-place game.
“We have to keep moving forward,” CM coach Jonathan Denney said after the Eagles’ narrow loss. “We want to come out of this tourney 3-1.”
The Eagles had an opportunity for their third Jersey tournament win in two days after they furiously rallied against Calhoun. The Warriors, who once led 20-7, saw their lead dwindle to 54-52 with 1:10 remaining in the game.
Calhoun, however, wouldn’t relinquish the lead. Grace Baalman sank two free throws to make it 54-50 and the Eagles could manage only Kaylee Eaton’s free throw with 21.5 seconds to play.
Coach Aaron Baalman said the Warriors dodged a big bullet.
“The girls did a great job overall, though we tried to give it away at the end of the game,” he said. “It wasn’t pretty at the end.”
Emma Baalman kept Calhoun looking pretty. The 6-foot-1 senior scored a team-best 16 points and snagged 19 rebounds. Teammates Kassidy Klocke and Grace Baalman contributed 10 points apiece. In addition, the Warriors’ reserves produced 18 points.
“Emma had a big game, but this game was won by our guards,” Aaron Baalman said. “We’ve been saying all year that we have six guards and they all contribute for us. Sydney White (eight points) and Jordan Holland (seven points) are excellent guards.”
Denney pointed, “I’ve always been a big fan of Emma and she had a great game.”
Allie Troeckler of CM tallied a game-high 19 points. Alaira Tyus and reserve Kalyn Troxell both punched in 11 points. Tyus connected on a trio of treys, Troeckler made 8 of 14 shots and Troxell hit 5 of 9 field-goal attempts.
“Kalyn did a nice job, she hit some shots, was active and played with confidence,” Denney said. “We just came up a little bit short.”
A sluggish start hampered the Eagles. They missed their first 10 shots and trailed 13-4 after the first quarter. Calhoun led 28-19 at half and 45-34 after three quarters. The Warriors led 48-35 with 5:35 remaining in the game, then the Eagles began their comeback push.
“It was a great comeback because we were 13 points down and got it to within 2 points,” Denney said. “I was proud of that. If we just could have made a couple of more shots, it could have been a different game. We missed a ton of shots, especially early in the game.”
CM connected on 21 of 64 shots, or 33 percent. The Eagles were 2 of 16 from the field in the first quarter and 9 of 32 at half. Calhoun sank 21 of 53 shots, though just 8 of 17 free throws. CM made 6 of 11 foul shots.
“We needed to make more shots in the first half,” Denney said. “It’s another close loss, but this time we came back on the other team instead of them coming back on us. So I feel that we’ve turned the corner, even if we lost.”
He added, “We got back into it. The problem was that we started hitting our shots, but it was a little too late.”
Baalman was glad to get the Warriors back into the title game.
“CM has a heck of a club,” he said. “They pushed us and we haven’t been pushed like that since Thanksgiving week.”
Calhoun's lone loss this season was on the road at Class 4A power Quincy Notre Dame.
CALHOUN 54, CM 51
CM 4 15 15 17 — 51
Calhoun 13 15 17 9 — 54
CM (8-6) — Allie Troeckler 19, Journey Coffman 2, Katelyn Turbyfill 5, Alaira Tyus 11, Kalyn Troxell 11, Kaylee Eaton 3. 2FG-18 3FG-3 FT-6 PF-17
Calhoun (12-1) — Emma Baalman 16, Kassidy Klocke 10, Grace Baalman 10, Sydney White 8, Jordan Holland 7, Courtney Holland 3. 2FG-17 3FG-4 FT-8 PF-14