BETHALTO — The closing stretch of the Civic Memorial girls’ basketball game Monday was far from what longtime Eagles’ coach Jonathan Denney envisioned.
He watched the visiting Triad Knights overhaul the Eagles, 45-41, in a key Mississippi Valley Conference contest. The surging Knights improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Valley. The Eagles sank to 3-4 and 1-1.
“We’re not finishing games the right way,” Denney said. “We’ve had a lead late in three or four games that we haven’t been able to finish.
“This is the kind of game that we won last year. Now, we’re playing 27 minutes against some teams and they are playing 32 minutes against us.”
The Eagles led 40-35 midway through the third quarter, then saw the Knights use a 9-0 spree to grab the lead for good. Triad forged ahead 44-40 in the final minute and hung on for another major victory.
“We’ve had three big conference wins in seven days,” said third-year Triad coach Josh Hunt, also pointing to MVC victories over Mascoutah and Highland. The Knights win over arch-rival Highland came at home, while the other two were on the road.
He added, “We beat a really good team tonight on their court. This win is huge.”
Solid free throw shooting and sound defense spurred the Knights, who have improved by leaps and bounds in a short time. Three years ago, they didn’t win a game. Now, they refuse to lose.
“We never give up,” Knights’ senior guard Sophie Thompson said.
They made 15 of 19 foul shots, including 10 in succession in the second half, to overtake the Eagles. Triad’s defense frustrated CM’s attack at times, though Allie Troeckler led the Eagles with 17 points.
However, after Troeckler tabulated seven points in the first quarter, she couldn’t get a shot in the second one. Triad led 20-18 at half.
“Troeckler’s a handful. She’s a stud,” Hunt said. “And they also have good shooters around her. You have to figure out what to give up against them."
All figured, Troeckler made 7 of 11 shots and hit three consecutive ones early in the third quarter as CM gained its 27-20 advantage. A 9-0 binge enabled the Eagles to build that seven-point lead. The remainder of the Eagles were 9-for-29 in an overall 16-for-40 shooting performance. CM was 4 of 8 on its free throws.
“It’s frustrating because I thought we had the girls prepared well, but we aren’t finishing the deal,” Denney said. “We handed it to them (Knights) on a silver platter. It’s disappointing when you have the lead late in the game and can’t close it out.
“We weren’t making the plays when we needed to make them.”
Journey Coffman and Kaylee Eaton both had seven points to complement Troeckler’s scoring. Coffman hit a pair of treys and Eaton recorded a 3-pointer.
Abby Burroughs, a 6-foot-1 senior forward, stirred Triad’s attack. She scored a team-best 15 points and sank a pair of treys in the first quarter. Burroughs made 6 of 10 shots for the night.
Teammate Sam Woods pitched in 11 points, thanks to 5-for-6 shooting from the foul line. Thompson netted nine points and Hannah Johnson had seven points.
“We battled a lot of adversity and cleaned up our rebounding after the first quarter,” Hunt said. “CM was physical and limited what we could do.”
Yet the Knights got it done and now sit alone atop the Valley standings. What’s their most satisfying win thus far?
“All three of them tie for No. 1,” Hunt quipped. “It’s huge to start 3-0 in the conference.”
CM is idle until Thursday when the Knights have a nonconference game at Breese Mater Dei. The Eagles are also scheduled to play Saturday at Taylorville. They will resumes Valley play on Thursday, Dec. 17 when Highland comes to Bethalto.
TRIAD 45, CM 41
Triad 13 7 11 14 — 45
CM 9 9 13 10 — 41
Triad (4-1, 3-0) — Sophie Thompson 9, Sam Woods 11, Abby Burroughs 15, Samantha Bassler 3, Heather Johnson 7. 2FG-9 3FG-4 FT-15 PF-12
CM (3-4, 1-1) — Allie Troeckler 17, Katelyn Turbyfill 5, Alaira Tyus 3, Journey Coffman 7, Izzy Buckley 2, Kaylee Eaton 7. 2FG-11 3FG-5 FT-4 PF-18