HILLSBORO – Ashlyn Ringhausen put the Southwestern Piasa Birds regional basketball championship in proper perspective Thursday night.
“It feels awesome,” the 5-foot-6 junior guard exclaimed.
No wonder. Southwestern defeated Hillsboro 45-34 to win the Hiltoppers 2A Regional title and claim a berth in the Carlinville Sectional.
The Piasa Birds, now 26-2, face Riverton at 8 p.m. Monday at Carlinville. It’s Pana pitted against the Camp Point Central-Pleasant Plains winner at 6 p.m. Monday. Plains meets Camp Point at 7 tonight for a regional championship.
“I like our chances in the sectional,” said Ringhausen, who tallied nine points. Sophomore teammate Maddy Greeling led the Piasa Birds with 15 points.
Greeling added, “It was really important for us to win it and it feels good.”
Southwestern snared its 11th regional championship in the past 17 years, but it’s the Piasa Birds' first since 2011.
“Winning a regional is always one of our goals,” Southwestern coach Steve Wooley said. “The players have worked hard and they capped off the regional with a championship. I hope they are hungry and want to do more.”
Greeling jump-started the Piasa Birds by scoring eight of her points in the first quarter. Two of the baskets came on steals as Southwestern built a 14-4 lead. The Birds led 19-11 at half and stretched it to 34-20 after three quarters. A 10-0 spree did the trick.
Hillsboro responded with a pair of treys to start the fourth quarter, but Southwestern used another 10-point burst to put the game out of reach.
Carly Cameron, a 6-foot sophomore, paced the Hiltoppers with a game-best 17 points, yet that accounted for half of her team’s points. Hillsboro made only 14 of 41 shots, including 9 of 32 field-goal attempts through the first three quarters.
“Southwestern is fundamentally sound and we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Hillsboro coach Bret Tuetken said. He hoped the Hiltoppers, who rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat Litchfield in Wednesday’s semifinals, would strike late again.
However, the Piasa Birds had other ideas. They refused to buckle or relinquish their lead.
“You can’t get easy buckets against them, so that’s why it’s important to stay with them early in the game,” Tuetken said. “When they get the lead, it’s really tough to come back on them.”
Erin Laubscher, Kelsey Rhoades and Karlie Green each pitched in six points to complement the scoring of Greeling and Ringhausen. Southwestern made 16 of 35 shots, with Greeling hitting 7 of 12 from the floor.
“We did a good job of taking the ball to the hole,” Wooley said.
Nevertheless, it was defense that spurred the Piasa Birds. They have won six in succession and 12 of their last 13 games.
“Our strength is our defensive pressure,” Greeling said. “We have to work as a team to rotate with our defense.”
Ringhausen said, “Our defense did a good job.”
Cameron made 8 of 13 shots for 16-13 Hillsboro, but the remaining Hiltoppers were a mere 6 of 28 with their shooting.
HILLSBORO CLASS 2A REGIONAL
SOUTHWESTERN 45, HILLSBORO 34
Hillsboro 4 7 9 14 – 34
Southwestern 14 5 15 11 – 45
Hillsboro (16-13) – White 3, Hobbie 2, Deluka 6, Halleman 6, Cameron 17. 2FG-10 3FG-4 FT-2 PF-13
Southwestern (26-2) – Greeling 15, Ringhausen 9, Heyen 3, Laubscher 6, Rhoades 6, Green 6. 2FG-12 3FG-4 FT9 PF-8