BLOOMINGTON – Same time, next year.
For the second year in a row, Moline High School eliminated Minooka from state playoffs.
This time, Moline held off a late rally to post a 36-29 victory at the Class 4A Bloomington Sectional. A year ago, Moline ended Minooka’s finest season to date, handing the Indians a 42-38 Class 4A Normal Community Sectional semifinal loss.
Moline (20-12) takes on Edwardsville (30-1) for the Bloomington Sectional championship at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Minooka, which made just 9 of 24 shots, ends the season 13-17.
“We came out tight and tried to do things individually instead of as a team,” Minooka coach Ray Liberatore said. “But, we came back and that was key. We did some nice things to get back into it.”
Both teams struggled from the tip.
Moline scored on its first trip and it stayed that way through the first half of the first quarter.
Moline’s 1-2-2 zone defense stymied Minooka’s offense, taking away 6-foot-1 senior Ashley Clemmons. The Indians missed their first seven shots. Sydney Lilly’s 18-foot jumper from the wing cut the lead the lead to 3-2 with 1:35 to play in the first.
Moline took a 5-4 lead after a sluggish first quarter for both teams.
Clemmons’ free throw 47 seconds into the second quarter tied the game at 5-5. Moline scored the final seven points of the quarter to take a 12-5 lead into the intermission.
Karli Carter’s jumper from Ann Marie Bachmann 30 seconds into the third quarter made it 12-7 Moline.
A 9-0 Moline run gave the Maroons a 21-7 lead at 4:59 of the third quarter.
A 9-0 run by Minooka, capped by a layup from Clemmons, cut the lead to 21-16 with 1:45 left in the third. Moline closed the quarter with five straight points to push its lead to 26-16 heading into the fourth quarter.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Lilly and Placher pulled the home team on the scoreboard to within 41-37 with 3:11 remaining in regulation. However, Minooka turned it over on back-to-back possessions.
“We came in her underestimating what they could do,” Clemmons said. “We saw film on them and thought we could beat them.”
“Twice we got a rebound in a four-point game and twice didn’t get the ball past half court,” Liberatore said. “You can’t turn the ball over, especially at that time of the game.”
“We just panicked,” Clemmons said.
Clemmons was the lone Indian to reach double figures with 10 points. Lilly added eight points.
“We knew what they were going to do, we just weren’t used to a slow-paced game,” Clemmons said. “Our inside game wasn’t working. They couldn’t get me the ball and I couldn’t get open. They were holding me, but I could have done better.”