February 12, 2020Saturday night the Crawford County Lady Pack saw their season come to an abrupt end as the Eastern (Pekin) Lady Musketeers nosed out the Lady Pack by a score of 39-36 in the championship round of the Providence sectional. After the game, Crawford County coach Chris Broughton stood on the Providence High School balcony looking out over Eastern's celebrating crowd. It was obvious what he was thinking: "That should be us."
"It's pretty hard to watch them climb the ladder and cut the nets down because that's the one moment I wanted for this team," said a disappointed Broughton following the loss. "I wanted to be able to stand at the bottom of that ladder and watch all of our kids cut the net down ... That's the way it goes sometimes. They're a good team, and we just couldn't get it done."
Crawford junior Treasure Nickelson works the baseline against Eastern in the final round of the Providence sectional. Photos by Wade Bell
It was obvious it was going to be a war from the very beginning. Both teams hit three of their field goals in the first quarter with the lead going back and forth. By the end of the first eight minutes, Crawford County had the slight edge, 9-7.
In the second quarter, it was more of the same with both teams again hitting three shots from the field. Crawford County continued to have the advantage, but Eastern led briefly when Isabell Claywell drilled a three. Autumn Schigur answered with a deuce to start a 6-0 run to lead 17-14. Claywell scored in the paint to end the half, and the Lady Pack had a 17-15 edge at halftime.
"I told our kids before the game when you step out on the floor, you've got to make them look you in the eye and you have to show them that if you get knocked down, you're going to get back up," said Broughton. "If things don't go our way, we're going to keep battling. I thought we did a good job of doing that, not backing down and being the aggressor and going at them and getting them in foul trouble. It was just a bounce here or there."
The ball bounced in Eastern's favor to begin the second half with the Lady Musketeers scoring the first seven points of the third period for a 22-17 lead. Treasure Nickelson and Sarah Stutzman saw their seven and responded with six for a 23-22 Crawford County edge. The two teams traded baskets, then at the end Taylor Herbaugh blocked an Eastern shot, leaving Crawford County up front with one quarter left.
Two minutes into the fourth quarter Brooke Elliott drilled a Crawford County three pushing the Lady Pack advantage to four, 28-24. Eastern countered with three free throws to close the gap to one. Crawford County called a quick timeout. After the break, Elliott and Nickelson cashed in four free throws for another five-point advantage.
The next run went back to the Lady Musketeers, who cashed in four freebies, and Shelbi Patton added a deuce for good measure as Eastern took back the lead once again with 2:40 left in the game.
With both sides of the floor raising the decibel levels, Lexie Fraime drained a three from the right side to put Crawford County back in front by two, 35-33. Elliott drew her fourth foul with 1:09 left, and Patton hit both from the stripe to tie the game at 35. Just under a minute later, Nickelson was called for her fourth and Kendra Sill sank both of hers, giving the Lady Musketeers a 37-35 edge.
Eastern called timeout with 15.7 seconds left in the game. Elliott got a chance to even things up from an Eastern foul. Crawford County put in the first free throw but had the second bounce off the rim. Following a timeout, Stutzman was called for her fifth and Sill sank both, giving Eastern a 39-36 edge.
Crawford County called timeout with 2.2 seconds left. After the break, the Lady Pack got off two passes into the hands of Elliott, who let fly from left center court. The ball was on track but bounced off the front of the rim, giving Eastern the championship by the three-point margin.
"Anybody could look back on a play or two here or there," said Broughton. "That just happened to come at the end of the game. She (Elliott) can't beat herself up. I thought she played a great game, especially on defense. Brooke is not known for her defense, but she did an excellent job there. She played a really good game. She has nothing to hang her head about. I'm just proud of how she finished out."
"They made some big free throws," Broughton said of Eastern. "They were down two and made two free throws then they made two free throws to go ahead. We can always look back and say this or that about our free throws, but there's so many plays throughout the game that could have went either way. You can't look at one free throw here or there."
"I'm just so proud of how the kids fought and the way they played," he said. "Give credit to them; they left it all out there. Give credit to our kids for digging in. I'm just really proud of them. I'm standing here losing in the sectional final, and I could not be more proud of a team that I've ever coached."
Crawford County coach Chris Broughton draws up a play for his team in the fourth quarter of the sectional championship game against Eastern.
Nickelson led the Lady Pack with 16 points, and Elliott finished with 10 for the night. Crawford County hit 12 of 31 field goals (39%) and 7 of 12 free throws. The Lady Pack had 12 turnovers for the game.
"We had the lead with a minute to go and were right there," said Broughton. "That's the way it goes sometimes. They're a good basketball team, and we knew we were going to have to beat them. There were a couple of plays here or there where the ball just didn't bounce our way."
Claywell and Patton led the Lady Musketeers with 10 points each. Eastern connected on 11 of 26 field goals (42%) and 17 of 22 from the charity stripe. The Lady Musketeers had 15 turnovers for the game.
"They were in a little more foul trouble than what were we were in," said Crawford County's coach. "(Lily) Crumpton fouled out there at the end. She was in foul trouble the whole first half, and we just weren't able to capitalize on that as much as I would like to."
Crawford County will graduate three senior starters but has a solid core group returning next season.
"They're tremendous," Broughton said of his upperclassmen. "I thought when Lexie Fraime hit that three with a minute-20 to go ... I thought that was the big play right there.
"Gabi, excellent defense; Brooke played excellent; Leann, this week was about her," he said. "It's just a tremendous senior group. Nobody expected them to be here and, for them to get back here and to have the lead with a minute to go says a lot about their senior leadership and the leadership that they showed."
"You've got to look back and feel good," he said. "We won 20 games and won the conference and won the Corydon tournament. This one is going to hurt for a long time, but we'll be better because of it. We're going to be right back here next year, and we're going to be in the same game, in the same atmosphere. We'll come out on top because we're going to work harder in the off season. We've got a good nucleus coming back, and we're going to get it done one of these times."
Eastern Pekin 7 8 9 15 - 39
Crawford County 9 8 8 11 - 36
Eastern Pekin - Claywell 10, Patton 10, Sill 8, Crumpton 5, Ky. McKinley 4, Graves 2.
Crawford County - Nickelson 16, Elliott 10, Stutzman 5, Fraime 3, Schigur 2.
3-pointers - Eastern Pekin 2 (Claywell 1, Sill 1); Crawford County 3 (Elliott 1, Fraime 1, Stutzman 1).