February 15, 2012After holding their own in the first half, the Crawford County Lady Pack succumbed to host Eastern (Pekin) Friday night in the semi-final round of the Class 2A Sectional 46. The Lady Musketeers proved to be too much to handle as they cruised to the 62-39 win.
"The one thing that would have bothered me tonight is losing this game because of lack of effort, a lack of confidence or a lack of focus," Crawford County coach Alan Cox said. "The girls really made me proud tonight."
"We knew Eastern was a better team, knowing they've got some really good players," he said. "We knew a lot of things would have to fall in place for us to win this game tonight. But the one thing I really liked is, I really and truly felt like we were going to win tonight. I think our girls did, too. They really and truly felt we were going to win this basketball game."
Crawford County’s Chelsea Jellison, here driving against Eastern’s Emily Newcomb, had 21 points against the Lady Musketeers, but it wasn’t enough as the Lady Pack suffered a 62-39 loss. Photo by Wade Bell
Crawford County let Eastern know it had come to more than just play the game as Chelsea Jellison canned the first two buckets of the opening period. Mary Bolin later cashed in a pair of free throws, and the Lady Pack led 7-3.
Eastern's Kayln Rodewig got a pair of freebies and teammate Katie Ernstberger swished a three-ball for a Lady Musketeer lead. Arianna Qualters, however, got two from the charity for Crawford County, who held an 11-10 edge after one quarter.
"Our game plan was to go up to (Jocelyn) Mousty and get her in foul trouble early," said Cox, who got his wish when the 6-3 senior drew her second foul with 2:36 to go in the quarter. "That worked. Our game plan was to be aggressive. The one thing we talked about all week was we wanted to come up here and be the ones to make it happen, not wait for it to happen. Our girls did do that."
Eastern took the lead to start the second period and pushed to a 20-12 advantage. Crawford County made some gains late in the period as Jellison got a deuce-and-one and Zoie Hensley got two from the stripe, but the Lady Pack were down six at halftime, 23-17.
Cox said he wanted his team's defense to focus on Eastern's top scorers, Mousty and Krista Roberts.
"We didn't want them beating us," he said. "We were going to make somebody else beat us. We already decided on that 10 days ago. … My worst nightmare was to come up here and some of those kids we weren't going to guard on the perimeter were going to knock shots down. The first four or five minutes of the game, they didn't. … We knew we had to keep it close. Once that lead got up to 10 or 12, those kids become shooters and they're shooting with confidence."
One of those who did become a shooter was Donelle Rogers who lit up Crawford County in the third quarter with four three-pointers. That was part of a 16-5 run that the Lady Musketeers made in the first four minutes of the period for a 39-22 lead. Crawford County responded with a 7-1 burst to try to stay in the game.
The last quarter, however, was all Eastern as Crawford County found itself in foul trouble, including Jellison, who picked up her fourth. The Lady Musketeers outscored the Lady Pack 21-10 in the period, going on to the 62-39 win and ending Crawford County's season.
"We were the underdog in this game, and there's no doubt," Cox said. "We knew it, but we didn't back down from it. Our kids really played hard. We played physical. Again, some things just didn't go our way. … Eastern is bigger than us and physical. That probably went against us a little bit."
Jellison finished her career with a game-high 21 points. The Lady Pack (7-15) connected on 10 of 33 field-goal attempts (30 percent) and 13 of 23 free throws. Crawford County had 26 turnovers for the 32 minutes.
"Offensively, we had a little easier time getting some shots than I thought we would," Cox said. "That was one of the many things we knew would have to happen. We had to shoot well. That didn't happen."
Mousty and Roberts led Eastern (21-2) with 14 points each, and Rogers followed with 12. The Lady Musketeers connected on 17 of 49 field-goal attempts (35 percent) and 16 of 21 free throws. Eastern turned the ball over 16 times.
While Crawford County's record wasn't what it had hoped for, Cox said his team came together in the second half of the season.
"I thought this team peaked at the right time," he said. "I felt like our last few games we've played much better. The thing about this group is they care about each other, probably as much or more than any team I've coached."
The Lady Pack will lose four seniors to graduation.
"Arianna, the thing I'm proud about her, she had two choices. She could just pout about it and give up her spot and not work hard, but she didn't choose to do that," Cox said. "She battled through that and worked her way back in the starting lineup.
"Chelsea, what can you say about Chelsea, the career she's had? I wish we could have finished a little better for her and got her a sectional. She's really matured as a player."
"Brittany Smith I would have loved to have had her play all four years," Cox said. "She wasn't timid about things. She picked things up real quick. I'm thrilled to death she got to play for me.
"Mary Bolin, nobody plays any harder than Mary Bolin. She's been a joy to coach for four years."
"I just love all their attitudes and personalities," Cox said. "That's what makes it fun. They're fun to be around, and they make our job a whole lot easier. They all have good parents, and that makes our job easier."