Crawford finishes a basket short
By Wade Bell, Sports Writer
The Crawford County Lady Pack came into their sectional championship game Saturday night following a strange season full of adversity. The Lady Pack had been in quarantine twice due to COVID-19. They lost their best player, senior Treasure Nickelson, to a season-ending injury. Freshmen and sophomores were having to step up and go against seasoned veterans of juniors and seniors. Needless to say, they were not given much of a chance against a well-seasoned Eastern (Pekin).
One thing the Lady Pack did have was heart, and it almost got them an upset win over the favored host team.
“We knew we were better than what our record says we were,” said Crawford County coach Chris Broughton. “We had a confident belief. Not everybody knows what our team has been through except the kids on our team; the missed time and all of that. To see them put it together this week, I told them they’re going to look back and they’re going to know they had a special week this week. They’re going to feel good about it.”
Eastern converted on two Crawford County turnovers to start the game, but the Lady Pack fired back with seven unanswered points. Kendra Sill converted a pair of freebies and Mckenna Jeter drilled a three to give the Lady Musketeers a two-point edge. Taylor Herbaugh delivered for the Lady Pack with a deuce, and the game was tied at nine to end the period.
Eastern scored the first six points of the second period for some breathing room. Crawford County fought back to close the gap to two. Four free throws by the Lady Musketeers put Eastern back up by six, but Autumn Schigur drove the lane for two at the end of the period, and the Crawford County deficit was at four, 19-15, at halftime.
Eastern focused on Crawford County center Sarah Stutzman in the half with the junior scoring zero points.
“Nothing comes easy with them,” Broughton said. “They make you earn everything. I thought our offense got a little stagnant. We wanted to try to spread them out. We got some threes. We got some shots, and I thought it was working. Then, we got a little stagnant, kind of quit cutting. I think we got tired.”
Crawford County came out in the second half with a 12-3 run to take a 27-22 lead, sending the Crawford County fans into a frenzy. Eastern responded with a 6-0 run of their own and had a 28-27 edge with one quarter to go.
Schigur, who seemed to be everywhere on the floor, tied the game with a free throw. The two teams traded baskets, and the game was tied again at 32 and 34. With 1:08 to go, Jeter drove the lane for two, putting Eastern in front. Schigur got one of those back at the line.
With 34.3 to go, Crawford County turned the ball over and Schigur was called for her fourth foul, putting Jeter on the line. Jeter hit one of two.
Crawford County misfired on its next shot, then Stutzman was called for a foul. Jeter misfired with Crawford County rebounding. Crawford County immediately called timeout with 13 seconds left to set up a play. The Lady Pack got the ball to Herbaugh on the left wing. Herbaugh fired up the ball, but the shot went long with the buzzer going off. The Lady Musketeers celebrated their third straight sectional title.
“You can’t ask anymore out of them,” Broughton said of his team. “The kids executed the game plan so well. We knew that they break your back by making threes. We only allowed two threes, and that was our goal. One of them was a bank-in. They didn’t make any threes the second half.”
“Another free throw here or another shot there,” he said. “I thought we got a good play at the end. I wanted to go for the win. I knew we had some kids in foul trouble. We got a good screen there for Taylor. She got a good look at it.”
Schigur led the Lady Pack with 15 points, and Herbaugh had 10. Stutzman was held to just four points. Crawford County hit 11 of 36 field goals (31%) and 10 of 16 free throws. The team had 15 turnovers.
Broughton said Schigur’s last game was her best one.
“They couldn’t stop her,” he said. “I’m so proud of her. I’m proud of everybody, but Autumn Schigur, you almost get emotional thinking about it. She’s a very special person to me. I told her the whole night, ‘They can’t stop you.’ They couldn’t. She’s somebody that I would trust her with my life. I would trust her with anybody in my family’s life. I think the world of her. I think the world of all of our seniors. I’m just so proud of how far she’s come. She’s going to do special things in her life.”
Shelbi Patton led Eastern with 13, and Jeter finished with 12. Sill was held to just two points. Eastern was 12 of 33 from the field (36%), 11 of 19 from the line and had 13 turnovers.
“They drove the ball relentlessly, and you’ve got to give them credit,” Broughton said. “They’re a good team. They have been here, and you can’t beat that experience. Some of these kids played in the state championship game and won.”
“We’ve got a lot coming back next year,” said the Crawford County coach. “What we told the kids is, ‘Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to get back here. This is three years in a row. We need to make it four years in a row. Whatever it takes to get back here, and one of these times we’re going to get one’.”
Eastern (Pekin) 9 10 9 9 – 37
Crawford County 9 6 12 8 – 35
Eastern – Patton 13, Jeter 12, Casey 6, McKinley 4, Sill 2.
Crawford County – Schigur 15, Herbaugh 10, Kerce 4, Stutzman 4, Mauck 2 .
3-pointers – Eastern 2 (Jeter 2); Crawford County 3 (Herbaugh 2, Kerce 1).