MONMOUTH – No overtime heroics were necessary this time around for Prophets.
The Prophets, who survived an OT thriller against Oregon in a sectional semifinal and a tightly contested sectional championship game against Byron, got the job done in regulation time Monday night at the Class 1A Monmouth Supersectional with a 58-48 victory against El Paso-Gridley.
Next up for Prophetstown (30-2) is the state tournament, where it will face IC Catholic on Friday night at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University. IC Catholic defeated Seton Academy 40-38 at the River Forest Supersectional.
"If we just believed in each other as a team, we were going to make it to state," junior guard Shelby Adams said, "and we did."
Prophetstown trailed 13-10 with 1 minute, 57 seconds remaining in the first quarter, then took charge with an 11-0 run over the next 8 minutes. EPG post player Codee Schlipf was on the bench for most of that time with two fouls, and the Prophets took advantage of a soft defensive interior.
"That was our goal – to try to make some hay while the sun shined," coach Don Robinson said.
Prophetstown's biggest lead came at 41-24 with 3:24 left in the third quarter, when senior guard Corrie Reiley hit a 3-pointer.
The Titans, thanks mainly to senior guard Rebekah Ehresman, clawed their way back within striking distance in the fourth quarter. Ehresman had 18 of her 27 points in the second half, and a 3 from Schlipf got the Titans to within 51-44 with 3:19 to play.
Over the next minute and a half, the Prophets hit five consecutive free throws to maintain their lead, which never dipped below seven points in the second half.
"We were trying to attack, and stay aggressive on the offensive end," Robinson said. "We've had some success with the spread attack, but we still wanted to try to score. We believed in ourselves."
Clare Kramer was a force inside for Prophetstown with 18 points and 10 rebounds. She channeled some memorable battles of the past to help her in this game.
"Ever since I played [former Aquin star] Sophie Brunner, I think about Sophie every time," Kramer said. "I was thinking of Sophie in this game, and I really think that boosted my confidence. I really wanted to play like her, and I think I did that."
Heather Strike hit three 3-pointers and finished with 10 points, while Reiley and Karlie Stafford added eight each. The fifth Prophetstown starter, Adams, had seven points, and turned in the defensive play of the game.
With Prophetstown ahead 47-37 and 5:13 left in the fourth quarter, Ehresman drove to the basket, but found Adams in her path. She held her ground, drew a charge, and preserved the Prophets' advantage.
"I tried taking a charge early on, and it didn't work," Adams said. "I tried it again, and I got the call. It felt awesome. We really needed that."
Ehresman (27 points) and Schlipf (11) did most of the heavy lifting for EPG. Reiley, normally an effective scorer for Prophetstown, concentrated her efforts on defending Ehresman, an Illinois Wesleyan recruit.
"It was so difficult," Reiley said. "They set a ton of screens for her, and I couldn't really get around every screen. I'm grateful my teammates were able to hedge a little and try to stop her. She's just an awesome player."
El Paso-Gridley (25-4) finished third at state last season, but came up a step short of reaching that level this time around.
"I'm proud of all my seniors, and all my girls for what they've done," EPG coach Kyle Bobbitt said. "It's been a great run. The senior class is leaving the program right where we need it."
Star of the game: Clare Kramer, Prophetstown, 18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists
Key performers: Rebekah Ehresman, El Paso-Gridley, 27 points, 7 steals, 6 rebounds, 4 assists; Heather Strike, Prophetstown, 10 points
Up next: State tournament, Prophetstown vs. iC Catholic, 8:15 p.m. Friday in Normal