FREEPORT – A pair of fourth-quarter comebacks at the 1A Newman Regional lifted Eastland to a second regional title.
The Cougars were poised to pull off a third straight come-from-behind win after Lydia Coatney converted a three-point play to put Eastland up 46-45 against Stockton on Tuesday night in a Aquin Sectional semifinal, but a layup by Elizabeth Eisfeller with 29 seconds to go and a free throw from Katie Wright sealed the Blackhawks’ 48-46 victory.
“It just comes down to mental toughness,” Stockton coach Tim Timpe said. “The girls showed they were mentally tough. That’s where we’ve come such a long way this year.”
“We’ve come back in the past two games, but it was our defense,” Eastland guard Erin Henze said. “We couldn’t get a stop.”
Eastland (26-6) took its first lead of the game at 37-36 just a minute into the fourth quarter, and Coatney tied the game at 43 with 2:07 to play. The Cougars hit just 5 of 13 free throws, and couldn’t get a final shot with 1.4 seconds to go with the ball.
“We didn’t necessarily shoot the free throws really well,” Eastland coach Nicole Brinker said. “We should have been able to knock those down. They put us to the line and made us earn it. But I couldn’t be more proud of our kids for how hard they fought.”
Stockton (29-2) improved to 3-1 against their NUIC West rivals this season, and led 17-6 after the opening quarter. Emily Offenheiser had six points and three offensive rebounds in the first, while Tiana Timpe had nine points for the Blackhawks.
“Coach said, ‘Emily, you better get every offensive board tonight. I expect it out of you,’” Offenheiser said. “I just said, ‘OK, Coach.’”
Stockton was just 1-for-11 from the field and 3-for-5 from the free-throw line in the second quarter, but still led 22-17 at halftime after Kali Haas’ layup at the intermission buzzer. Eastland couldn’t catch up due to a 7-for-29 performance from the floor in the first half.
Eastland cut it to a one-possession game twice before a Henze 3 knotted the game at 26 with 5:38 left in third quarter. But the Blackhawks pulled down six offensive boards in the third, and kept a 34-32 advantage despite Katie Krogman’s jumper right before the horn.
“We knew it was going to be a game of runs,” Brinker said. “They made the run in the first half, and we were just hoping to chip away at that lead.”
The Blackhawks move on to play sectional host Aquin on Thursday night for the right to advance to the Belvidere Supersectional. Stockton shot 40 percent (18-for-45) from the field, and sank 11 of 20 foul shots. Offenheiser dominated the paint with 18 points, 16 rebounds and a block. Tina Timpe finished with 10 points, Eisfeller chipped in nine points, and Megan Gille added eight points and 10 boards.
Eastland shot just 37 percent (19-for-51) from the floor. Coatney and Henze led the Cougars with 12 points apiece.
“We talked before the game about containing Coatney and Henze,” Tim Timpe said. “But we also talked about boxing out their posts. They do such a good job of that.”
1A Aquin Sectional semifinal
Stockton 48, Eastland 46
Star of the game: Emily Offenheiser, Stockton, 18 points, 16 rebounds, 1 block
Key performers: Lydia Coatney, Eastland, 12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks; Erin Henze, Eastland, 12 points, Erin Henze, Eastland, 12 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals; Elizabeth Eisfeller, Stockton, 9 points, go-ahead layup