Third time was the charm for the Murphysboro Red Devils who suffered two regular season losses at the hands of the Benton Rangerettes.
The two tough SIRR Conference foes met again at the IHSA Class 3A Regional final game Thursday night where it looked like history would repeat itself again for the Rangerettes. Up for three of four quarters, the Rangerettes looked in shape to defend their 2016 Regional title. But after several unfortunate turnovers and foul trouble, the Red Devils ripped the victory out from under the Benton team"s feet by a score of 43-41.
"Honestly we probably weren"t supposed to be her tonight," said Andy Sloan, Rangerettes coach. "Herrin beat us twice in the regular season, but we beat them Tuesday. We beat Murphy twice in the regular season, but they came out and beat us tonight.
"In our conference, anyone can beat anyone. We knew it would be tough and we had to play well… we just came up short."
On Herrin"s court, the Rangerettes came out firing on all cylinders. They took an early lead with help from seniors Kaylee Pedigo (13 points), Lauren Zinzilieta, and Alexis Abney (6 points), and junior Ember Milby.
Meanwhile the Red Devils were only able to tally one jump shot, giving the Rangerettes an 8-2 lead going into the second quarter.
The Rangerettes continued to pad their lead in the second with help from Ally Gischer (12 points) who added a solo free throw and returning to the line moments later after the Red Devils took a technical foul call. Gischer did not make the extra points, but teammate Pedigo found success at the free throw line moments later. Going into the half, the Rangerettes had a comfortable 8-point lead, but knew they needed to stay focused.
"We didn"t play well at all in the third or fourth," Sloan said. "The turnovers, rebound and free throw trouble took us out of it and really cost us [the game]."
Early in the third, Murphysboro was flagged for another technical foul and the Rangerettes chose Eb Casey (4 points) to take the extra points; she sunk both baskets to round her team"s lead up to 10-points. But then, foul trouble started for the Rangerettes and the Red Devils went on a 7-point rally.
They made three trips to the free throw line and scored three of their six opportunities. They got to within three points (27-24) before the Rangerettes were able to tally more points from Pedigo and freshman Zoe Carlton.
One last trip to the free throw line for the Red Devils put them behind by six (31-25) going into the final quarter.
The foul trouble continued for the Rangerettes in the fourth. The Red Devils went to the line four times in a row early in the quarter and got to within 1-point (31-30) of taking the lead. Then, the Red Devils put up a 3-pointer halfway through the quarter to take a 33-31 lead.
Gischer drained two free throws to knot the game at 33 and teammate Casey added two more to momentarily retake the lead for the Rangerettes.
The Red Devils knotted the game again at 35, but the Rangerettes clutched to their lead with two more free throws by Gischer. Moments later, Gischer sunk her own 3-pointer to give her team a 40-35 lead.
But the Red Devils with their heavy pressure did not quit and eventually retook the lead at the free throw line in the last 10 seconds of the game. Their upset ended the 2016-17 season for the Rangerettes.
"These girls are great kids in school and in the community," Sloan said of his team. "They"ve learned that they will have adversity all throughout life. Hopefully this will help teach them to fight through all of it."