TOLEDO – Top-seeded Teutopolis had more size and talent in Tuesday’s regional semifinal game, but the Lady Vandals produced a championship effort in falling just a point short of winning.
Vandalia led in the Class 2A regional game at Cumberland High School for most of the way, before committing too many turnovers after the Lady Shoes put on a press defense in the fourth quarter of a 44-43 loss.
“We did everything that we wanted to do,” said coach Michelle McNary. “We couldn’t have played any better, but we turned the ball over at the end.
“I’m proud of the way we ended the season,” she said. “It was one of the better games we have had as far as being patient and doing what I asked.”
The Lady Vandals were ahead by eight after senior Amber Bruno made a layup on the first possession of the fourth quarter, but Teutopolis used an intense press defense and forced Vandalia into five straight turnovers that allowed the Lady Shoes to tie the game at 35 with 4:13 left to go.
Vandalia would go back ahead 43-38, due in large part by five made free throws from freshman Karlie Bright, but two more turnovers allowed Teutopolis to get back within one.
Bruno missed a pair of free throws with 34.9 seconds left in the game, and T-Town made the winning basket on the next possession.
“I would put her at the free-throw line any day against anybody,” McNary said. “There’s a lot of pressure there.
“She was hanging her head, but if she doesn’t make 36 points last night, we aren’t even here tonight.”
Bruno led the team with 17 points, and ends her season averaging 19.4 points per game.
Bright stole an inbounds pass under Vandalia’s basket in the final seconds of the game, and made the quick reaction to take a shot.
If not for an unfriendly bounce off of the rim on what was otherwise a strong shot, the Lady Vandals would be playing again on Thursday.
“If she hadn’t gotten that steal, we don’t even have a chance to win,” McNary said. “It’s tough for a freshman to miss that shot, but she has stepped up and played well in this tournament.
“She missed that shot, but that’s not what beat us.”
The Lady Vandals (11-18) trailed 8-0 after the first 3:30 of the game, but after McNary used her first timeout, a different team seemed to emerge.
Bruno and junior Morgan Cripe hit back-to-back 3-pointers to begin a 13-2 run that lasted the rest of the period.
“We had to take care of the ball,” McNary said. “We weren’t getting ourselves in position to get offensive opportunities, then we hit a couple of 3s, and that got us right back in the game.”
Vandalia added five more points to the run in the second quarter, including a big 3-pointer from senior Haley Cothern that gave the Lady Vandals an 18-10 lead.
The margin held steady through the period, and the Lady Shoes failed to convert after grabbing two offensive rebounds in the final few seconds of the first half.
“That would have been a huge momentum shift,” McNary said. “I wanted us to work for a good shot or just one shot, and then we lost the ball.
“They had an opportunity to score, but missed it,” she said. “I wish that would have happened at the end of the game.”
Tuesday, Feb. 5
Points: Bruno, 17; Cripe, 11; Bright, 5; Cothern, 3; Kaitlyn Kershaw, 3; Madelyn Hosick, 2; Morgan Whightsil, 2.
Rebounds: Hosick, 8; Bruno, 5; Cripe, 5; Whightsil, 4; Bright, 1; Team, 1.
Assists: Bruno, 3; Abby Dugan, 2; Hosick, 2; Makayla Tinker, 2; Whightsil, 1.
Steals: Bright, 3; Whightsil, 1; Kershaw, 1.
Blocks: Bruno, 1; Cothern, 1; Cripe, 1.
TOLEDO – It was a senior who had a career scoring night, but it was a freshman who may have been the key to the Lady Vandals’ regional quarterfinal victory.
Senior Amber Bruno scored 36 points, and freshman Karlie Bright made several decisive plays in a 13-0 second-half run as Vandalia overcame a poor start on Monday to beat Cumberland, 62-45, in the first round of the Cumberland Regional.
“Karlie Bright was huge in that run,” said coach Michelle McNary. “Anytime Karlie is in there, she makes a difference, and the rest of them then keyed off of her.”
Bright stole the ball with 40 seconds left in the third quarter and made a layup to start the run, and she made back-to-back baskets off of turnovers on the first two possessions of the fourth quarter to give her a career-high eight points in the game.
Nine seconds later, she took a charge on the sideline, and the resulting foul was the fifth for one of Cumberland’s leading scorers.
“To take a charge like that was huge, and I think it was a good call,” McNary said.
It was all part of a 22-point fourth quarter for the Lady Vandals. Included were a third of Bruno’s points.
She has scored at least 20 points in each of the past four games and has nearly 550 points on the season.
“She could have had a lot more points (tonight),” McNary said. “She passed up on some shots by trying to get others some scoring opportunities.
“She’s been playing like a senior who doesn’t want the season to end.”
In the first quarter, Bruno made three 3-pointers and added another on the first possession of the second period, but overall, the first half was pretty forgettable for Vandalia.
The Lady Vandals (11-17) made just seven field goals in the first 16 minutes, while allowing Cumberland to score six second-chance points on nine offensive rebounds.
“We cannot come out flat like that and expect to make a game out of it,” McNary said. “I think we thought we would walk in here and get a win.”
This season, Vandalia had previously defeated Cumberland, 77-38, at the Mattoon Tournament.
A 10-0 run toward the end of the second quarter allowed the Lady Vandals to take a 27-24 lead to halftime, but Cumberland never trailed by more than four points until there was 20 seconds left in the third period.
Senior Morgan Whightsil led the team with 10 rebounds, and junior Morgan Cripe just missed a double-double, with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Sophomore Kelsey Swain made her varsity debut in the game.
Monday, Feb. 4
Points: Bruno, 36; Cripe, 10; Bright, 8; Makayla Tinker, 4; Madelyn Hosick, 2; Whightsil, 2.
Rebounds: Whightsil, 10; Cripe, 9; Bruno, 7; Hosick, 6; Kaitlyn Kershaw, 3; Tinker, 3; Team, 3; Bright, 1.
Assists: Cothern, 3; Bruno, 2; Tinker, 2; Cripe, 1; Hosick, 1.
Steals: Bruno, 4; Cripe, 4; Bright, 3; Whightsil, 3; Hosick, 2.
Blocks: Bright, 1; Cripe, 1; Hosick, 1; Tinker, 1.
The Lady Vandals closed the regular season last Thursday with a 58-50 victory at Carlinville.
Vandalia trailed by two going to the final period, but scored 25 points in the final eight minutes to secure the South Central Conference win.
Senior Amber Bruno had 29 points to surpass 500 for the season, and she and freshman Madelyn Hosick led the team with five rebounds.
Vandalia finished the regular season at 10-17 (3-6 SCC).
Thursday, Jan. 31
Points: Bruno, 29; Karlie Bright, 6; Haley Cothern, 6; Hosick, 6; Morgan Cripe, 4; Makayla Tinker, 4; Kaitlyn Kershaw, 2; Abby Dugan, 1.
Rebounds: Bruno, 5; Hosick, 5; Tinker, 4.
Record: 10-17 (3-6 SCC)