PEORIA -- Seconds into the second half, the Moline girls basketball team had the Maroon faithful believing in an upset.|
When Emily Knight drained a 3 on the Maroons' first possession of the second half, the sub-.500 Moline girls had the hosts, and No. 8 state-ranked Richwoods Knights on the ropes.
The rest of the game was all Richwoods, though, and the Knights advanced to play in the Richwoods 4A Regional championship on Friday night after dispatching Moline, 52-34.
Knight's basket was one of just two Moline made in the third quarter, as MHS shot just 18-percent from the floor in the second half. That allowed Richwoods to go on a 14-0 run in the third and 9-0 run in the fourth to keep the Maroons from their fifth straight sectional title contest.
"I'm proud of the kids and we played one of the better teams in the state pretty even through the first half," Moline coach Steve Ford said. "When you play against good teams, though, you can't make too many mistakes and you have to do a lot of things right."
The Maroons turned the ball over 21 times, and although Knight did a nice job of keeping Richwoods' super-soph Olivia Elger from making a lot of baskets, just 4-for-14, she still scored a game-high 18 points thanks to proficient free-throw shooting.
As a group, Richwoods made good on 19 of 24 free throw attempts, and outrebounded Moline 37-25. The Knights put in a full-court press that caught the Maroons a little off-guard and contributed to the large number of turnovers, but it also kept Moline from scoring.
The Maroons had droughts of 4:18, 5:00 and 6:47 at different points throughout the game and those empty periods spelled disaster.
None of the Maroons got into double-figures, although seniors Knight, Morgan Gerard and Jordan de los Reyes ended their Moline hoops careers sharing team-high honors with six points each.
"You know the season is going to come to an end at some point, but I don't think you're ever ready for it," Ford said. "We felt confident coming in, and we left it out on the floor. That's all you can ask."
Moline certainly had its ups and downs this season, going 7-18 before reeling off four wins in its last five games before Tuesday.
"The kids had a great attitude and worked extremely hard no matter what our record was," Ford said. "We had a hard stretch and they never got down."
As Moline turns the page, it can look at a sophomore class that won more than 20 games and had the three best sophomores playing up with the varsity.
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