By Mark Jurgena
The Collinsville girls basketball team left the recent Nashville tournament a different team and proved that last week. While they did drop a game to Normal, CHS clearly changed their effort as well as their confidence in all three games.
Normal 54 Collinsville 38
A sluggish start eventually took its toll on the Kahoks as they dropped a decision to undefeated Normal on December 3rd at Fletcher Gym.
The Kahoks committed 11 turnovers in the opening quarter against a defensive onslaught but found themselves only down four at the quarter 11-7 thanks to a pair of late buckets by Megan Janson and Jenna Scheller.
During the quarter, Collinsville was 3-for-8 from the floor. The visitors from Central Illinois also made only three shots but it was the volume of shots that made it feel relentless. Normal took 15 shots including going 2-for-8 from three.
Normal was up 19-11 when Ella Guerrero hit two free throws to spark a Kahok rally. Over the next 2:30 of the game, CHS went on an 8-2 run to cut the lead to 21-19. Talesha Gilmore had a pair of buckets, Janson added the other.
Another Gilmore bucket off a great assist from Janson finished off the CHS scoring and made it a 25-21 game at the half.
Again it was more pressure applied to Collinsville that kept Normal ahead. CHS only committed four turnovers in the quarter thanks to the guard play of Janson and Jordan Gary. But Normal got up another 15 shots and went to the free throw line 12 times during the quarter.
For the half, NCHS was 8-for-30 from the floor for 27% and 3-for-14 from three for 22%. Meanwhile, CHS was 9-for-20 for 45% and 1-for-7 from three, a 16% clip. CHS had committed 15 turnovers in the opening two periods.
In the third quarter Normal would again get up 15 shots however only one attempt came from beyond the arc, the rest came courtesy of dribble drives and passes into the paint. They went 7-for-15 in the quarter and opened up a 13 point lead at the break.
Collinsville only attempted four shots for eight points but found themselves behind 43-30 heading into the final eight minutes.
Normal switched up strategies in the fourth quarter electing to work through their offense to melt the clock away. They only took four field goals the remainder of the game making three of them. They went 5-for-8 from the line.
The visitors would push their lead to 15 points in the fourth but the Kahoks got it back under ten with 5:21 remaining courtesy of a pair of buckets by Scheller and one by Guerrero.
The loss dropped Collinsville to 6-3 for the year while Normal moved to 7-0.
Collinsville 52 Belleville (East) 32
What a start!
Collinsville thoroughly dominated Belleville East 52-31 on the road December 2nd behind the continued hot shooting of Guerrero, an efficient offense, and a hard-working defense to begin their Southwestern Conference season.
“It was fun to watch,” said coach Colin Moore. “All the girls are buying into working hard. When you work hard good things happen. Ella is shooting real well right now. When you start like that you can control the game and work on different things.”
Guerrero had her second straight 20 point game by hitting seven field goals, six of which were from three-point range.
“Ella has hit 20 (threes) in the last five games,” said Moore. “We changed up the starting lineup for a game and it lit a fire in her. She has been playing great.”
Her hot shooting got CHS off to a roaring start as she buried three in the opening quarter including draining the opening shot of the contest after the fast-improving CHS defense forced a turnover during their first opportunity.
That hot start would snowball into a 21-2 run over the first quarter for the Kahoks.
Guerrero had 11 in the period while Janson had four. Scheller added three while Ricki Merlak had a bucket as well. The scoring was rounded out by a free throw from Gilmore with five seconds remaining.
Defensively the Kahoks were just as hot in the opening quarter forcing five turnovers (CHS committed zero) and holding the Lancers to 1-for-10 shooting from the field.
The Kahoks went cold to begin the second with an 0-for-6 start, which gave the Lancers a 5-0 run, but Janson broke the string with a three and added three free throws to reclaim a 20 point lead. Gilmore and Katie Bardwell collected buckets in the second and Scheller hit a free throw to put CHS up 32-9 at the half.
While CHS only had three buckets in the quarter, the defense remained on fire forcing East into a 3-for16 performance in the second frame.
After the half, Guerrero put to rest any notion of an East comeback by drilling two threes in the first two minutes of the third. She would hit another and finish with nine of Collinsville’s 11 points that quarter and CHS led 43-19 after three.
While Guerrero was hitting from long range, Janson was filling up the stat sheet. She had 12 points, six rebounds, six assists, and three steals.
Gilmore led CHS with 12 rebounds.
East dropped to 3-4 after the contest.
Collinsville 58 Jerseyville 35
They just kept knocking them down.
Collinsville rained down six first half threes and eight for the game and took a big victory at Jerseyville on November 30th.
“We have been shooting the ball really well,” said coach Colin Moore. “The girls have realized the more effort you give on the defensive end of the court the more playing time you get. Defense builds the momentum that leads to success on the offensive end.”
And defensively the Kahoks were solid at Jersey. They forced nine first half turnovers while only committing three themselves.
That defensive effort led to some good looks at the basket. In the opening 16 minutes of play, CHS made 14-of-27 shots, a 52% shooting percentage. Jersey shot 40% from the floor on 8-for-20 shooting during the half.
Guerrero provided the early spark outside while Scheller provided the spark inside to lead the Kahoks.
After Scheller had scored a pair of buckets underneath and Janson contributed a jumper to give CHS a 6-3 lead, Jersey responded with two baskets to get a 7-6 lead at the 5:01 mark of the first. It would be their final lead of the game.
Guerrero then caught fire with a pair of threes to put CHS up five and Gilmore added a putback basket. CHS would eventually close the scoring with a beautiful give and go from Janson to Scheller to make it 18-10 after one.
Janson hit an early three in the second, then the duo of Guerrero and Scheller combined to score 15 points the remainder of the period. Two of Guerrero’s makes were from behind the arc while Scheller also had a three. CHS went to the locker rooms with a 36-20 lead.
Jersey cut into the lead in the third despite four each from Janson and Guerrero, but CHS still led 44-33 at the end of the quarter.
But that defense and hot shooting showed up again as the Kahoks went on a 14-0 tear to begin the fourth quarter and pull away from the Panthers.
CHS shot 6-for-10 during the run. Guerrero hit her final three and Merlak added a triple as well. Both Scheller and Janson had four points each during the scoring spree.
For the game, Guerrero finished with a career high 21 points. Scheller added 19 and Janson had 13.
CHS finished the game shooting 54.5% going 24-for-44. From three they went 8-for-13 for 61.8%.
Gilmore led in rebounds with six while Merlak had four assists.