For The Tribune
Eastern (Pekin)’s girls closed out Saturday’s basketball game at Brownstown on a 5-0 run and defeated the Braves 45-37 in Mid-Southern Conference play.
The Braves trailed 40-37 following a free throw by Payton Farmer with 52 seconds remaining, but couldn’t get any closer and slipped to 5-3 on the year.
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Eastern (Pekin), the defending Class 2A state champions, made 8 of 16 free throws in the fourth period and 17 of 25 for the game. The Braves were 1-for-2 at the line in the fourth period and 16 of 21 for the night.
“We fouled them late in the game and that gave them more advantages to go to the free-throw line,” Braves coach Karla Rieckers said.
Brownstown shot 9-for-40 from the floor, but Rieckers said she felt like her team had good shot selection.
“I felt like we had good looks that we wanted to take,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s a little bit of our legs carry over from the Seymour game. I also thought we were playing tight. We weren’t playing nearly as relaxed as we normally do.
“It’s hard to get in the flow of a game when they’re calling fouls, and they’re constantly going to the free-throw line. With two minutes left in the first quarter they were already in the bonus.”
Brownstown was called for 24 fouls and Eastern (Pekin) was whistled for 20.
Eastern (Pekin) led Brownstown 9-4 at the end of the first period. Farmer hit a 10-foot jump shot at 2:32 for the Braves’ only basket of the period as her team shot 1-for-8 from the floor.
The Musketeers were leading 14-10 in the second period when Madison Klinge hit a 3-pointer, and Halle Hehman followed with a 3-point play, and a pair of free throws at 3:10, to put the Braves on top 18-14.
The Braves had a 5-0 run later when Klinge made two free throws, Hehman dropped in a layup and Shelby Stuckwisch added a free throw for a 23-17 lead.
Hehman scored seven points in the period to help her team lead 23-19 at the break.
“Halle’s been doing that for us,” Rieckers said. “She’s a kid that does that in practice all the time. I thought starting with the Scottsburg game she came in and played well for us. She came in and played well against Seymour and carried that over tonight.”
The Braves took their biggest lead of the night at 27-19 on two free throws by Ashley Schroer early in the third period. Schroer made a layup with 3:10 on the clock to give the Braves their final lead of the night at 28-25. The visitors held a 33-31 lead going into the final period.
The Braves had seven of their 16 turnovers in the fourth period.
“We have to take better care of the ball,” Rieckers said. “Whether they were turnovers or not — maybe three of them were questionable — if you get called for that you’re going to have to adjust. You’re not going to be able to change the officials’ mind, you’ve got to be able to play through that and keep your head in the game and keep attacking the basket.
“I thought defensively we did a nice job. (Rachel) Stewart was a south junior all-star last year and we held her to seven points.”
Hehman topped the Braves in scoring with 10 points, while Isabell Claywell scored seven points in the fourth period and topped Eastern with 18 points.
“Hopefully our girls will be able to recover and knock down some of those shots,” Rieckers said. “We have to be ready for Salem (Tuesday night). Hopefully we learn from this and go on. We battled and competed and we just have to move forward.”