By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
On Jan. 16, it was ‘go time’ for Carlinville, Gillespie and North Mac at the Macoupin County girls’ basketball tournament in Bunker Hill.
Fourth-seeded North Mac tipped off a hoop-filled Martin Luther King Day with a convincing 64-25 victory over No. 5 Mt. Olive. The Panthers were destined for the semifinal against defending champion and top-ranked heavyweight Staunton, which came into the tournament at 15-6.
No. 2 Gillespie dominated on both sides of the court, especially in the first half, against No. 7 Bunker Hill. The Miners jumped out to a 29-14 lead heading into the break and stomped the Minutemaids, 52-29.
The third-seeded Carlinville Cavaliers held off No. 6 Southwestern 37-28 in the final girls’ match of the day. CHS took command with a 16-7 first quarter surge and had a 23-13 cushion heading into the second half. The Piasa Birds failed in terms of ending a long losing streak, but finished the game strong on a 13-7 run in the final eight minutes. Rising freshman Kaitlyn Reels took command with an 11-point showing that included a trio of pivotal threes in the first half. Carlinville, without a single junior or senior on its roster, is overcoming such adversity and has become one of the hottest teams in the county as of late. The Cavaliers have won eight of their last 10 games and have neutralized their overall record to 10-10 following a rocky start. Carlinville battled 12-10 Gillespie for a berth in the championship game Jan. 17. Both rivals had already beaten each other head-to-head earlier in the season.
Mt. Olive was waiting in the consolation wing for the winner of a Southwestern/Bunker Hill elimination contest. The Piasa Birds and Minutemaids came into the tournament with just one win apiece, both against North Greene. Bunker Hill was in search of its first victory since Dec. 7. Meanwhile, Southwestern’s drought spanned 14 games back in time to Nov. 16. In other words, the Birds hadn’t won a game in literally two months.
The remainder of the tournament will be covered in next week’s issue.