BENTON – With the game on the line, Benton/Shullsburg was more than happy to have the ball in sophomore Hattie Rennert’s hands.
Rennert went 9-for-10 on the night from the free throw line, including a 6-for-6 performance in the final minute, to lead the second-seeded Zephyr/Miners over the third-seeded Belmont Braves, 41–33, at Benton High School on Friday, Feb. 27.
“I credit Belmont for fouling early to give them a chance to get back in the game. We uncharacteristically missed free throws early (in the fourth quarter) to allow them to get back in the game, but we were very confident in getting Hattie to the line. She is a cool customer who really isn’t impacted by pressure. I am really proud of her for wanting to step to the line and close out the game,” said Ben/Shulls head coach Nathan Russell.
The Ladies (21–4 overall) had won the first two meetings this season with the Braves (17–7), but they knew the third time around would be tougher than the first two and the Braves did nothing to contradict those thoughts early in the game.
The Six Rivers West rivals swapped the lead eight times in the eight times in the first half. Sophomore guard Kayla Dougherty converted a steal into a go-ahead layup with 17 seconds remaining in the half to put the hosts ahead 19–18 at the break.
“I thought the first half was some of the best basketball we’ve played in a long time,” said Belmont head coach Kaleen McGettigan. “To come out in the third quarter and not be able to put the ball in the hole makes it tough to recover against a team like Benton/Shullsburg.”
The Ladies charged out of the locker room in the second half and reeled off 14 unanswered points to open up a 33–18 advantage. Senior Maggie Neis scored five points during the run, while Doughtery added another layup in transition for the hosts.
A putback by senior Keegan Kamps with 11 seconds remaining in the third quarter helped the Braves avoid a shutout.
Neis put the hosts up 35–22 midway through the fourth quarter, and that’s when the Braves decided to start sending the Ladies to the line. The strategy appeared to work as the hosts missed five free throws in a row, including the front end of three bonus opportunities.
The Braves shaved their 13-point deficit down to five at 35–30 on a putback by Jannie deHaan with 1:10 to play, but they could not get any closer as Rennert calmly sank all six of her foul shots over the last 32 seconds to seal Ben/Shulls’ 10th straight victory.
“I am really proud of our kids for finishing the series with Belmont. They are a quality team that is well coached. Beating Belmont three times in a season is a true accomplishment that our players are very proud of,” commented Russell.
Free throws were critical to the outcome with the Ladies finishing 14-for-21 at the line on the night, while the Braves only made 7-of-16 attempts.
“That’s been the story of our life this season. When our free throws are falling, our shots aren’t falling; and if our shots are falling, our free throws aren’t,” exclaimed McGettigan. “These kinds of things come back to haunt you when you’re playing at tournament time against a very good team. I thought we battled hard. I can't ask for anything else.”
Junior guard Payton Bastian hit two clutch 3-pointers in the first half on the way to a team-high 10 points. Rennert finished with nine points– all at the line, while Neis scored seven and Dougherty added six.
Belmont’s senior point guard Katelyn Schobert was outstanding for the Braves in her final prep game, recording a double-double with a game-high 17 points and a team-high 12 rebounds. She also added three assists and two steals.
“She played one heck of a game. That’s probably the best I’ve ever seen her play. She was so composed and made a lot of good things happen for us,” McGettigan said. “She didn’t come off the floor tonight and you couldn’t tell at the end of the game. She was the most energized player on the floor.”
Kamps chipped in with six points, five rebounds and three steals. She finishes her career as the Lady Braves second all-time leading scorer with 1,184 career points.
Also playing in their final prep game for Belmont were deHaan and senior Kendra Lattin. Senior Brianna Riechers’ season came to an end earlier this season after suffering an ACL injury in Belmont’s first meeting in Benton on Jan. 26.
“These seniors have the most wins of any class in the history of the Belmont program. They’ll graduate with 68 wins. That’s unheard of for Belmont basketball until lately. They’ve put in a ton of time and they’ve put their blood, sweat and tears into the program and it shows. They are the leaders of this team,” responded McGettigan.
Belmont made it to Friday night by sweeping the season series from SRW foe Cassville with a 44–29 win over the #6-seeded Comets (4–15).
The Braves were knotted at 18 all at the half, but went on to outscore the Comets, 16–2, in the third quarter to pull away.
Junior Brook Knebel led Belmont with a game-high 16 points. Jannie deHaan tallied eight points and five rebounds, while Katelyn Schobert chipped in with seven points, six steals and five assists. Keegan Kamps added five points, seven rebounds and three steals.
Kennedy McMillan paced the Comets with 10 points.
WIAA Division 5 Regional Quarterfinal
Belmont 44, Cassville 29
(from Tuesday, Feb. 24 @ Belmont)
Cassville 10 8 2 9 — 29
Belmont 8 10 16 10 — 44
Cassville (4–15) — Maddie Nix 7, Payton Brinkman 2, Andrea Okey 8, Kennedy McMillian 10, Paige Johll 2. Totals — 10 7-11 29.
Belmont (17–6) — Jannie deHaan 8, Katelyn Schobert 7, Keegan Kamps 5, Briana Ernst 1, Caitlyn Gilbertson 3, Brook Knebel 16, Paige Nolan 4. Totals — 17 5-12 44.
3-point goals — C: 2 (Nix 1, Okey 1); B: 4 (Schobert 2, Knebel 2). Team fouls — C: 7, B: 13. Fouled out — none.
WIAA Division 5 Regional Semifinal
Benton/Shullsburg 41, Belmont 33
(from Friday, Feb. 27 @ Benton)
Belmont 9 9 2 13 — 33
Benton/Shulls. 11 8 14 8 — 41
Belmont (17–7) — Jannie deHaan 4, Katelyn Schobert 17, Keegan Kamps 6, Caitlyn Gilbertson 4, Brook Knebel 2. Totals — 13 7-16 33.
Benton/Shullsburg (21–3) — Hattie Rennert 9, Emma Lawrence 2, Maggie Neis 7, Brianna Leahy 3, Kayla Dougherty 6, Payton Bastian 10, Emily Morrissey 4. Totals — 12 14-21 41.
3-point goals — Bel: 0; B/S: Bastian 2, Neis 1. Team fouls — Bel: 20, B/S: 16. Fouled out — none.