BELMONT - Belmont senior scoring machine Kailee Kamps did everything in her power to prevent her illustrious prep basketball career from coming to an end.
She rebounded, she defended and stole passes, she set up teammates, she scored in transition, scored from behind the 3-point arc, scored from the free-throw line and then scored some more, to the tune of a career-high 38 points.
But Potosi's Ashley Flesch, Abby Ames and an entire team effort by the Chieftains were just enough to overcome Kamps' singularly dominating performance.
Flesch scored a team-high 24 points and Ames again came up clutch scoring 11 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter, including 4-of-4 from the free throw line in the final two minutes to lift Potosi to a 60-56 victory in Saturday night's WIAA Division 5 Belmont regional final at BHS.
Potosi improved to 19-6 overall and advanced to face top-seeded and unbeaten Seneca (24-0) in this Thursday's D5 sectional semifinal at Richland Center High School (7 p.m.).
Meanwhile, Belmont ended the best season in program history with a 21-4 record. The Braves and Chieftains also shared this year's Six Rivers West Conference title. It was the first in the history of Belmont's girls program and the fourth in the last five years for the Potosi girls.
"It doesn't get much better than that in high school basketball," said Potosi head coach Brad Bierman of Saturday's thoroughly entertaining regional final.
"Obviously we are very proud of the girls. Just like we were for winning a share of the conference championship. Right now we are playing very good basketball, but Belmont is such a good team. We had to play very well Saturday night to beat them on their home floor in the tournament. I just hope we are not satisfied."
As the Chieftains look forward to Thurday's game with third-ranked Seneca, the heart-broken Braves are left to ponder what might have been.
"It's always tough to lose, and this game was no exception," explained Belmont head coach Kaleen McGettigan. "We knew it was going to be physical and a hard fought game. The girls gave it their all, but unfortunately we didn't come out on top. I am proud of the way the girls played and how they worked hard all season to get there. It's a game that this group will not forget."
The game no one will soon forget began as a back-and-forth affair as Kamps and Flesch traded scoring blows.
Kamps scored 11 points in each of the first two quarters to lead the Braves to a two-point, 28-26 halftime lead. She made three of her four 3-pointers on the night in the opening quarter and almost single-handedly propelled the Braves to the early lead scoring 22 of her teams' first 28 points.
The third quarter was more of the same as Kamps scored 10 points, Flesch and company kept it close for Potosi, but the Braves led 43-39 entering the final eight minutes. The Chieftains kept it close by converting 15-of-18 free throws in the first three quarters, then when they finally got the lead put the game away by making 10-of-11 in the fourth quarter, including 7-of-8 in the final two minutes.
Flesch kept Potosi in striking distance by scoring 22 of her 24 points in the first three quarters, but it was Ames, the junior point guard, that came alive in the fourth quarter to turn the tide. Ames scored a quick bucket early in the fourth, then gave Potosi its first lead of the second half with a 3-pointer that made it 47-46.
Senior Kylie Meier and Ames scored back-to-back baskets to extend Potosi's lead, then junior Tiffany Langmeier made a pair of clutch free throws to make it 53-48.
Belmont had one last run and had a chance to cut it to a single point in a wild sequence with just under two minutes left to play.
Sophomore Jordyn Kamps made the first of two free throws to cut it to four, but missed the second.
However, freshman Keegan Kamps grabbed the rebound and scored while being fouled to pull Belmont within two at 55-53, but that's as close as the Braves would get.
Ames made two more free throws, and Meier closed out the game for Potosi making 3-of-4 in the closing seconds.
Once Potosi got the lead, Bierman shifted his defensive focus and went to a box-and-one on Kamps. The change helped slow the high-scoring phenom to just six points in the final quarter, two of which were free throws in the waning seconds.
"She's so strong and so hard to stop,"explained Bierman. "We went to the box-and-one with Kylie on Kamps just to try and slow her down and have as much help available as possible."
Along with her 38 points, Kamps also grabbed eight rebounds, had four steals and two assists.
"Kailee truly showed what she was made of on Saturday night," added McGettigan. "She was doing it from both ends of the floor. She was knocking down threes, hitting jump shots, finishing in the lane, and converting free throws. She also came up with some big steals that converted to points, as well as some big rebounds. It was one of the best individual performances I have seen from a female athlete at this level."
Flesch finished with a team-high 24 points for Potosi, followed by Ames with 14, Meier and Langmeier with nine each and senior Maleah Mumm added four.
* Friday night Flesch scored 15 of her game-high 25 points in the first half as No. 3 Potosi steamrolled No. 6 Kickapoo, 61-25, in a regional semifinal at PHS. Mumm added 10 points and senior center Rylie Bausch chipped in seven.
"We really got off to a quick start," explained coach Bierman. "We were making shots early and Ashley got off to a hot start with two threes in the first quarter and we built up a good lead. Ashley has really stepped it up here in tourney time."
Last Tuesday Meier (14 points), Langmeier (12) and Ames (10) each scored in double figures as Potosi throttled No. 14 Weston 63-26 in the opening round.
* Also, last Friday night Kailee Kamps scored a game-high 24 points as Belmont advanved to the regional final with an easy 55-34 second-round victory over No. 7 Cashton.