METAMORA — Every team needs to learn how to handle late-game situations when they have a lead to ensure the contest ends in their favor.
This season hasn't presented many of those opportunities to the Streator Lady Bulldogs, but they gained valuable experience in that aspect during Monday night's IHSA Class 3A Metamora Regional opener against Chillicothe's Illinois Valley Central.
The 10th-seeded Lady Bulldogs (4-23), after holding as much as a nine-point advantage midway through the fourth, led the 11th-seeded Lady Grey Ghosts (2-22) by just three with 2 minutes, 27 seconds left.
An offensive rebound and free throw from freshman Natali Haynes, a free toss from senior Mallory Aukland and a defense that held IVC off the scoreboard the rest of the way helped Streator to a 40-33 win here at Metamora High School.
Haynes finished a monster effort with 16 points, 26 rebounds and six blocked shots for the Lady Bulldogs, who advance to play No. 2 Washington tonight in a 6 p.m. semifinal.
"Wow, that's a lot," said Haynes when told she had grabbed 39 percent of her clubs 67 boards.. "There are drills that we work on everyday in practice to help us improve on rebounding. That's my job as a post player to get rebounds, so I guess I was just doing what I was supposed to do.
"As an underclassman, I was just trying to play well for the seniors tonight."
With the game tied 2-all, Streator closed out the opening eight minutes on a 7-0 run, including a steal and layup from senior Ali Talty (five points, two steals), a pair of free throws by Chloe Baker and a Haynes putback in the final seconds. Haynes then popped in three hoops and Baker another in the second as the locals held a 17-10 halftime lead.
"The first three quarters we played really well," said Streator coach Rory Bedeker. "We did a good job against their full-court press and didn't have many turnovers against it, but (IVC) got a little more physical with us in the second half. We were able to make some plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter and get some big rebounds. We were getting killed on the offensive boards in the first half. It seemed like IVC was getting four or five shots at the hoop every time down the floor, but the last four minutes of the game we were limiting them to one and done.
"This was a goal, to win a game at regionals, and we did that. Now we get another chance to play tomorrow."
After Talty scored to open the second half, IVC netted eight straight points with Kayla Wolf and Katie Tiller knocking down triples to cut the margin to 19-18, but a free-throw line jumper by senior Megan Gubbels (four points, 10 rebounds) and 10-foot jumper from the side by Cali Rogers kept the Lady Bulldogs ahead as they took a slim 27-24 lead into the fourth.
Streator took its biggest lead of the game, 36-27, when, after breaking IVC pressure, Haynes converted a layup off the last of Aukland's game-high five assists with 4:21 remaining.
"It is a whole different game for us when we can break the other team's press," said Aukland. "If we can limit our turnovers in those situations, we give ourselves a chance in the offensive end.
"Tonight was do-or-die for the season, and we just wanted to play one more game. This is the best feeling in my life."
IVC's Tiffany Mallow sank back-to-back treys over the next two minutes to close the gap. However, the Lady Bulldogs were able to hold the Lady Grey Ghosts scoreless the rest of the way to earn the victory and live another day.
(Key: FG-FGA FT-FTA TP)
IVC (33) — Moore 1-13 0-2 2, Tiller 2-14 2-6 8, Kohlman 0-3 0-0 0, Wolf 3-18 0-0 7, Cecil 2-11 1-3 5, Madl 0-7 2-4 2, Chase 0-0 0-0 0, Mallow 3-20 0-0 9. Totals 11-86 5-15 33.
STREATOR (40) — Gubbels 1-3 2-5 4, Talty 2-10 1-6 5, Bedeker 1-3 2-3 4, Aukland 0-8 3-8 3, Haynes 7-15 2-4 16, Williams 0-2 1-4 1, Baker 1-4 3-4 5, Rogers 1-3 0-0 2, Ingram 0-1 0-0 0, Deleon 0-0 0-0 0, Phillis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-49 14-34 40.
IVC (2-22) 2 8 14 9 — 33
Streator (4-23) 9 8 10 13 — 40
3-point baskets — IVC 6-44 (Moore 0-2, Tiller 2-9, Kohlman 0-1, Wolf 1-11, Madl 0-5, Mallow 3-16); Streator 0-13 (Gubbels 0-1, Talty 0-4, Aukland 0-5, Williams 0-1, Rogers 0-2). Rebounds — IVC 55 (Wolf 10, Tiller 8, Cecil 8); Streator 67 (Haynes 26, Gubbels 10). Assists — IVC 7 (Kohlman 2, Wolf 2); Streator 6 (Aukland 5). Steals — IVC 6 (Tiller 2); Streator 5 (Talty 2). Blocks — IVC 6 (Cecil 6); Streator 7 (Haynes 6). Turnovers — IVC 16, Streator 32. Total fouls (fouled out) — IVC 28 (Tiller, Cecil); Streator 14 (none).