Seth Whitehead - For the Daily Union
SHELBYVILLE, IL. — FARINA —Ava Paruleski had always declined to participate in postseason three-point contests, worrying that a bad performance might carry over to the game.
But Cowden-Herrick/Beecher City coach Carolyn Wendte convinced her senior point guard to compete in the three-point shootout prior to the Lady Hornets’ South Central Regional title game on Thursday, and Paruleski easily advanced to the sectional round by hitting 8 of 15 from beyond the arc, a salty 53 percent clip.
Turns out she was just getting warmed up.
Paruleski went on to shoot an even better percentage from long range in the game, nailing 6 of 9 from downtown — including 4 of 5 during a decisive 20-0 first-half run that blew the game open — as she went on to finish with 20 points in the Lady Hornets’ 72-37 victory.
“Tonight was a blessing for that kid,” Wendte said. “It was all happening for her from the start, and she was just feeling it. That 3-point shootout, what she thought was going to be a negative for her, it just turned out positive.”
Paruleski’s hot shooting helped CHBC (23-5) continue a pair of impressive streaks, as the Lady Hornets won their 12th game in a row and their fourth-straight regional title.
CHBC will move on to face NTC rival Dieterich at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Altamont Sectional in a sibling showdown between Lady Hornets coach Carolyn Wendte and Dieterich’s Donetta Ohnesorge.
Altamont’s gameplan was to try to contain CHBC all-state center Micah Jones with double and triple teams, and the Lady Indians’ executed it to a T in the first half, holding Jones to six points on 3-for-14 shooting.
But thanks in large part to a 17-point first half by Paruleski, it didn’t keep the Lady Hornets from building a 37-14 lead at intermission.
The Lady Indians (8-15) hung tough early, as a Madison Ohnesorge jumper had Altamont down just three, 13-10, late in the first quarter. But Paruleski countered with a 3 of her own, and she nailed three more from beyond the arc in the first three minutes of the second quarter, as CHBC suddenly found itself up 19 points.
“They were packing it down low, so that opens up the outside,” Paruleski side. “Micah knows that. She’s a good team player and she always kicks it out to me. She just trusted me to make it, so I just put it up there and hoped for the best.”
The Lady Indians went ice cold at the exact same time Paruleski and CHBC heated up, as coach Katie Lurkins team started rushing bad shots — many of which were corralled by Jones, turning into numerous fastbreak opportunities for the run-and-gun Lady Hornets.
“I felt we rushed our shots a little bit,” Lurkins said.“And that changed the tide.”
“Unfortunately (on defense), the gameplan that we took was to leave that 3-point line open, and Ava did a great job of stepping up. But it was a gamble we felt we had to take.”
Paruleski finished the first half 5 for 7 from beyond the arc, helping her team overcome Jones’ slow start.
“Oh, I started a whole bunch slow,” Jones said. “They were double teaming me, so I knew she’d be open. I knew she’d hit ‘em. She was nailing those 3s.”
Jones got going in a big way in the second half, as she wound up with 26 points and 20 rebounds on what turned out to be a historic night on multiple fronts.
Jones not only broke Kendra Thompson’s all-time Cowden-Herrick scoring record of 2,083 points, she also enjoyed her 100th varsity win in a CHBC uniform.
“I was more worried about that,” Jones said of the latter achievement. “The (scoring record), (Thompson) got that in 60-some games. I’ve played in more than 100. I give her a lot of props.”
Paruleski added seven rebounds and impressed in front of another potential college suitor. She has been getting a lot of attention from college coaches since recovering from a lingering early-season illness that held her game back.
“I’m feeling a lot better,” Paruleski said. “And I dedicate all my 3s to my grandpa (Gordon Price). He’s a great guy.”
Autumn Riley added 12 points and seven rebounds for CHBC, while Jensyn Morrison had eight points. CHBC has won 17 of 18 after a 6-4 start.
“I can’t say enough about this team,” Wendte said. “I think a lot of people think we’re one- or two-man centered, and we’re not. We have kids that step up if need be, and they did tonight, and good things happened.”
“I’m pretty proud of my team and the success we’ve had over the years,” Jones said. “I’m extremely proud of this team, because a lot of these girls hadn’t played varsity before this year. And they were able to keep this going.”
Dieterich’s regional title game at Neoga was in progress during coach Wendte’s postgame interview, but it turns out she will face her sister on Monday after the Lady Maroons’ win against St. Anthony. CHBC topped Dieterich in both the teams’ regular-season meetings.
“I’d love to see her get out of the regional because she hasn’t done that yet, but it’s going to be tough coaching against her,” Wendte said. “It’s going to be very hard. And we’ve beat them two times, but the third time can be a little bit of a nightmare.”
Ohnesorge led Altamont with 20 points, but the Lady Indians fell to CHBC in a regional final for the third time in four years. The good news for Lurkins’ program is that all of her players should be back next year.
“The girls have worked so hard from day one in practice until tonight,” Lurkins said. “Nobody thought they’d get this far and improve this much. We have no seniors and everybody returns. Plus we have a real athletic eighth-grade class that’s gonna come in and give us more numbers. It’s gonna allow us to do some things in practice and push the level up even more.”
CHBC 74, Altamont 44
CHBC 20 17 19 18 — 74
Altamont 10 4 9 21 — 44
CHBC — Ward 1 0-0 2, Morrison 3 2-2 8, Jones 13 0-0 26, Miller 1 0-0 2, Riley 4 4-4 12, Paruleski 6 2-2 20, Hilt 2 0-0 4. Totals 30 8-8 74.
Altamont — Miller 0 0-2 0, M.Ohnesorge 8 1-1 20, L.Ohnesorge 3 0-2 6, Laatsch 0 2-3 2, Stevenson 2 0-0 4, Tillman 2 0-2 4, Wendling 3 1-1 8. Totals 18 4-11 44.
3-point goals — CHBC 6 (Paruleski 6), Altamont 4 (M.Ohnesorge 3, Wendling 1).
Three-Point Showdown Advancers: Ava Paruleski-CHBC, Audrinna Pruett-Brownstown, Madison Ohnesorge-Altamont, Dani Austin-Brownstown