Effingham Daily News
Against a tough Salem team Friday night, Effingham played a different brand of basketball, keyed on slowing down the game and keeping the Lady Wildcats out of transition.
The move worked with a regional title on the line, as Effingham shut down the Salem offense and won the Class 3A Effingham Regional with a 43-30 win Friday night.
In the teams' two previous matchups, Salem topped 50 points, once in a loss and the other in a win earlier this month.
So Effingham coach Jeff Schafer was more than willing to play against his team's style that led the Lady Hearts to a 27-3 record.
"That's fine, we knew the lower scoring game, the better chance we had to win," he said. "They're almost quicker in every spot."
It worked, as Effingham led wire-to-wire and moved to 28-3. It's Effingham's first regional title since the 2010-11 season.
The key for the Hearts was to limit the fast-break game that Salem used in both its previous matchups. It was succesful early, as Effingham led 14-9 and then held Salem to one point over the first five-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter as the Hearts pushed the lead to 22-10.
While the Effingham offense struggled from time to time, the defense never gave way.
"We did a nice job getting on the (Shelby) Holst girl right away, that was the key, not letting her make those fast-break passes," Schafer said. "We did a great job taking away their fast break points, I think they had two points on the fast break."
Holst had two points and fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Effingham led 30-13 at one point in the third quarter, only to see Salem go on a 12-2 run to cut the lead to seven points midway through the fourth quarter.
By that point, Effingham was already in the bonus and salted the game away at the free-throw line. Salem got within five points with 2:17 to go, but Effingham scored seven points over the final minutes and held Salem scoreless.
Schafer said he could tell his team brought a little something extra to the table Friday night at home with the season on the line.
"They play good basketball, but sometimes I wonder if they have a pulse," he said. "They're just great kids, and I thought we had a little more fire in our bellies tonight. They were just hungrier tonight, you could just see it."
Jantzen Michael led all scorers with 15 points for Effingham and Josie Zerrusen had 14 points. Kaylie Beer and Maddi Hood led Salem with nine points each.
The Lady Hearts now head to the Carbondale Sectional, taking on Civic Memorial at 8 p.m. Tuesday after Civic Memorial bested Highland 33-29 to win the Troy Triad Regional title.
Schafer said he has seen Civic Memorial a few times, and knows the team will look familiar.
"We play Civic, it's going to be like playing ourselves," he said.
Salem 9 4 7 10 30
Effingham 14 8 10 11 43
Salem: Sh. Holst 2, Hood 9, Cook 1, Baer 8, Beer 9, Henson 1
Effingham: Michael 15, Totten 2, Stephenson 7, Kaufman 4, Robb 1, Zerrusen 14