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Alton tops Mater Dei, advances to Highland Tournament title game

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HIGHLAND — Kiyoko Proctor lurked in the passing lanes on defense.

The Alton High sophomore's recent cold streak was the furthest thing from her mind.

Proctor wanted the win, and defense wins games.

"You expect big things from Kiyoko," Alton coach Deserea Howard said. "You never really know who's going to pull it out of them because we push them all equally. Some girls are just closers and Kiyoko is a closer."

With the game hanging in the balance, Proctor's defense and helped seal a 45-34 victory over Mater Dei in a Highland Girls Basketball Tournament semifinal Wednesday at Highland High School.

Alton (22-0), the No. 1 large school in the STLhighschoolsports.com rankings, will play either Okawville (19-3) or O'Fallon (20-3) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday for tournament championship. 

"We're ready for whoever shows up on Saturday," Howard said. "Both are going to give us a hard test, whoever wins through, we'll be ready to play."

With the victory, Alton tied the 1976-77 squad for most wins in a season for the program. 

"I feel like we've played really well as a team," Proctor said. "We hustle hard and we listened to what our coach tells us what to do."

Proctor finished with a team-high 19 points. She started the game 5-for-5 from the field with 15 points in a quarter and a half. 

Then she went ice cold from the field, missing her next seven attempts. But that didn't stop the sophomore sensation from playing lockdown defense. 

With the Redbirds hanging on to a 34-31 lead in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, Proctor jumped into the passing lane to record her fourth steal of the game before sprinting for a wide-open layup. 

A possession later, she did the same but instead of going for the layup, she pulled it back.

"I knew we had to run the clock down, so I just backed it out," Proctor said.

While she was on her cold streak, she credits her teammates for keeping her locked in on defense.

"They were hustling for the ball so that made me want to hustle more," Proctor said. "The energy off the bench helped. That kept me going and gave me more energy."

In four games the last two seasons against Mater Dei (16-4), Proctor has averaged 16.5 points.

Craig Zurliene is ready to see the sophomore graduate.

"(If I were a college coach), I'd offer her a scholarship," the Mater Dei coach said. "She's a special player."

Mater Dei went ice cold from the field in the second and third quarters, missing 17 of its 19 shots, but never folded up shop.

"They're a good team," Zurliene said. "I'm proud of our girls because they didn't quit. I think we made a lot of mistakes and we have to correct those."

Knights sophomore Alyssa Koerkenmeier picked up a double-double with 12 points and 15 boards. She also blocked five shots as she was a load for the Redbirds to attack.

"Anytime you have a girl in the paint who's 6-6 and another who's 6-foot, that shakes things up," Howard said. "It forced us to play outside more than we liked to. I was confident that our girls could do it."

While offense came at a premium at times, Howard wasn't concerned with the score. She praised the defense, especially off the bench.

"We work on our defense more than our offense," Howard said. "We know we can score, but defense is what's going to take us. Defense is what we hang our hat on."

Junior Tayen Orr provided huge minutes off the bench with sophomore Jarius Powers saddled with foul trouble.

"We told our girls to stay ready," Howard said. "Tayen is a junior who's been in the system for a long time. She came out and executed. Her confidence has been building and it was nice to see that."

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