FLORISSANT • The Hazelwood Central girls basketball team entered the Class 5 District 2 championship game Thursday night with a 15-game winning streak.
The closest call during the stretch came Feb. 1 when the Hawks edged Pattonville by a point.
Pattonville was the opponent again exactly one month later, but this time it was no contest. Hazelwood Central led by as many as 30 points and won 79-52 at McCluer North High School for its first district title since 2014.
Hazelwood Central (20-6) will go for win 17 in a row in the Class 5 sectional contest at 6 p.m. Wednesday against Jackson (21-6) at Jefferson College in Hillsboro.
"I don't want to say that we are playing our best basketball right now," Hazelwood Central coach Chantell Polk said. "I hope we haven't reached our ceiling, but we are playing real well."
The first quarter Thursday was competitive with several lead changes and ties, the last at 13-13.
But Hazelwood Central scored the final five points of the quarter and went on a 19-2 run in the first four minutes of the second quarter to take control of the game.
"This team is capable of runs like that, but it is the defense which sets the tone for them." Polk said. "I thought the defense was extremely strong at times tonight."
Strong starts have not always been the case for the Hawks, even during the streak. But Hazelwood Central came out ready to play in the championship game.
"Everybody steps up to the plate when it is a win or go home game like tonight," said senior Kelsie Williams, who wants to keep her high school career going before attending SIU Edwardsville next fall. "I think the biggest difference from the last time we played them was that our intensity was better."
Williams, who led the Hawks with 20 points, is enjoying the streak even though she has lost count of the consecutive wins.
"What is it, 14 or 15," she asked. "I really don't keep track."
Two other seniors, Kourtney White and Nikayla Hill had 19 and 15 points as the Hawks had four players in double figures. Freshman Nariyah Simmons added 12.
Hazelwood Central led 41-24 at halftime. The Pirates came out and scored the first five points of the second half to pull within a dozen points. But the Hawks scored the next eight points and increased their lead to 60-33 after three quarters. They got the lead up to 30, which meant a running clock for a couple of minutes, and then cleared their bench as the starters celebrated a district championship.
It was a tough end to the season for Pattonville (16-10), which stayed within 51-50 a month earlier. Tyra Brown had 18 points and Kelsey Mack added 15 to lead the way for the Pirates.
"They are on a roll and we knew we would have to play very well to beat them," Pattonville coach Doug McGhee said. "But I thought they came out more ready to play and they just outworked us. The second-chance points hurt us."
The Hawks have come back from a five-game losing streak early in the season, although all of those losses came against high-caliber competition (Edwardsville, O'Fallon, Rock Bridge, Kirkwood and East St. Louis).
"We just want to keep doing what we have been doing, and if we do that I think we have a real shot of making it to the final four," Polk said.