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Kisgen comes to rescue to lead Freeburg into regional title game

Kisgen comes to rescue to lead Freeburg into regional title game

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COLUMBIA, Ill. — Even at this late stage in the season, Freeburg High girls basketball coach Bethany McQuiston has to sneak a peak at her roster.

The numbers along the name of freshman guard Kylie Kisgen don't seem quite right.

"I still look to make sure, but yes, she's just 5-5," McQuiston said of her mighty mite.

Freeburg senior forward Ellie Eichenlaub also seems perplexed at times.

"She doesn't play like a freshman — more like a junior," Eichenlaub said.

Kisgen pumped in a career-high 20 points Tuesday to lead the Midgets to a 61-39 win over Columbia in the semifinal round of the Class 2A Columbia Regional.

Freeburg (24-8), which has won 14 of its last 16 games, will face Chester (26-5) in the regional final at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Midgets are searching for their first regional title since 2009.

Kisgen entered the contest averaging 7.4 points per game but came through with a breakout performance at the perfect time.

Two of the Midgets' top players struggled at times, forcing Kisgen into the spotlight.

She did not disappoint.

"I'm so impressed with the way she handles the pressure," McQuiston said. "We needed her to step up more at the offensive end because they took Haley (Kimes) and Maddy (Schwemmer) away. Her role was different because she had to generate more offense — and she did."

Kisgen scored 20 of the Midgets' first 49 points and was removed from the game midway through the final period after her team had built up a large lead. She added five steals and also grabbed three rebounds despite being the smallest player on the court.

Plus, Kisgen hit all seven of her foul shots.

"Everyone works well together and we all know when it's time to step up," Kisgen said. "The best part is we recognize when our roles need to change."

Kisgen helped lift the Midgets out of an early slumber. They missed their first five shots and turned the ball over twice on their first six possessions to dig an early 4-0 hole.

But Kisgen, with help from Eichenlaub, who added 12 points, kicked started a 13-0 run that put Freeburg back on the right path.

The dymanic duo combined for all of the points in the blitz, which was completed in 3 minutes and 41 seconds.

Schwemmer drilled a 3-pointer to start the second period. Mya Gebke, who added 10 points, followed with a basket and Kisgen scored on a driving layup to push the lead to 20-9.

Columbia (11-17) climbed to within seven points on free throws from Taylor Holten and Kelsey Ohlendorf.

But Freeburg scored eight of the final 11 points of the half to walk away with a 28-16 cushion.

The Midgets pushed the lead to 28 points in the second half before waltzing home.

"Coach always says get out early and don't let the other team have a chance," Eichenlaub said. "We didn't really do that until the second quarter, but we once we got going, we were fine."

Freeburg won 10 games in a row from Jan. 7 to Feb. 1. Its three losses in the calendar year have come against toughies Quincy Notre Dame, Breese Central and Hazelwood Central.

"The idea is that we should be playing our best basketball now," Eichenlaub said. "These last few games we've been really picking it up."

Freeburg beat Columbia by 26 and 32 points in the two regular-season meetings. But the Eagles stayed within striking distance throughout most of the first half Tuesday.

"Our girls battled and showed some fight," Columbia coach Scott Germain said. "There wasn't a lack of effort. Their pressure eventually just wore us down."

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