WELDON SPRING • Maddy Devereux and her Lafayette girls basketball teammates weren’t about to let history repeat itself.
In a matchup with Eureka just 20 days ago, the Lancers led after each of the first three quarters only to lose after a big fourth quarter by the Wildcats.
In Monday’s Class 5 District 4 semifinal at Francis Howell, the Lancers again led after each of the first three quarters, but found themselves trailing by three points with just over three minutes left to play.
But, this time the Lancers found a way.
Lafayette scored seven unanswered points in a span of 1 minute, 31 seconds, a run that included Devereux’s go-ahead basket with 1:55 remaining, to boost the Lancers to a 56-51 victory.
“We all left after the last game and said ‘not again,’” said Devereux, a senior guard. “We definitely didn’t let them get as many wide-open shots as they would have liked in the fourth quarter. We really focused on our defense and let that carry over to our offense in the fourth quarter to prevent that same thing from happening.”
Third-seeded Lafayette (17-7) won for the sixth time in its last eight games and will take on host and top seed Francis Howell (19-8) for the championship at 5 p.m. Friday. The Vikings, ranked ninth among area large schools, knocked off Marquette 58-46 in Monday’s other semifinal.
“I’m real proud of our kids tonight,” Lafayette coach Dave Witter said. “Last time was a great basketball game, just like tonight. You lose by two last game after you were up by 14, you don’t need to change a whole lot. You’ve just got to play better basketball.”
The Lancers received balanced scoring on Monday. Three players— Devereux, Tara Robbe and Sydnie Wolf — scored 11 points each. Maddie Chester chipped in eight points off the bench.
“Our top three scorers are 11, 11 and 11 (points per game). That makes it hard to scout,” Witter said. “If they want to shut down this one, what are you going to do with that one?”
Second-seeded Eureka (15-11) fell for the fourth time in five games and had its season ended by its chief rival for the second straight year. It was the sixth straight game played between the two teams that was decided by seven points or less.
“Between conference games and districts, we played them twice last year and twice this year and it always comes down to the wire, it seems like,” Wildcats coach James Alsup said.
Eureka's leading scorer Kate Hillyer went off for 19 points in the first matchup. But, she was held to 10 points in the rematch, including just one field goal, a 3-pointer in the first quarter.
“She tore us up last time,” Witter said. “We switched our defensive assignments. Sydnie drew her. Hillyer’s good and Sydnie always does a good job responding to that kind of thing. We kind of saw a tendency Hillyer had and kind of shut that down. Sydnie did a very good job.”
In that first matchup, the Lancers held a sizable 19-9 lead after one quarter. This time around, their lead was just 12-11 after the first eight minutes.
The first quarter featured just one tie and no lead changes, but the second quarter featured six lead changes, including four in the first two minutes. Devereux’s 3-pointer with 2:21 to play in the first half sparked an 8-1 run to close the half with Lafayette up 28-22.
The Wildcats outscored the Lancers 14-9 in the third quarter, but could never regain the lead. Chester’s 3-pointer with 45 seconds left helped Lafayette enjoy a 37-36 lead after three.
A personal 5-0 run by Sydney Thurman gave Eureka a four-point advantage just over one minute into the fourth quarter and the Wildcats led 46-43 when the Lancers went on their decisive run.
After a bucket by Wolf, the teams traded empty possessions before Devereux gathered the ball on the left block, made a nice spin move, and converted a layup with 1:55 remaining to put Lafayette up 47-46.
“It’s definitely nice to have a mismatch like that,” Devereux said. “I definitely like to take advantage when I have a smaller player on me. My teammates did a good job of seeing that I was open and I was glad I made the shot.”
Chester followed with a huge 3-pointer and the Lancers held off the Wildcats to secure the victory.
Eureka graduates just three seniors in post players Lauren Glascock and Claire Martin, as well as the injured Jordan Thompson, but returns its top three scorers in freshman Hillyer and sophomores Thurman and Herbert.
“We’re losing our two post players that backed each other up and I feel bad for Jordan Thompson. She never could get healthy this year and only played (nine) games,” Alsup said. “But, other than that, everybody’s coming back and we’ve got some more pieces coming in. The future looks bright.”
Lafayette’s immediate future includes a date with a Francis Howell squad that has won nine of its last 10. Both teams were ousted by Washington in last year’s district tournament, as Howell lost in the semifinals and Lafayette fell in the championship.
“Both of us were empty-handed last year,” Witter said. “One of us is going to take the next step. It’s going to come down to who executes their game plan.”