MOWEAQUA — Forty minutes after the Class 1A sectional championship the Tri-County fans were still savoring the victory. The Lady Titans led by 16 on three different occasions before holding off Altamont to win 74-65.
It was Tri-County's third straight appearance in a sectional championship, having lost 51-43 to Okaw Valley last year and 55-48 to Christ Our Rock Lutheran in 2017. The third time proved to be the charm.
"It is an amazing feeling," said Tri-County senior Kiersten Price-Wilson. "We have really worked hard and I am really excited to get the sectional championship after being here two years in a row. It was very physical. They wanted it just as bad as we did. They played really hard and we fought back just as much. It was a fun fight. It was a really neat feeling that we finally did it and a big accomplishment for our seniors. Hopefully we can keep going to where we want to be."
Tri-County, 28-4, is to play Marissa/Coulterville, a 43-34 winner over Goreville at Steeleville at Salem on Monday at 6 p.m.
The Lady Indians, who finished as the No. 9 team in the state in the final Associated Press poll, and won the National Trail Conference, trailed just 47-40 after a basket by Tinley Mette with 4:24 left in the third. Tayler Barry canned a 3-pointer and Price-Wilson made a pair of free throws and the lead was back up to 12. The Lady Titans led 57-42 with 1:43 left after another three by Tayler Barry from the right wing. Altamont hung in there with a 6-0 run to trail by nine.
It looked like Tri-County was in good shape leading 65-53 with 4:38 left when the Lady Indians made one final run. Altamont closed to within four twice in the final 2:19 A three-pointer by Brooke Runge made it 65-61. Two free throws by Maiya Eskew and a steal and layup by Tayler Barry made it 69-61. Mette's bucket with 1:35 left made it 69-65 when Tayler Barry, who finished with a game-high 29 points, made four straight free throws to put the game on ice.
"I was very confident and nervous on those shots," said Tayler Barry of her three-pointers. "At the free throw line late it was stressful. It was great to win with my sister (Harley Barry). I know they really wanted it because they had been here twice and this is their last year."
Price-Wison had 14 points, while Bella Dudley and Maiya Eskew had 10 points each. Harley Barry led in assists with five, while Eskew had six steals.
"We debated over and over about going to man-to-man defense from the get-go," said Tri-County coach Joe Morrisey. "You dance with that brought you and we had played a 1-3-1 and our diamond and one full-court press."
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Altamont finished at 29-4.
Morrisey was happy with the game of Price-Wilson as well as others.
"Tayler hit some big shots," said Morrisey. "I thought that was one of the better games Kiersten played inside. We beat her on practice the last three days trying to toughen her up for things like tonight. Tayler was awesome. She is a basketball player and works and works at her game. Bella Dudley came off the bench and played some huge minutes for us. Maiya Eskew played well and Grace Burnside did a great job on defense and rebounds"
Tri-County trailed just once, 7-5 in the first three minutes of the game. The Lady Titans took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Tayler Barry. It was one of five in the game for the sophomore. Her steal and layup made it 19-12 after the first quarter.
Tri-County set a record for the most wins in a single season (for Oakland or Oakland-Kansas), breaking the previous mark set in 2000-01 when Oakland went 27-3. This is the fifth year of the Tri-County co-op with Shiloh, Oakland and Kansas.
Tri-County led by 16, 45-29, after a 3-pointer by Maiya Eskew. Altamont ended the scoring in the half on a basket by Leah Mayhaus.
Mayhaus and Mette led the Lady Indians with 17 and 12 points respectively.
"They capitalized on some of our mistakes," said Altamont coach Katie Lurkins. "They shot really well and we didn't shoot exceptionally well. It just come back to when you get this far in the postseason that is what is going to happen. Who capitalizes on the mistakes. Different people on our team stepped up at different times. We have played as a team. We have seven girls averaging between 7-11 points. No one wants to lose and stings. Like we said in the locker room we did this to 29 other teams. It is going to hurt right now but in a week or two we have to be proud of the bar we set. The seniors in their four years accomplished three regional titles."