CLARKSVILLE, Ind. — Eastern Pekin needed a late rally to advance while No. 4 Providence cruised in the Class 2-A Providence Sectional tournament semifinals Friday night.
Eastern (18-7) trailed most of the way before surging past Paoli 43-40, while the Pioneers (20-5) easily handled crosstown rival Clarksville, 53-23 in the nightcap at Providence High School.
The Musketeers, winners of 10 straight, will meet two-time defending sectional champion Providence in the sectional final Saturday night at 6 p.m. The winner will advance to the Paoli Regional tournament on Feb. 11.
Providence and Eastern played twice during the regular season. The Pioneers won both previous meetings, 53-48 and 43-39.
Eastern Pekin-Crawford County: The Musketeers trailed almost the entire game, including a seven-point deficit with two minutes left in the third quarter.
But Eastern kept chipping away behind the strong performance of junior Rachel Stewart, who led all scorers with 26 points.
“We had to grind,” said Eastern coach Mike McBride. “I’m happy with the way we did it because early in the year, we weren’t finishing. Tonight, I thought we did a better job.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Stewart converted two consecutive old-fashioned three-point plays, the last closing the deficit to 39-38 with 5:05 left. On its next possession, the Rams (13-12) were whistled for a three-second violation in the lane. Then the Musketeers came down and freshman guard Isabell Claywell drilled a 3-pointer — her only points of the game — and it gave Eastern its first lead of the contest, 41-39.
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Eastern led the rest of the way.
Leading 43-40, the Musketeers held the ball for more than a minute and forced Paoli to foul. However, the Musketeers missed three straight bonus free throws, opening the door for the Rams.
“Those are our two best free-throw shooters (Stewart and Taylor Drury),” McBride said. “Those are the two I want at the line.” Both are shooting near 80 percent.
Paoli, however, couldn’t make another shot and the Musketeers survived. Keaton Chastain, who made it difficult for Eastern around the basket, led Paoli with 23 points.
“We will have to play a lot better tomorrow night to have a chance (against Providence),” McBride said. “It’s going to be interesting.”
Providence-Clarksville: The Pioneers got off to a sluggish start but used a 19-0 run that began late in the first quarter to grab control of the game.
Providence’s Claire Rauck and Hannah Wolford hit back-to-back 3-pointers and the Pioneers led 21-4 with 6:37 left in the first half. Despite the easy win, the Pioneers weren’t pinpoint on their shooting, hitting just 6 of 26 from beyond the arc, and 17 of 54 overall.
“We’re just going to have to come prepare and ready to go tomorrow night,” said Providence coach Brad Burden. “Eastern is awfully good. They had a big challenge tonight. That probably just woke them up more than anything. When we make shots, we’re really hard to beat. We have to make shots from all areas of the court.”
Rauck, who led the Pioneers with 13 points, said they’ll be ready for the finals.
“The whole year has prepared us for tomorrow,” Rauck said. “We’ve played some really good teams. . . We definitely have to shoot better. We have to take good shots. We have to go up strong inside and finish.”
SECTIONAL 46 AT PROVIDENCE
EASTERN PEKIN 43, PAOLI 40
Bela Brewster 5p; Amber Smith 4p; Madison Street 1p; Keaton Chastain 23p; Jacqlyn Rice 7p.
EASTERN PEKIN (18-7)
Taylor Drury 4p; Holly Purlee 6p; Rachel Stewart 26; Savannah Emmert 4p; Isabell Claywell 3p.
PROVIDENCE 53, CLARKSVILLE 23
Cheyenne Brooks 6p; Olivia Jenkins 3p; Sydney Milliner 1p; Brooke Hayden 3p; Natalie Boesing 2p; Hannah Wolford 12p, 9p; Claire Rauck 13p; Kelsi Ernstberger 2p; Brigid Welch 2p; Mia Fougerousse 9p.
Aly Weber 11p; Kaitlyn Page 8; Kayla Isgrigg 2p; Brittney Andres 2.