Girls start Regional

Justin Miller
Looking for an option: Mikayla Vail dribbles against Hall.

It was only fitting that the Lady Ghosts would close a grueling season with two classic conference showdowns.

The Illinois Valley Central Ghosts took on the Peoria Christian Chargers Feb. 3.

From the opening tip, the Ghosts made it clear they were in charge, putting their woes from the Streator shootout behind them.

While the Ghosts took the charge out of the Peoria Christian offense by holding them to only five points, their own offense surged with 12 first-quarter points.

After starting the game hot, the Ghosts did not cool off in the second quarter.

The continued offensive streak was due in part to junior Laci Peterson’s game-high 18 points.

Not only was the IVC offense continuing to play great, the defense also kept up its lockdown play to put the Ghosts up 24-12 going into halftime.

With the Chargers already in a hole, the Lady Ghosts began the second half by adding even more distance between the teams.

The third quarter proved to be the best one yet for the Ghosts, who doubled up the Chargers in points, 14-7.

IVC effectively ran its offense and took time to get good shots, helping the third quarter splurge.

With a large lead late in the game, all the Ghosts had to do in the fourth quarter was hold on, and hold on they did, with freshman Emma Hoerr getting in on the action.

Hoerr contributed seven points for the game.

Although the Chargers amped up their best offensive quarter of the game, so did the Ghosts, outscoring Peoria Christian 16-15 to win the game, 54-34.

“They’re a very young team and are going to be a very good team,” coach Paul Mercer said of the Chargers. “We stayed in a zone in the game that stopped their three-point shooting.”

The Ghosts took to the road Thursday to battle the Spring Valley Hall Red Devils, a North Central Illinois Conference-Lincoln Division foe.

The conference showdown started with the IVC offense dominating the Hall defense by knocking down shot after shot, with help from the veteran leadership of senior Chelsy Stumbaugh.

The Red Devil offense, in contrast, could not overcome the speedy pressure defense of the Ghosts and trailed after the quarter, 16-8.

The Ghost offense cooled in the second quarter due to low shooting percentage and too many turnovers.

IVC’s defense also failed to keep up their early game play, allowing Hall to put up a 12-4 run that tied the game at 20 at halftime.

“We started out very well — the girls were ready,” Mercer said. “But we went through a stretch in the second quarter where we shot 1-11 from the field.”

Coming out of halftime, the Ghosts failed to regain its shooting accuracy from the first quarter, and the Red Devils received too many easy shooting opportunities.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Ghosts trailed by seven and needed a stellar effort to hold down the Hall offense and put up points of their own.

Offensively, the Ghosts exhibited one of the best quarters of the game.

But it was still not enough to overcome the Red Devils, who had not cooled down at all since the second quarter.

The Lady Ghosts dropped the game, 45-40.

“The third and fourth quarters were very physical,” Mercer said. “But you have to be happy because the team never gave up.”

On Friday night, the Ghosts closed out the regular season by traveling to Mendota to take on their conference foe.

The conference finale started out tight, with both teams shooting accurately and capitalizing on opportunities for points.

The Ghosts exited the quarter in the lead, 13-12.

When the second quarter rolled around, the Ghost defense stepped up by creating turnovers and held Mendota to their worst offensive quarter of the game.

Meanwhile, the Ghost offense was not having problems putting points up, led by Stumbaugh’s game-high 16 points.

The Ghosts went into halftime leading, 26-18.

When the Ghosts came out of halftime, the offense took wings and put up its best quarter of the game.

Although the Ghost offense showed no lag in the third quarter, the Mendota offense woke up to and refused to let IVC pull away.

The Ghosts entered the final frame leading, 40-31.

With just eight minutes remaining in the regular season, the Ghosts went out with a bang by keeping Mendota at bay.

IVC won the game 48-41.

The Ghosts finished second in the conference behind Hall.

After the successful regular-season campaign, the Ghosts returned home to host the Regional Tuesday.

“We had a lot of games last week, so I gave them Saturday off to rest,” Mercer said of his preparations for the Regional. “We scouted Eureka last week. They’re a very good team.”

The second-seed Ghosts (16-9, 8-2) played third-seeded Eureka in the first round of the Chillicothe Regional Tuesday.

If the Ghosts won, they play in the Regional championship at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at IVC.