After scoring seven of the game's first 10 points, Cloe Churchill had a pretty simple explanation for her early success.
"I was just in the flow of the offense," the sophomore said following Canton's 73-59 Mid-Illini Conference girls basketball victory over Metamora on Saturday.
The 5-foot-9 guard knocked down a pair of free throws, hit a top-of-the-key 3-pointer and came away with a steal and layup. It was part of a 22-second spurt to start the game that gave the Little Giants (7-0, 1-0) a 10-0 lead.
Churchill finished with a game-high 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting. She added seven assists and five rebounds, while hitting 4 of 6 from behind the arc.
"(Metamora's defense was) denying me everything, so it was kind of tough," Churchill said. "I have a team that has really good ball movement, sets screens for me and we got a lot of transition points."
A lot of Canton's transition buckets came in an 18-point second quarter. Mariah Hedges (12 points, seven rebounds) got back-to-back layups and put the Little Giants up 32-14 with 2:57 to play in the half.
Metamora (1-6, 0-1) committed 18 first-half turnovers, a number of them off Canton steals. Churchill sent her team into half up 37-23 with a 3 from about 25 feet right before the horn.
"We used some transition and some early turnovers to set up some easy baskets," Little Giants coach Layne Langholf said. "We like to get the ball down the floor."
Despite trailing double digits most of the game, the Redbirds came out firing in the second half. They scored 29 third-quarter points on 10-of-21 shooting. Kara Hartnett (seven points, seven rebounds) and Kari Lalumandeir (14 points) got steals and layups eight seconds apart, cutting Canton’s lead to 48-44 with less than 2½ minutes to play.
“We didn’t take care of the basketball (10 third-quarter turnovers),” Langholf said. “They outplayed us there for a long stretch of that third quarter.”
However, turnovers on two of Metamora’s next three possessions saw a Sarah Linder layup and a 3 from Mel Turgeon from the left corner push Canton’s lead back to eight.
“I expect turnovers, I do,” said Metamora coach Riley Gardner, whose team did just that 29 times. “We’re going to have them. It’s just minimizing them.
“It’s just getting that confidence and that belief that we can compete and do it the entire game.”
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Heather DeLuca shot 50 percent (7-of-14) and scored a team-high 20 points for Metamora. Kim Bahl added 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Metamora varsity girls basketball team came back from a rough start this season with a 59-36 win over Bloomington Dec. 3.
After going 0-5 in the Galesburg Thanksgiving Tournament the Lady Redbirds stepped up the game against the Purple Raiders.
At the end of the first quarter, MTHS led 16-14 and did not give up the lead for the rest of the game.
In the second, the Lady Redbirds jumped the lead to 37-25 with sophomore Peyton Roehnelt contributing nine of her 17 points. Roehnelt sank four field goals and one free throw before the buzzer.
Hartnett, Kellie Steele, junior Hailey Mueller and DeLuca also contributed points for Metamora in the second quarter.
When the players returned to the court after the half, MTHS was only able to put four points on the board in the third quarter but kept Bloomington at six.
In the last eight minutes, 18 points were posted by the Lady Redbirds with Hartnett sinking four of her six free throw attempts and putting in another field goal to contribute to the win.
Metamora’s defense was persistent enough to keep Bloomington to five points in the fourth.
Hartnett led MTHS in scoring with 18 points and Roehnelt was right behind with 17 of her own.
— Drew Veskauf of TimesNewspapers contributed to this article.