MACKINAW — The top-ranked Eureka girls basketball team made it three straight regional titles on Thursday night.
The Hornets (28-2) overpowered Farmington, 55-30, to win the Class 2A Mackinaw Regional title.
It was the 17th straight win for Eureka, which tied the school record for wins that it set last season, when the Hornets finished fourth in the 2A state finals.
Eureka advanced to the Beardstown Sectional semifinals on Monday against either Camp Point Central/Augusta Southeastern or Illini West. That game was postponed until Saturday because of the weather.
"We’re taking it one game at a time," Hornets coach Jerry Prina said. "The margin of error is so close in the postseason, and it’s all about keeping your poise and making every possession count. We did a great job of that tonight.
"You just have to weather the storm when you’re not making shots, don’t turn the ball over and just out-rebound your opponent. I think we did a good job on the glass tonight."
The top scorers for Eureka were juniors Darby Leman (17 points, seven rebounds) and Natalie Anderson (10 points, five boards).
But the Hornets also got solid input from seniors Lauren Ausmus (eight points, five rebounds), Morgan Greene (seven points, five rebounds) and Courtney Heffren (seven points, seven boards, three steals).
"We’re eight in our rotation, but any one of those eight can sting you," Prina said.
Eureka also finished with a 36-22 rebounding edge while going 22-for-53 from the floor. Farmington finished 13-for-37 shooting and turned the ball over 22 times.
The Hornets got out to an early lead and went ahead 16-9 at the end of the first quarter on a buzzer-beating trey by Heffren.
Eureka pulled away to a 27-11 halftime lead after holding the Farmers to just two points in the second quarter. Farmington went 1-for-7 from the floor and turned the ball over seven times in that period.
"If they don’t hit that buzzer 3, and if we could have made a couple of layups, we could have been at halftime down maybe eight instead of 16," Farmington coach Jim Noonan said. "That might have changed the complexion. That being said, Eureka is a great team."
Eureka upped its lead to 34-13 with 5:47 left in the third. Then the Farmers (13-11) pulled to within 36-24 after Macie Sprague (12 points, six boards) hit a pair of treys and Emily Cash (12 points, five rebounds) added another 3-pointer in an 11-2 spurt.
"It looks like it was a blowout, but it wasn’t," Prina said. "We were kind of sitting at the edge of our seats the whole game, and we were a little anxious. It was a 12-point game, but then we finished it off with a great run there at the end.
The Hornets turned up the heat on defense and went on a 13-2 surge to go up 49-26 with four minutes left in the game. Heffren had three steals and made a couple of break-away layups to help put the game away before the coaches put in the subs to end the game.
"This group doesn’t quit," Noonan said. "They really handle adversity. "I truly think the kids never felt like we were out of it, until obviously the very end of the third quarter."
Johnny Campos can be reached at 686-3214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JohnnyCampos59.