The Chester High School Lady Jackets went 1-2 in the 40th annual Carbondale Girls Mid-Winter Classic Basketball Tournament Jan. 15-19 but their coach was impressed with how well her team handled the bigger schools they competed against.
Chester, a Class 2A school, faced nothing but Class 3A school in the tournament. They beat Mount Vernon, lost to Marion by only seven points and Carbondale pulled away at the end.
"All season we have been trying to compete against tougher competition," Coach Pat Knowles said. "Our girls aren't afraid to go up against anyone -- in fact, they loved playing in the Carbondale Tournament against bigger schools."
He said various people, including coaches and referees came up to him to compliment the Lady Jackets, even after losses.
"One referee told me that we should be playing bigger schools because for as young as we are, our girls fight like upperclassmen and are going to be something to watch down the road, Knowles said.
"Most people commented on how our girls fought hard and never gave up. We never hang our heads and we have class both off and on the court."
Carbondale 57; Chester 46
Neither team scored in the first two minutes. The Lady Terriers scored the first six points and Chester didn't score til Kendall Williams popped a 3-pointer at the 4:17 mark. Destiny Williams followed with a 2-pointer. Carbondale went on a 6-2 run to close the quarter and the score was 12-7 after one period.
Carbondale's Kate Crombar, a 5-7 junior, scored the first points of the second quarter, but Destiny Williams followed with a drive down the entire length of the floor and scored on a layup. She was fouled and made her free throw. Chester trailed, 14-10, at the 7:02 mark.
Akira Custer, a 5-6 Carbondale junior, went on a 5-0 run all by herself until Reese Chandler drained a 3-pointer. With 4:30 left in the half, Jessica Kattenbraker was knocked to the floor and had to leave the game. She was replaced by Audrey Hopper who sank a free throw.
Carbondale had a 6-0 run before Destiny Williams drained a 3-pointer and Kendall Williams got a bucket to bring Chester within six points, 25-19 with 1:38 remaining.
Destiny Williams would end the period with another basket and free throw and the Terriers would add another seven points. Carbondale led, 32-22 at halftime.
Destiny Williams opened the second half with a field goal and was fouled. She made her free throw. Kendall Williams followed with a pair of free throws of her own and narrowed the Terriers' lead to five points, 32-27 at the 7:13 mark.
The Terriers extended the lead to 34-27 at 5:51 and when Faith Halliday drained a 3-pointer with 1:06 to play, they led 37-27.
With 48 seconds remaining in the third quarter Chester's Josie Kattenbraker battled to the hoop for two points and CHS was within eight points, 37-29. Most everyone thought that's how the third would end. Carbondale's Hannah Lowndes got a shot off at the buzzer, however, to re-establish the Lady Terriers' 10-point lead, 39-29 to end the quarter.
Chester had lots of fight left in the final stretch. Carbondale's Torre Taylor struck first with a field goal, but Chester's Josie Kattenbraker responded with a free throw. Carbondale hit another basket at the 7:03 to make the score 43-30.
Coach Knowles called a time out to regroup. After the time out Carbondale made another basket to lead, 46-31, but Chester's Alyssa Seymour struck again for two points and Chester trailed 46-33 with 3:42 remaining in the game.
Kendall Williams drained a huge 3-pointer at the 2:55 mark and was fouled besides. The four-point play brought the Lady Jackets to within 11. The battle intensified as Audrey Hopper made a free throw, Reese Chandler sank a 3-pointer, Kendall Williams got another 3-pointer and Chandler hit a field goal with just 15 seconds left to play.
Unfortunately, Carbondale added 11 points of its own, and the game was over.
In the game Kendall Williams led the Jackets with 16 points followed by Destiny Williams (14), Reese Chandler (8), Alyssa Seymour (3), Josie Kattenbraker (3) and Audrey Hopper (2). Chester shot just 30 percent from the field but made 10 of 15 free throws for a 66 percent average.
Josie Kattenbraker led the Jackets in rebounding with seven boards. Destiny Williams led in assists and steals and Hopper led in loose ball recoveries with two. Carbondale outrebounded Chester 22-14.
Carbondale was led by Akira Custer who scored 21 points. She was followed by Kate Crombar (10), Kiara Cobb (8), Hannah Lowndes (8), Faith Halliday (6) and Torrey Taylor (4). The Lady Terriers made 6 of 8 free throws.
Knowles said he was proud of how his team fought to the end, and noted the Lady Jackets were without Kailyn Absher (concussion protocol) and that Alyssa Seymour was playing with a hurt ankle.
"We didn't shoot the best, and still kept it within 11 points against a Class 3A school," he added.
Marion 44; Chester 37
The first quarter was tight and ended with Marion leading, 16-13. Reese Chandler was hot from the three point arc, hitting all three of her attempts. Alyssa Seymour was strong down low making a short shot and Josie Kattenbraker was 2 for 2 from the charity stripe.
The second period was even closer as Marion just edged Chester by one point, 12-11, to lead 28-24 at halftime. Destiny Williams led the Jackets with a pair of field goals. Josie Kattenbraker kept getting to the free throw line and made 3 of 4. Reese Chandler sank a shot as did Alyssa Seymour to round out Chester's 11 points.
Marion's McKenzie Orange was huge for Lady Wildcats with nine points in the half. Margaux Bruce and Lauryn Kadela each added six apiece. Jordan Turner and Maegan Dillon each had two points apiece. The Wildcats led, 28-24 at halftime.
After the break the Lady Jackets came out strong on defense, but poor shooting killed the third period for CHS. The only field goal came from Reese Chandler, and the other points came from the free throw line, where Kattenbraker made 2 of 4 and Alyssa Seymour made 1 of 2.
Meanwhile, Chester held Marion to just eight points on four 2-point field goals by Turner, Daishen Wolaver, Bruce and Dillon. After three periods of play the Jackets were still knocking on Marion's back door, 36-29.
In the fourth quarter, both teams scored eight points apiece. Destiny Williams hit Chester's only field goal. The other six points came from Williams, Seymour, and Audrey Hopper, who sank free throws.
In the period the McKenzie Orange scored six of Marion's eight points. Wolaver added two points on a field goal.
The Lady Jackets were led by Reese Chandler with 13 points, followed by Destiny Williams (8), Josie Kattenbraker (7), Alyssa Seymour (7) and Audrey Hopper (2). Chester made 10 field goals -- seven 2-pointers and three 3-pointers -- shooting just 23 percent.
Marion had seven players score, led by McKenzie Orange with 15 points. Other scorers were Margaux (8), Lauryn Kadela (6), Jordan Turner, Daishen Wolaver, and Maegan Dillon (4) and Quinisha Emanuel (3).
"We should have won that game," Knowles said. "We couldn't get our shots to fall, but did hold the Wildcats to just 44 points. Like always we never gave up and fought hard to the end."
Chester 48; Mt. Vernon 45
Chester closed out the tournament with an impressive win against the Mt. Vernon Lady Rams. The Lady Jackets stormed out of the gate and never looked back.
The Jackets led, 13-9 after one quarter. Josie Kattenbraker was huge for the Jackets, hitting the lane and battling down low for position and points. She paced the team with a big 3-pointer, a 2-pointer and shooting 1 for 2 free throws.
Reese Chandler also came up big, draining a 3-pointer and a field goal early. Destiny Williams capped off the 13-point quarter with a field goal. Chandler played the entire first half with a severe stomach issue and never returned in the second half.
The second quarter was a nail-biter but Chester outscored the Rams, 13-12 to take a 26-21 lead into the locker room. Kendall Williams paced the Jackets with two field goals and 2-for-2 free throw shooting. Kattenbraker added a field goal and a free throw. Destiny Williams made two free throws and Chandler connected for a basket.
Six Lady Rams chipped in for Mt. Vernon's 12 points including Brooklynn Kelley (1), Ashlyn Conner (3), Kaijah Weller (2), Annibelle Harrison (2), Nici Rudd (2), and Ashtyn Childers (2).
After the half, Destiny Williams popped a 3-pointer. Kendall Williams drained a 3-pointer and a 2-pointer. Josie Kattenbraker added a field goal and was 2-for-2 from the free throw line to cap off a 12-point period. The Rams stayed in the game, however, on eight points from Annibelle Harrison, and a field goal from Brooklynn Kelly to give the Rams 10 points for the third. Chester still led, 38-31.
Going into the final period, the Rams stepped up their game, holding the Lady Jackets to just 10 points. Kelly went to the line six times in the fourth making all six. Bria Moore, Harrison and Rudd scored, inching the Rams closer.
But Alyssa Seymour knocked down a field goal late in the game. A bit later she was fouled, and Knowles called a time out and drew up a plan to finish the game. He told the team exactly what he wanted them to do "after Seymour made her free throws." He gave no room for the possibility Seymour might miss her shots.
Seymour sank the first, then looked over at Knowles and smiled before she drained the other. Knowles called another time out to make sure they knew exactly what to do in the final seconds. They did.
The Jackets were led by Kendall Williams with 13 points. Josie Kattenbraker had 11, Destiny Williams (9), Reese Chandler (7) and Alyssa Seymour (6).
As a team Chester made 11 field goals, four three-pointers and 14 of 16 free throws. Chester also outrebounded Mt. Vernon with 19 boards. Destiny Williams led the team in assists with three and loose ball recoveries with two. Kendall Williams had two deflections Alyssa Seymour had a huge defensive day blocking four Rams shots.
Mt. Vernon was paced by two players, Brooklyn Kelly and Annibelle Harrison who each scored 14. Six other players, however, contributed in the loss: Nici Rudd (7), Ashlyn Conner (3), Kaijah Weller, Bria Moore, and Ashlyn Childers (2) and Zana Das (1).
With the win the Lady Jackets improved to 14-12 overall for the season and ended the tournament with one win and two losses.
Chester's Destiny Williams was voted to the All-Tournament Team. Over the three games she scored 31 points, grabbed six rebounds, had six assists, committed four turnovers, had four steals, deflected two Rams passes, and recovered two lose balls.
"Destiny did not have a huge scoring tournament, but she did everything else well, like hustling, dishing out assists, being a leader on the floor and playing tenacious defense," Knowles said. "Others see that, and know how important her many other skills are to the team."
Other key contributors were Kendall Williams who scored 29 points, Reese Chandler who scored 28 points, and Josie Kattenbraker who scored 21 points. Kattenbraker also led the team in rebounding with 17 boards. Alyssa Seymour grabbed 16 rebounds and Reese Chandler recorded nine rebounds.