EAST CHAIN - Not even a bloody nose two minutes into Monday night's Section 2A, South Sub-Section quarterfinal could keep St. Clair freshman guard Hailey Embacher off the hardwood court at East Chain School for too long.
Embacher produced a game-best 31 points, including seven during the four-minute overtime, and pocketed a game-high seven steals to help the No. 6-seeded Cyclones knock the No. 3-seeded Granada-Huntley-East Chain Mustangs out of the playoffs, 56-53.
St. Clair (10-14) advances to face No. 2-seeded United South Central (18-7) - a 64-59 quarterfinal survivor over No. 7-seeded Martin Luther - at 8 p.m. Thursday night in Lake Crystal in the sub-section semifinals.
FIRING A TREY — Granada-Huntley-East Chain’s Emily Zaharia fires a 3-pointer over St. Clair defenders Abby Drummer (2) and Katelyn Weber (11) during Section 2A, South Sub-Section quarterfinal basketball action Monday night at East Chain School. St. Clair’s Hailey Embacher (3), along with GHEC’s Kenlie Pytleski (43) and Allyson Cegelske (31), watch the action. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
GHEC ended its season with an 11-12 record.
Trailing 45-42 on the heels of Mustang forward Kenlie Pytleski's putback basket with 47 seconds remaining in regulation, the Cyclones turned to Embacher from behind the 3-point arc to force overtime.
"I knew that I had to make it or our season would end," said Embacher, who swooshed the fifth of her game-high six trifectas from the right corner to knot the game at 45-all with 29 seconds left in regulation.
GHEC then grabbed a one-point lead in the extra session when Emily Zaharia hit the front end of a one-and-one situation before the two Valley Conference rivals traded long-range shots.
Embacher, who donned the No. 3 jersey in place of her blood-speckled No. 13 uniform during the second half, drained a left-wing trey before Zaharia - who produced a team-best 19 points - answered with a long 2-pointer from the right corner to tie the game at 48-all.
The 5-foot-5 Embacher then gave St. Clair the lead for good by elevating in the lane to sink a 10-foot runner. Brooke McDonald hit the front end of a one-and-one situation for GHEC, but Embacher converted the bonus situation during the ensuing trip downcourt to swing a 52-49 lead to the visitors.
Cyclones center Katelyn Weber, who pulled down a game-best 16 rebounds, then calmly connected on two free throws with 51 seconds left in overtime to extend the lead to 54-49.
Joci Hanson later tossed in a baseline runner after St. Clair broke GHEC's full-court pressure to stretch the edge to seven points with time winding down.
Pytleski, who garnered a team-best eight rebounds, converted Allyson Cegelske's third assist of the game into a low-post lay-in with 8.6 seconds left.
GHEC center Rachel Shumski, who scored 12 points, later garnered a steal on a long St. Clair pass and eventually fed Zaharia, who was fouled while shooting a 3. Zaharia made two free throws with less than a full second to go.
Cegelske connected on four 3-pointers to generate 12 points for the Mustangs, while Zaharia - who also sank four treys - pocketed three steals to complement her 19-point performance.
Chloe Hanson scored 13 points and distributed three assists for the Cyclones.
United South Central 64, Martin Luther 59 - The No. 2-seeded Rebels fended off the fiesty No. 7-seeded Knights 64-59 during Section 2A, South Sub-Section quarterfinal action on Monday in Wells.
USC (19-7) plays No. 6-seeded St. Clair in the sub-section semifinals at 8 p.m. Thursday in Lake Crystal.
Martin Luther finished its season with a 9-15 record.
Anissa Janzig scored 32 points to rally the Rebels from a 32-31 halftime deficit.
Junior guard Kayley Shoen scored a game-high 34 points, including going 16-for-18 from the free throw line and making 6 of 9 from inside the arc, to pace the Knights' efforts.
Shoen also pocketed five steals, doled out four assists and grabbed four rebounds in the game.
Senior center Kristi Oberdieck netted 13 points, while teammate Hunter Payne pocketed four steals and grabbed four rebounds, while Alexis Brummond also swiped four steals for Martin Luther.
The Knights made 22 of 24 free throws, sank 14 of 36 from inside the arc and swished 3 of 20 from 3.