Win or go home.
Survive and advance.
Now or never.
Pick any sports cliche, and it applies to the current situation the St. Joseph-Ogden High School girls’ basketball team faces with every remaining game this season.
The second-seeded Spartans (19-10) play No. 7 Tuscola (17-9) in a 6 p.m. Class 2A regional semifinal game at SJO’s gym on Tuesday night. SJO owns a 50-46 overtime win against Tuscola back on Dec. 2 this season.
If SJO defeats Tuscola, the Spartans would play either No. 3 Villa Grove/Heritage (24-5) or No. 6 Schlarman (17-6) at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the regional championship game. The winner of the SJO Regional advances to a 7:30 p.m. semifinal game at the Paris Sectional next Monday.
Beating Tuscola a second time this season would not only keep SJO’s postseason hopes alive, but end a four-game losing streak the Spartans finished the regular season on.
SJO lost 54-52 at Bloomington Central Catholic last Thursday, which was preceded by a 47-29 loss at Mattoon on Feb. 4 and a 42-40 defeat to Auburn on Feb. 1 during the Illini Prairie/Sangamo Challenge at Maroa-Forsyth.
Sophomore Taylor Wells led SJO with a team-high 16 points in the loss against Bloomington Central Catholic, with senior Katie Cramer and sophomore Ella Armstrong each finishing with 12 points. The game was tied at 11 after the first quarter before SJO took a 27-24 lead into halftime. Bloomington Central Catholic, however, led 42-41 entering the fourth quarter of the close Illini Prairie Conference game throughout.
SJO only trailed Mattoon, a 3A program, 15-10 at the end of the first quarter before falling behind 34-16 at halftime and trailing 38-23 entering the fourth quarter in a makeup nonconference game. Junior Payton Vallee scored a team-high eight points for SJO, with junior Atleigh Hamilton and Armstrong each chipping in five points.
SJO trailed Auburn 10-9 at the end of the first quarter before going into halftime tied at 18. Auburn, however, reasserted itself in the third quarter to take a 31-26 lead into the fourth quarter that SJO could not overcome.
Cramer scored a team-high 11 points for the Spartans on the strength of three three-pointers, while Armstrong contributed eight points and senior Hannah Dukeman finished with six points.