April 7, 2020 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Armstrong, Dukeman key as SJO girls’ basketball vies for regional championship on Thursday night

Adversity will hit teams during the postseason.

For the St. Joseph-Ogden High School girls’ basketball team, a two-point third quarter on Tuesday night saw the Spartans facing a four-point deficit against Tuscola in a Class 2A regional semifinal game in St. Joseph.

But, when SJO needed to make the plays, the Spartans delivered, this time to the tune of a narrow 34-32 win against Tuscola.

Because of that, SJO will aim for its third straight regional championship at 7 p.m. on Thursday night when the Spartans (20-10) square off against Villa Grove/Heritage (25-5).

The winner of Thursday night’s game will advance to next Monday’s Paris Sectional semifinal game against either top-ranked Paris (32-0) or Sullivan (22-6) at 7:30 p.m. Those two teams are slated to meet at 7 p.m. on Friday for the Sullivan Regional championship.

SJO trailed Tuscola 10-9 at the end of the first quarter, but led 21-16 at halftime. The third quarter, however, saw the Spartans struggle offensively, with senior Taylor Barnes contributing the only field points for SJO’s only two points in the eight-minute quarter as Tuscola went ahead 27-23.

But senior guard Hannah Dukeman, only in her second week back playing after missing most of the season because of wrist surgery, chipped in six of her seven points in the fourth quarter. Barnes, who finished with four points, also made a critical bucket for the Spartans while sophomore guard Ella Armstrong drained her third and final three-pointer of the game in the fourth quarter.

Armstrong paced SJO with a game-high 15 points. Besides Dukeman and Barnes, junior Atleigh Hamilton (four points), sophomore Payton Jacob (two points) and sophomore Taylor Wells (two points) also produced points for the Spartans.

SJO will try to knock off Villa Grove/Heritage for the second time this season on Thursday night. The two teams met back in the first week of the season, with the Spartans earning a 46-43 win during the Falcon/Bunnie Tip-Off Classic in Fisher.

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