Lady Cougars Champions of 38th Annual Holiday Tournament

What does a team do for an encore after earning its 1,300th win in program history? How about win the 38th annual Cougar Holiday Tournament over longtime rivals.

Led by Marquitta Easley’s career high 28 points, the No. 4 Illinois Central College women’s basketball team beat No. 11 Kirkwood 71-59 to win the championship on Dec. 30 at Ramsey Gym. Easley, a 5′-5″ sophomore guard from Zion-Benton High School, shot 11 of 16 from the field, scoring on a variety of layups and jumpers, and also pulled down six rebounds to help the cause. She was definitely Batman for the day, but as has been the case all season, there were several Robins aboard the Cougar bus. 

Abby Coates added a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds, Summer Stoewer had 10 points and 5 assists, Emma Henderson netted 10 points, and Kathy Pinnock-Branford dished out five assists while the team worked together to hold Kirkwood to 32-percent field goal shooting and out-rebounded them 44-32.  

Easley’s engine was revved up from the start as she got two early buckets and Stoewer added another to take a 6-5 lead. Kirkwood countered with their strong inside game to grab the lead at 11-6. With this being the third game in three days, bench play was a key factor for both teams and the Lady Cougars did their part as Moriah Ward scored inside, assisted by Coates, and Henderson added a layup and 3-pointer, with assists from Easley and Coates, to draw even at 14-all after one period.

While offense usually makes the highlight reels, it was the Cougar defense that did the damage in the second period, holding Kirkwood to just three field goals in the quarter on 16 attempts. After taking a 22-19 lead, ICC held the Eagles scoreless for nearly five and a half minutes and while baskets by Coates and Stoewer, with assists from Stoewer and Henderson, respectively, gave ICC a 26-19 lead. Easley then scored the final six points of the quarter to put ICC up 32-21 at halftime.

Sloppy play by both teams started the second half, but following two Easley free throws, the Lady Cougars found their groove. Stoewer snagged a steal and converted it into a layup, followed by an Easley layup in transition, and then a Jordyn Hare rebound led to a Coates’ layup, assisted by Stoewer, giving the Cougars a 40-25 lead.  Coates added a baseline jumper, assisted by Pinnock-Branford, followed by three more Easley scores for the biggest lead of the night at 48-30 at the 5-minute mark. Kirkwood answered with a 6-0 run, but Coates scored on a set play, assisted by Pinnock-Branford, and ICC took a 52-39 advantage heading into the final stanza.

Scoring was sporadic to start the fourth quarter until Easley nailed a 3-pointer and baskets by Ward and Pinnock-Branford pushed the lead to 62-46 with five minutes to play. Kirkwood responded by going inside and also picked up their defense, closing the gap to 66-57 with just under two minutes, but a Henderson 3-pointer from the top of the key finished off the Eagles and gave ICC their 14th consecutive win and tourney championship.

Individual Stats

Becker (3 reb, 1 pt) Hare (4 reb) Faulkner (2 pts) Ward (4 pts, 2 reb) Stoewer (12 pts 7 reb, 4 asts, 2 blks) Pinnock-Branford (5 asts, 2 pts) Henderson (10 pts, 3 reb) Coates (12 pts, 11 reb, 3 asts, 3 blks) Easley (29 pts, 6 asts)

The Road to the Tournament Championship

Dec. 28: Vs. Sauk Valley — Win 88-44

Becker (7 pts, 6 asts, 6 reb) Hare (5 reb, 2 pts) Faulkner (8 pts, 3 reb) Brown (8 pts, 6 reb) Overman (9 reb, 4 pts) Washington (1 reb) Stoewer (7 pts, 1 charge taken) Pinnock-Branford (7 asts, 6 pts, 5 reb, 2 stls) Henderson (11 pts, 7 reb, 5 asts) Coates (19 pts, 7 reb) Easley (16 pts, 6 asts, 4 reb)

Dec. 29: Vs. North Iowa Area Community College — Win 84-77

Becker (9 reb-career high, 4 asts, 2 pts, 2 stls) Hare (8 reb-career high, 6 pts) Faulkner (9 pts, 7 reb, 2 blks) Ward (7 reb, 2 pts) Stoewer (8 pts, 7 asts-career high), Pinnock-Branford (10 pts, 6 asts, 5 reb), Henderson (10 pts, 3 reb), Coates (20 pts, 8 reb), Easley (17 pts, 7 reb)