Making 10-of-15 shots and all five of her free-throw attempts Saturday afternoon, Olney Central College center Kelsey Pilant netted a season-high 25 points for the Lady Knights, who defeated Southeastern Illinois 91-75 in their Great Rivers Athletic Conference opener at Harrisburg.
The 6-2 freshman from Jasonville, Ind., also had seven of OCC's 51 rebounds and five blocks as the Lady Knights (4-2, 1-0 GRAC) won their third straight despite turning the ball over 23 times and going 2-of-13 behind the arc.
"We came out flat and Kelsey was the spark plug that got us going, scoring our first seven points," Clint Burris said after recording his 50th victory as head coach of the Lady Knights.
"She is playing with confidence and she uses her size and body really well. Kelsey doesn't try to force anything. She lets the game come to her and our guards have done a great job of getting her the ball."
Five OCC players cracked double figures with Leah Myers and Samantha Scott contributing 12 points apiece and Shelbi Samsil and Samantha Shoulders each collecting 10. Myers, a 5-10 sophomore (Bedford, Ind.), compiled a double-double off the bench, snatching 10 rebounds as well, six coming on the offensive end.
"Leah has been fighting an ankle injury and she is starting to heal a little bit," Burris said. "She doesn't score the most points but she is one of our vocal leaders."
The Lady Knights led 40-31 at the half and outscored Southeastern Illinois 51-44 over the final 20 minutes.
"We played 15 to 20 minutes of really good ball and the other 15 to 20, we were unfocused," Burris said. "We relaxed at times and gave up 24 points off turnovers. On the positive side, we're moving the ball well (the Lady Knights have 48 assists in their last two games)."
Samsil (six) and Brooke Callaway (five) accounted for 11 of OCC's 23 assists while Kelsee Ennis swiped a team-high six steals.
Anna Best paced Southeastern Illinois (0-4, 0-1) with 20 points and Alexis Jones added 18 in addition 10 to rebounds. The Lady Falcons (24-66 FG) drilled 11 treys and were 16-of-22 from the charity stripe compared to 17-of-22 for the Lady Knights (36-75 FG)
News and notes: Burris is 50-50 in four seasons at OCC (24-25 in the GRAC).
"From where our program was when I took over, to where it is now is a credit to the kids buying into the system and a belief in working hard," Burris said. "Hopefully, the next 50 come quicker than the first 50."
The Lady Knights will host the defending GRAC-champion Kaskaskia Blue Angels today at the Dungeon (5:30 p.m.). The Blue Angels (6-1) suffered their first loss of the 2013-14 campaign on Saturday, falling to the host Vincennes Lady Trailblazers 102-79.
Page 2 of 2 - "They've got five or six kids back from last season's (24-9) team that advanced to the (NJCAA Division I) National Tournament," Burris said of Kaskaskia. "They're long, big and very athletic. They're going to be a matchup problem for us and we've got to keep them off the glass and out of transition."
Five of OCC's next seven games are at home (Kaskaskia, Danville Area, Millikin University JV, Parkland and Mineral Area) with visits to Vincennes and Wabash Valley during that tough 2013 stretch.
"Having eight sophomores, they've done a good job of getting this group locked in, just taking it one game at a time," Burris said. "You can't go home for Christmas break until the games are over. This is a chance for us to see what kind of team we are heading into the holidays."
(Olney Central 91, Southeastern Illinois 75)
OCC scoring: Kelsey Pilant, 25; Leah Myers, 12; Samantha Scott, 12; Shelbi Samsil, 10; Samantha Shoulders, 10; Kelsee Ennis, 7; Erin Barton, 6; Brooke Callaway, 6; Paige Yando, 3
Field goals: (Pilant, 10-15; Shoulders, 5-11; Myers, 4-11; Scott, 4-9; Ennis, 3-8; Samsil, 3-8; Callaway, 3-6; Barton, 3-5; Yando, 1-1; Katilyn Meinhart, 0-1)
Free throws: (Pilant, 5-5; Myers, 4-5; Scott, 4-4; Samsil, 3-4; Yando, 1-3; Callaway, 0-1)
Three-pointers: (Ennis, 1; Samsil, 1)
Rebounds: (Myers, 10; Callaway, 7; Pilant, 7; Shoulders, 6; Yando, 6; Barton, 5; Scott, 4; Ennis, 3; Dominique Rubin, 2; Meinhart, 1)
Steals: (Ennis, 6; Callaway, 2; Barton, 1; Pilant, 1; Rubin, 1; Samsil, 1; Scott, 1; Shoulders, 1)
Assists: (Samsil, 6; Callaway, 5; Shoulders, 4; Ennis, 3; Scott, 2; Yando, 2; Myers, 1)
Blocks: (Pilant, 5; Callaway, 2; Shoulders, 1; Yando, 1)