Lodi junior Alana Gilles wasn’t confident her shot had the distance.
“I knew we needed to get it up (the court) as fast as possible and get off a shot,” Gilles said. “Whoever that was had to go for it. I just knew we needed a shot, so, I thought, ‘Shoot!’
“I was like, ‘I need some more legs on that one.’ But it got there.”
Did it ever.
Given an opportunity following a missed free throw, Gilles fired from 30 feet on the right side of the court. The 5-foot-10 post player watched her 3-point shot drop through the basket with 2.8 seconds left, tying Friday night’s WIAA Division 3 regional semifinal girls basketball game against host Madison Edgewood.
Fifth-seeded Lodi then outscored fourth-seeded Edgewood 8-2 in overtime and prevailed 55-49, sending the Blue Devils (18-6) into a regional final tonight at top-seeded Marshall.
Lodi’s victory also assured Division 3 would have a new state champion. Edgewood (14-9) earned the title a year ago.
“We knew they were the state champs, but we knew we had a lot to give and that we played with a lot of heart,” Gilles said.
Junior guard Rhianna Walzer led Lodi’s strong defensive effort, while Gilles, scoring inside and outside, sank four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 29 points for the Blue Devils.
“She’s the most versatile player in our conference (the Capitol North),” Lodi coach Michelle Puls said about Gilles. “She can play inside, she can play outside. She is a threat inside and outside.”
Senior guard Rachel Rohrig hit four 3-pointers and led Edgewood with 18 points.
“It hurts, but we gave it everything we had,” said Crusaders coach Lora Staveness, whose team began the season 12-3 but then was hit by a series of injuries, including a season-ending knee injury to 6-0 freshman Ella Foti (14.6 points, 8.4 rebounds per game).
Freshman guard Lauryn Milne scored 16 points for Lodi, which led most of the game until Edgewood built a 43-38 lead on senior guard Caitlin Link’s 14-foot jumper with 2 minutes, 50 seconds to go in regulation.
Milne drained a 3-pointer from the right wing, bringing Lodi within 45-42 with 1:12 left. Link, who had 17 points, then made two free throws, again increasing the Crusaders’ lead to five points with 22.1 seconds left. But Milne scored on a putback, pulling Lodi within 47-44 with 10.2 seconds left.
Link then missed the front end of the one-and-one with 9.3 seconds left. Lodi moved up the court and Gilles launched her 3-pointer that tied the game at 47. The Blue Devils then were 8-for-12 from the line in overtime.
Staveness said it was a difficult defeat because the Crusaders had leading scorer Link on the free throw line with a chance to salt away the victory — and then they didn’t take away the 3-point shot following Link’s miss.
“They made key shots and they hit free throws,” Staveness said. “I thought we showed a lot of grit coming back after being down. … It’s unfortunate.
“My seniors have worked hard in a season with a lot of adversity.”
Gilles sank three 3-pointers and had 16 of her points in the first half, boosting the Blue Devils to a 23-19 halftime lead.
Rohrig kept the Crusaders close with 10 first-half points. The Blue Devils limited Southern Illinois commit Link to five points in the first half.
Lodi used a 1-2-2 full-court press to slow the Crusaders’ attack and Walzer played tight defense on Link.
“That is what has carried us all season — it’s our defense,” said Puls, whose team has won six consecutive games. “When we are struggling offensively, it’s all about our defense. We are a pressing team. We live and die by the press.”
Lodi 23 24 8 — 55
Madison Edgewood 19 28 2 — 49
LODI — Milne 4 7-12 16, Kolinski 0 3-4 3, Walzer 2 3-4 7, Gilles 10 5-8 29, Curtis 0 0-0 0, Wendt 0 0-0 0, Kruchten 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 18-28 55.
MADISON EDGEWOOD — Roehrig 7 0-0 18, Iglar 1 0-0 2, Deang 5 0-2 10, Link 6 4-5 17, Lazar 1 0-0 2, Moore 0 0-0 0, S. Olson 0 0-0 0, Schauer 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 4-7 44.
3-point field goals — L 5 (Gilles 4, Milne 1); ME 5 (Roehrig 4, Link 1). Total fouls — L 14, ME 20.