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Girls basketball: Tyshee Towner powers East Aurora to regional win

Updated: February 11, 2013 11:03PM

East Aurora didn’t play its best game Monday night, but the Tomcats are moving on in the state tournament.

They have Tyshee Towner to thank for that. The 5-8 senior guard nearly single-handedly willed her team to victory, erupting for a career-high 40 points and 17 rebounds as East Aurora beat upset-minded Plainfield Central 61-55 in a Class 4A Benet Regional quarterfinal.

The win advanced the 13th-seeded Tomcats to Tuesday’s regional semifinal round, where they will take on No. 3 seed Naperville Central.

“Tyshee is a decent player, works hard,” East Aurora coach Bill Anderson said. “She just kind of goes after it.”

Towner did that from start to finish against No. 19 seed Plainfield Central (4-23), which gave the Tomcats (13-13) all they could handle. The Wildcats led 16-11 after the first quarter and were still ahead 25-24 at halftime even though Towner had tallied 19 points.

“You know how you come out in practice but you’re not as warmed up and ready to go as you need to be in the game?” Towner said. “I had to get my team going. We all had to come together and I had to give them confidence to see that it’s easy to get to the bucket, and if you see me doing it then we all can do it as a team, get to the bucket and score.”

But Towner was the only Tomcat who aggressively drove the lane, and she was especially potent in the second half — making 8 of 10 shots, including her last six. She also feasted at the free-throw line, sinking 12 of 14 attempts.

“A lot of other girls made some intangible plays,” Anderson said. “Brandi (McAlister) got her hands on the ball. We came up with some steals. We were able to get to the free-throw line.”

McAlister, a 5-7 senior guard, took some of the pressure off Towner by scoring 10 of her 11 points in the second half, including seven in the decisive third quarter. She tallied five points during an 8-0 run that gave East Aurora a 36-27 lead midway through the stanza.

But the Wildcats wouldn’t go away, cutting the gap to 40-35 on a three-pointer by Nicole Pease at the end of the third quarter. The Tomcats eventually bumped the lead to 61-48 on a bucket by Towner with a minute left before the Wildcats scored the final seven points.

“Plainfield Central has always given us problems,” Anderson said. “(Coach) Mark (Krusz) does an outstanding job coaching the girls. They do a good job on their press, wreaking a little havoc and creating turnovers.”

Pease led the Wildcats with 23 points and nine rebounds, while Hennessey Handy added 11 points and Jade Anthony had 12 rebounds and five steals.

Center Desiree Rhodes had seven points, 10 rebounds and five blocks for the Tomcats.

“(The win) means everything,” said Towner, who also had six steals. “I want to take this team to another level because I am a senior and we are leaving. And (my teammates) have to work as hard next year, so I want to give them confidence.”

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