Marshall's Adrienne GodBold watched from the sidelines as Peoria Richwoods benched the Commandos' hopes of advancing to defend their Class 3A state title Friday at Illinois State's Redbird Arena.
In Richwoods' 50-35 semifinal victory, the University of Illinois-bound GodBold sat for more than 9 minutes of the first half, and Marshall never recovered from that absence. The Knights held the Commandos (25-7) to their second-lowest scoring total in Marshall's 57 games Downstate, ranking behind only the 30 points scored in a decision over Sandburg in the 1981 Class AA Elite Eight.
Richwoods (33-3) advances to its fifth title game, this one against defending 3A runner-up Freeport (31-3), which beat Springfield 64-43. Marshall will play Springfield (29-4) in the third-place game at 11 a.m. Saturday.
"I wasn't focused correctly," said GodBold, who had a team-high 12 points, eight rebounds and four steals before fouling out with 1:13 to play. "I wouldn't blame it on the defense or my team. It was myself."
Two early fouls caused GodBold to sit for so long in the opening half. Marshall scored only four of its 18 first-half points while she sat, and the Commandos watched a 6-0 lead turn into a 23-8 deficit. They went scoreless for 9:46.
"It's a very different offense [without GodBold]," said senior guard Raven Gary. "Our offense starts in the post, and she's our best post player, so when she's not in the game, it's hard to get it started."
After GodBold returned midway through the second quarter, Marshall was able to cut Richwoods' lead to 25-18 by halftime, but the Commandos' four-point third quarter increased their deficit to 15 points heading into the final period. Richwoods' zone defense, keyed by 6-footers Mariah Smith and Katie Murphy, held GodBold scoreless in the fourth quarter and forced 28 Marshall turnovers.
"Defense, I love playing it," Murphy said. "I always have. It's one of my stronger points in basketball. When I know there's one key player on a team that we're going against, that's the player I try to stop."
Marshall coach Dorothy Gaters, who combined with Richwoods' John Gross to bring nearly 1,600 victories to the floor Friday, blamed her team's defense, which forced 25 turnovers but also gave the Knights too many trips to the free-throw line, where they made 18 of 28. Marshall had 23 fouls to Richwoods' 12.
Smith had 15 points and seven rebounds to lead the winners, while Murphy added 13 points. Jasmine Poteete had 10 points for Marshall.