CAMP POINT, Ill. -- Experience at the high school level is an invaluable asset.
Nobody believes it more than Illini West girls basketball coach Grant Surprenant.
While the Chargers didn't play their best Saturday night in the championship game of the 26th annual Central Lady Panther Classic, they did just enough to pull out a 60-57 overtime victory over Lewistown.
In a battle of state ranked teams -- Illini West is No. 2 in Class 2A and Lewistown is No. 5 in Class 1A -- the Indians jumped out to a 10-3 lead, forcing Surprenant to call a timeout and challenge his squad.
"We gave up an offensive rebound on the very first possession and they capitalized on it and had all the momentum," Surprenant said.
"We had a nice run to start the game," said Lewistown coach Greg Bennett, whose team lost to Illini West 56-37 in the semifinals of the Beardstown Lady Tiger Classic on Dec. 28. "We played them a little different this time than the last and we decided to come right at them and play our game, and it worked for us."
Trailing 14-9 after the first quarter, the Chargers slowly picked away at the lead and went ahead 28-26 with 26 seconds left in the half.
"I thought our experience really helped us in the first half," Surprenant said. "We have a lot of kids who have played a lot of games the last few years and I was proud of out maturity."
Illini West (21-2) led throughout the second half, but could never push the lead to more than five.
"I thought that was key," Bennett said. "Last time we played them, they went on a couple runs and we crumbled, but tonight we withstood those."
With 50 seconds remaining in regulation, Lewistown's Trissa Shawgo nailed a 3-pointer to tie the game at 53. Illini West tried to hold for a last shot, but a turnover led to a Lewiston fast break.
Anna Heffren missed a contested layup, but an offensive rebound was tapped back to her and she was fouled on her attempt at a putback. Heffren missed the first but made the second to give the Indians a 54-53 lead.
Illini West had a chance to tie with 8.4 seconds left, but Bailee Clampitt missed both free throws. Lewistown (17-3) had a chance to increase the lead but missed the front end on a 1-and-1.
During a timeout that followed, Surprenant drew up a play to get Kailee Artman to break away down the sideline. After a great catch by Artman, she was fouled on her layup attempt.
Artman missed the first free throw but made the second to send the game to overtime.
"We had our chances to win the game in regulation, but going 5 of 9 from the line isn't going to get it done," Surprenant said.
Free throws proved to be the key to victory in overtime for the Chargers as Hannah Wood made 4 of 6.
"We have a veteran team, so when we need someone to step up," Surprenant said. "It's not always going to be the same person."
Clampitt led all scorers with 23 points. Wood finished with 12 points and Rylie Harrell added 11. Lewistown was led by sophomore Anna Heffren with 18 points.
Central Lady Panther Classic
Illini West 60, Lewistown 57
ILLINI WEST (21-2)
Sirtak 1 2-3 4, Dooley 0 0-0 0, Artman 0 2-4 2, Johnson 1 0-0 2, Rhodes 3 0-2 6, Wood 3 6-10 12, Harrell 5 1-4 11, Clampitt 8 1-3 23. Totals 21 12-26 60.
Shawgo 5 0-0 12, A. Heffren 6 5-6 18, C. Heffren 1 0-0 3, Mayberry 6 0-1 12, Shaeffer 3 0-1 7, Towery 0 0-1 0, Bennett 0 0-0 0, Burdess 2 0-0 5. Totals 23 5-9 57.
Illini West 9 19 15 11 5--60
Lewistown 14 12 14 14 3--57
3-point field goals--Illini West 6 (Clampitt 6), Lewistown 6 (Shawgo 2, A. Heffren, C. Heffren, Shaeffer, Burdess). Fouls--Illini West 14, Lewistown 18, Fouled out--Sheaffer.