BEARDSTOWN, Ill. -- Central-Southeastern girls basketball coach Matt Long had a simple message to his team before it took the floor against Eureka, the top-ranked Class 2A team in Illinois.
"They had to be better than (Eureka) for one night out of the year," he said. "They found a way to do that."
C-SE erased an 11-point deficit in the second half and forced overtime, and when Alivia Lantz knocked down a 3-pointer on the Panthers' first possession of the extra period, the Panthers didn't look back and stunned Eureka 54-48 in a Class 2A Beardstown Sectional semifinal.
"When we get down, we know this could be our last game, and if we don't give it our all, it's going to be over, and we'll regret it," Lantz said. "We know we have to step up and pull through."
The Panthers (22-6) will play for their third sectional championship in four years on Thursday against Midwest Central, which defeated Minonk Fieldcrest 60-39 in the other semifinal.
Lantz had made two 3-pointers earlier in the game, but none was bigger than her shot from the top of the key just 48 seconds into overtime that gave C-SE a 43-40 advantage.
"She's been struggling as of late from the 3-point line, but I've been telling her to shoot it," Long said. "I told her at the start of overtime to shoot it if she got a look. I trust her, and luckily, she knocked it down."
C-SE's Leah Turner split two free throws with 2:45 remaining, but Eureka's Lauren Ausmus sank two foul shots at the other end to make it 44-42 with 2:20 remaining.
The Hornets (28-3) never got closer. They missed two 3-pointers in overtime that would have tied the score or given them the lead.
Laney Lantz, who had 34 points, and Turner combined to make eight free throws in the final 1:33 to ice the game.
"I was a little worried early on because we had missed a few (free throws)," Laney Lantz said. "But when it got close to the end, I knew we'd make them when we needed to, and we did."
The Hornets opened the third quarter with five straight points to lead to 27-16. Laney Lantz made a layup, knocked down a 3-pointer, split a pair of free throws and made two layups -- one coming after stealing the inbounds pass -- to cap a 10-0 run by herself and get C-SE within 27-26 with 2:48 remaining.
The Panthers trailed 33-30 heading to the fourth quarter.
"We had momentum," Alivia Lantz said. "We just couldn't have anymore letdowns."
After Eureka's Lauren Anderson buried a 3-pointer for a 36-32 lead with 7:17 to go, Laney Lantz made two more free throws before Alivia Lantz knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing to give C-SE a 37-36 lead -- its first lead since it was 6-4 early in the first quarter.
Eureka answered with a bucket, but Laney knocked down a 3-pointer to put C-SE ahead 40-38 with 1:14 remaining in regulation. Eureka's Courtney Heffren sent the game to overtime when she drove the lane and made a layup with 3.6 seconds remaining.
"This team has a lot of the same characteristics (as C-SE's state tournament teams in 2016 and 2017)," Long said. "They've got toughness, they play hard, and they're going to get after you. They're not beat until that buzzer goes off."
Central-Southeastern 54, Eureka 48
Dearwester 0 0-1 0, Turner 0 3-6 3, A. Lantz 1 2-2 8, L. Lantz 10 12-14 34, Marlow 4 1-3 9, Fessler 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 16-26 54.
Leman 2 0-1 4, Hoffman 0 0-0 0, Anderson 3 0-0 7, Heffren 4 1-2 9, Pineda 2 0-0 4, Post 0 0-0 0, Nohl 2 0-1 4, Greene 1 0-0 3, Mangold 0 0-0 0, Ausmus 5 4-4 14, Meiss 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 5-8 48.
C-SE 8 8 14 10 14--54
Eureka 15 7 11 7 8--48
3-point field goals--C-SE 4 (A. Lantz 2, L. Lantz 2), Eureka 3 (Anderson 2, Greene). Fouls--C-SE 14, Eureka 19. Fouled out--Anderson.