BETHALTO - A long regular season came to an end for Civic Memorial’s girls basketball program on Thursday evening. CM celebrated Senior Night, but fell to the visiting Highland Bulldogs 50-35.

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A night for celebrating the likes of seniors Aubree Wallace, Hannah Meiser, Maya Tuckson, and Olivia Durbin saw them honored in a pregame ceremony. Beyond the festivities, CM head coach Mike Arbuthnot made sure they had plenty of time on the court for the Eagles throughout the contest.

“I wanted to play all four of our seniors as much as I could.” said Arbuthnot postgame. “You can’t say enough about these girls. They’ve had to go through a coaching change, they’ve had to go through COVID (affecting high school sports), they’ve had to go through injuries. The way they persevered through everything is really a tribute to them.”

It was a night of celebration for Highland as well. With the victory, the Bulldogs clinched the top spot in the Mississippi Valley conference for the regular season.

“All credit goes to Highland,” said Arbuthnot. “They deserve the conference championship, they had a really good year.”

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On the evening, it was Highland’s Grace Wilke lighting up the scoreboard, primarily from three-point land. Wilke hit four-three pointers in the first half alone, leading all scorers Thursday night with 22 points. Avari Combes led the Eagles with nine points, four of which from the free throw line. Maya Tuckson led CM’s senior quartet with seven of her own.

The visiting Bulldogs took a steep 32-13 lead into the halftime break behind Grace Wilke’s offensive output, but drastically slowed down their tempo in the second half. Highland opted to play possession-first offense, often taking a minute or more on offensive possessions, passing around the three-point line.

While somewhat effective in milking the clock to end the game faster, Highland passed up chances to extend their lead in favor of time management. CM made a late charge, forcing turnovers defensively and driving to the basket offensively, much to the satisfaction of the packed gym full of fans who were waiting for something to cheer about.

The Eagles trimmed the visitors’ lead down to ten points in the fourth quarter, with enough time remaining that gave them a chance on Senior Night, but their comeback efforts fell short on the free throw line. CM foul trouble put the Bulldogs in the double bonus with over five minutes left in the game, and free points cut down any possible comeback.

“We have to capture some of that energy we saw tonight,” said Eagles head coach Mike Arbuthnot, looking ahead to his team’s postseason play. “That energy is what we need to have to compete. I can honestly tell you, I’m glad the regular season is over. We’re looking forward to the postseason.”

Postseason play is on the horizon for both CM and Highland, both on opposite ends of the Mississippi Valley bracket.

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