CAMP POINT, Ill. -- Laney Lantz typically has been the late-game free throw shooter during her four-year career with the Central-Southeastern girls basketball team, but that wasn't the case Saturday night.
Illini West fouled Leah Turner and Kennady Marlow in the final minutes, but Lantz wasn't worried.
"There was never a doubt in my mind they wouldn't make them," Lantz said. "We shoot those all the time, and I've got 100 percent confidence in them."
Turner and Marlow combined to make all eight free throw attempts in the final 3 minutes, 17 seconds to seal a 53-50 victory in the Class 2A Central Regional championship game. The Panthers (21-6) advance to Class 2A Beardstown Sectional and will play No. 1-ranked Eureka at 6 p.m. Monday.
Lantz scored just four points in the fourth quarter, while Marlow, Turner, Alivia Lantz and Kayleigh Fessler combined for 13 points.
Marlow led all scorers with 19 points, and she made all seven of her free throws.
"We just knew all of us needed to step up and take on a little bit more," Turner said. "We knew (Illini West) would try and take (Lantz) away, so we had to step up and drive the lane and make free throws."
It's what was needed to win the Panthers' third regional title in four years.
"(Illini West) is the best defensive team we've faced all year," C-SE coach Matt Long said. "We knew (Lantz) was going to draw two players. We schemed things, so we knew Kennady was going to have a big game.
"She had a great offensive game, and all of our kids' effort was just incredible."
The Chargers (22-9) trimmed a 43-38 deficit to a point with 3:38 remaining to play after Karli Artman and Kendra Johnson each made two free throws on consecutive possessions. Turner sank two free throws to push the lead back to 45-42. Illini West had an empty possession, and C-SE milked nearly 40 seconds before Alivia Lantz went to the line and missed the front end of a bonus.
Johnson split two free throws to make it 45-43 with 1:59 to go. Marlow sandwiched four free throws around a three-point play by Illini West's Caydee Kirkham, and Kirkham made a layup to make it 49-48 with 21 seconds to go.
Turner made two more free throws with 11.4 seconds remaining, and Illini West turned the ball over without getting a shot off on the next possession. Laney Lantz made two free throws with 5.2 seconds left.
"There's about three or four plays that we'll look back and wish we had back," Illini West coach Grant Surprenant said.
Lantz finished with 12 points. Karli Artman led Illini West with 18 points, but she was held to just two free throws in the fourth quarter. Senior Kailee Artman added 11 points before fouling out with 4:57 remaining in regulation. That left Illini West with younger players in Kirkham, Megan Harrell and Karli Artman to lead the comeback.
"They grew up tonight playing against experienced guards," Surprenant. "They knew they were going to come in here and get battled. This helps them."
Central-Southeastern 53, Illini West 50
ILLINI WEST (22-9)
Kar. Artman 5 3-5 18, McDowell 0 1-2 1, Harrell 3 0-0 7, Kai. Artman 5 1-2 11, Wood 0 0-0 0, Kirkham 2 1-1 5, Johnson 0 3-4 3, Krueger 2 0-0 5. Totals 17 9-14 50.
Dearwester 3 0-0 6, Turner 0 5-6 5, A. Lantz 2 1-3 7, L. Lantz 3 7-10 12, Marlow 6 7-7 19, Fessler 2 0-0 4. Totals 16 20-26 53.
Illini West 14 8 12 16--50
C-SE 17 7 12 17--53
3-point field goals--Illini West 7 (Kar. Artman 3, Krueger, Harrell), C-SE 2 (A. Lantz 2). Fouls--Illini West 11, C-SE 14. Fouled out--Kai. Artman.