DECATUR — Mike Williams smiled, exhaled and appreciated just where his MacArthur girls basketball team is right now.
"Finally," Williams said with junior guard Taya Davis dancing with a group of cheerleaders behind him.
For the first time in his three-year coaching tenure with the Generals, MacArthur beat Central State Eight power Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, just two days after Williams and this group of Generals checked off another box by beating Springfield.
Two powers in three days. This 61-46 win over SHG on Thursday night at MacArthur mattered. Beating the top two teams in the CS8 has long been the plan for the Generals. To do it in three days? Even better.
“A lot of people down talk us because we beat a lot of teams, but we never beat them," Davis said. "I love it a lot because they’re ranked No. 12 and we beat Springfield and they didn’t rank us at all. I feel like we need to be ranked and that we can be a pretty good team, a state type of team."
SHG beat MacArthur in both games last season: 81-38 in the first game and 66-58 in the second game. Springfield beat the Generals twice last season: 65-44 and 51-37.
“It’s like brother has been smacking me around and smacking me around and I finally drank enough milk and I’m able to defend myself and actually win some battles," Williams said.
"My wife is probably happy it’s over because I’ve been in the bedroom watching film, five or six different films on them and not getting very much sleep. I’ve been kind of cranky with the kids because Springfield and SHG have been kicking our butt for a long time. It feels so good for my kids, man. I’m so happy for my kids. All the spring and summer weights, running the stairs, on the track and the 1,000 shots a week, it’s just a huge, huge game."
MacArthur (6-1) led by one point in the fourth quarter before the defense clamped down and the offense answered. Davis scored eight of her 15 points in the fourth quarter and junior post player Quincenia Jackson scored six of her game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter and pulled down five of her 18 rebounds in the fourth. MacArthur out-rebounded SHG 40-23.
“Flat out boards," said SHG coach Steve Klunick of the keys to MacArthur's win. "Q killed us. Just killed us. ... She’s a tough matchup for anybody. She’s as good as it gets."
The Generals out-scored SHG (5-2) 18-4 in the fourth quarter and went on a 16-2 run in the final five minutes of the game.
"(Williams) been wanting to do this since me and Taya started as freshmen," Jackson said. "Once we knew we could beat them, we have so much potential to get up there to state and even place at state."
A pair of free throws from Jackson with 3:29 left in the second quarter gave the Generals a lead for good. SHG got as close as one point, but never led or tied again. Davis knew that. Her team had come too far to blow a lead that lasted the entire second half down the stretch. She opened the fourth quarter with a layup to extend the lead to three points, finished a layup through traffic late in the fourth and hit her free throw for an old-fashioned three-point play and closed the game with a steal and a layup.
The lopsided losses of years past flashed back. It couldn't happen again.
“We've got to win this," Davis, who also had six rebounds and seven assists, said of her mindset. "We can’t give this lead up. We’ve been leading the whole game and we’ve been wanting to beat them for so long, we just had to win this game."
The Cyclones had 18 turnovers and the Generals held SHG junior star Sophie Lowis to 12 points and Emily Brenneisen to 16 points. For that, Williams credits the defense of Amaria Pender, Jurnee Flournoy and Ariana Riley.
The celebration will be short-lived. MacArthur travels to Normal U-High on Saturday and plays Chicago Simeon on Sunday.
“Enjoy tonight," Williams said. "Come (Friday) I’m going to be on their butt like we didn’t win the game. I want excellence. They know if they don’t come (Friday) ready to play, I’m going to run their butts. The season’s not over. We’ve got a long way to go."
PHOTOS: MacArthur girls beat Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin
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Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25
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