The Commercial-News, Danville, IL


December 19, 2012

Hilltoppers fall short at Watseka

WATSEKA —  In its first five years at the Watseka Holiday Tournament, Schlarman Academy had won a total of four games.

The Hilltoppers equaled that mark in winning the Maroon Pool, but their first-ever tournament title eluded them.

Kankakee Bishop McNamara claimed its second straight championship with a 79-56 victory over Schlarman on Wednesday night.

“Bishop McNamara is an extremely talented team,’’ said Schlarman coach Gary Tidwell, whose team had its five-game win streak snapped. “We had a good run up here, but we were hoping for a little better performance in the title game.’’

Ultimately, the Irish (7-2) combined their athleticism, their strength inside along with an ability to knock down 3-pointers to beat the Hilltoppers (8-3).

“I think they had a few too many weapons for us,’’ said Tidwell, as Bishop McNamara had four players in double figures. “And when they started making those 3-balls in the second quarter, it put us into a hole, and we could never quite climb out of it.’’

Schlarman, which led early in the first quarter, got as close at 21-19 on a 3-pointer from Michael Simmons with 5 minutes, 24 seconds left in the first half.

From that point on, Bishop McNamara went on a 20-8 run to take a 41-27 halftime lead. During that stretch the Irish were 4-of-5 from the 3-point arc with TeAndre Watson capping it with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“We got into some foul trouble, so we went to a zone,’’ Tidwell said. “And, that’s when they started knocking down those 3-pointers.’’

And when Bishop McNamara wasn’t making long-range shots, the Irish got their offense from either Hilltopper offensive miscues or by pounding the ball inside 6-foot-7 senior center Michael Hoekstra.

Schlarman was guilty of 20 turnovers resulting in 20 points for Bishop McNamara, who had 16 steals with guard Mitch O’Brien having a game-high six thefts.

“They definitely took advantage of their opportunities, and they got out on the break every chance they got,’’ Tidwell said. “They had some very athletic players on the wings and they had a true ballhandler, who made a number of good decisions.

“And then they also had a pretty tough kid on the low block.’’

Hoekstra, who made the all-tournament team, scored 15 of his game-high 24 points in the second half. Joining him in double digits for the Irish was O’Brien with 15, Watson had 12 coming off the bench and Tyshon Willis finished with 11.

While the outcome was disappointing for Schlarman, not being competitive was more frustrating.

“When we down by 14 at halftime (41-27), we told them that we wanted to chip away in the third quarter,’’ said Tidwell.

Instead, Bishop McNamara outscored Schlarman in the third quarter (16-9) and fourth quarter (22-20).

“It just got away from us and that’s something we were learn from,’’ Tidwell said.

Andrew Kelley and Austin Calhoun were both named to the all-tournament team. Kelley had a team-high 18 points on Wednesday to go along with eight rebounds, while Calhoun had 14 points. Simmons was the only other Hilltopper in double figures with 10 and he also had a team-high four assists.

Schlarman is idle until the BSN Classic tournament at Bismarck-Henning on Dec. 27-28 with the finals set for Heritage on Dec. 29.

Tri-Point 50

Milford 46

Sophomore Jacob Rogers scored a game-high 19 points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds but it wasn’t enough for the Bearcats.

Tri-Point rallied from a 5-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Milford and claim fifth place at the Watseka Holiday Tournament.

The Bearcats made just 3-of-9 field goals and just 3-of-9 free throws in the final 8 minutes.

“We have not been able to close out teams,” Milford coach John Spezia said. “We played five guys the majority of our games in this tournament and I think that hurt our fundamentals.”

That was evident in Milford (7-7 overall) committing 21 turnovers including a pivotal one with 6 minutes, 25 seconds left. Tri-Point’s Timmy Crouch got a steal and a layup to fuel the Chargers 9-2 run giving them the lead for good.

“That was the turning point,” Spezia said.

Joining Rogers, an all-tournament selection, in double figures was Jeff Cann with 12 points.

Tri-Point was led by Jordan Tharp with 15 points followed by Ryan DeFord with 11 and Alex Ogle had 10.

Milford returns to Vermilion Valley Conference action on Friday with a game at Bismarck-Henning.

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NJCAA Tourney Photos 2014

Check out the action at the NJCAA Division II National Men's Basketball Tournament March 18-22 at DACC. Buy photos from the Commercial-News here:

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