The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Sports

January 29, 2011

Tigers draw the line

BISMARCK —  In a close game between two evenly matched teams, free throw shooting is often the deciding factor and that proved to be the case Friday as the Westville Tigers scored nearly half of their points from the foul line in a hard fought 50-39 win over the Bismarck-Henning Blue Devils.

The Tigers were 22-of-28 from the line in the game, outscoring the Blue Devils from the charity stripe by 15 points. Sparked by 12-of-13 free throw shooting, Matt Maser led the Tigers with a game-high 25 points. Mitchell Bryant added 14 and Layn White chipped in with eight.

All three players hit key free throws in the fourth quarter.

“Matt, Mitchell and Layn stepped up in the fourth quarter,” said Westville coach Jeff Millis. “I told the kids in the locker room they had battled some adversity in the first half and that we hadn’t been playing our best. A lot of credit for that goes to Bismarck-Henning, they played a good game. We did what we needed to do to get the win.”

As he did in his last game on Tuesday, Bryant hit two early 3’s, sparking the Tigers to a 7-2 lead. The Blue Devils would get to within 7-6, but following a buzzer beater from Maser, the Tigers ended the first quarter up 15-8.

Bismarck-Henning would get untracked in the second quarter, but the Tigers still went into halftime up 21-19 in spite of getting off only 11 shots in the first half. The Blue Devils attempted 25 shots, but had a hard time connecting.

“If we shoot even 30 percent from the floor in this game, I think we get the win,” said Bismarck-Henning coach Deon Mennenga. “We got some nice shots they just weren’t falling.”

A low-scoring third quarter ended with the Tigers up 27-23. In what proved to be a key moment in the game, the Blue Devils had the chance to take lead early in the fourth quarter but missed a lay-up that was rebounded and taken the length of the floor by Maser and converted to give the Tigers a 29-26 lead.

“That was a turning point in the game,” Millis said. “Matt really took over the game in the fourth quarter and became very active. He played fundamentally sound basketball which got him to the line and he made his foul shots.”

Mennenga agreed on the importance of Maser late in the game.

“Tanner Ribbe was ill and gave it a really game effort tonight,” he said. “Maser got his points in the fourth, but overall I thought Tanner did a nice job dealing with one of if not the best player in our conference.”

The Blue Devils would break through three minutes later and take their first lead of the game at 30-29, but an 8-0 Tigers run — which included six free throws — gave Westville a 37-30 lead with three minutes to go and they would not be seriously threatened for the rest of the game.

“Zach Davis owned the boards in the second half and that started turning things around for us,” Millis said. “Layn White played a good game and gets better every time out. He listens to what you tell him, he gives it his all, and he is a very intelligent player. Each week his role has been extended.

“Mitchell Bryant has taken his hard work from practice into the game. Coach John Spezia has been working with him and he has become a very good player.”

The Tigers move to 15-7 overall and 5-2 in the Vermilion Valley Conference and will return to action Tuesday with a home game against Armstrong-Potomac.

The Blue Devils are now 12-10 overall and 3-4 in the VVC. Freshman Chase Connelly led the Blue Devils with nine points with Austin Toler, Krystian Ingram and Ribbe adding eight points each.

“Chase is an up and coming player for us,” Mennenga said. “He has gotten some opportunities and made the best of them. He also rebounded well and had a nice overall game. Westville hit their free throws down the stretch, but we played hard and never quit even hitting a few three’s late in the game.

“We don’t believe there is such a thing as a good loss, and I think losing tonight left a bad taste in our mouths. This is a loss we can respond from and build on as we head toward the regional.”

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