There was no ball dropping at Duff-Kingston Gymnasium as a packed house watched Harrisburg and Gallatin County get it on the 48th Annual Eldorado Holiday Tournament Championship, but the Bulldogs did do a different kind of dropping.
Harrisburg knocked out Gallatin County 58-37 to capture its third straight EHT title.
Because of a snowstorm that made traveling difficult late last week, the EHT championship was pushed back to Monday night on New Year's Eve night, where the Bulldogs (14-0) rang in 2013 in style.
There were party hats, noise makers and ball players throwing up three goggles, but in the end, three guys, Tyler Smithpeters, Capel Henshaw and Ryne Roper finalized a run that started when they were freshmen, losing to Meridian in the title game.
Since then, Harrisburg has rattled off three straight championships and now joins Norris City-Omaha-Enfield (1988-1990) as the only other team to win the storied post Christmas tournament three years in a row.
History. It was something that was written on the dry-erase board in the locker room Harrisburg used during the Eldorado Holiday Tournament. Harrisburg head coach Randy Smithpeters really didn't need to remind his players, but wanted to make sure they took their rightful spot amongst some of the greats to grace the court of Duff-Kingston Gymnasium.
"We wanted to come in here matching that and we were able to do it," Smithpeters said. "That's quite a feat because there is a long history to this tournament and it's a team that's worthy of that. This group has worked hard all through their career at Harrisburg High School and continued to work hard and get better."
At game's end, Tyler Smithpeters picked up his second Most Valuable Player award of the tournament, being named MVP back in the title game of 2010.
For the fourth straight year, the EHT's MVP has gone to a player from Harrisburg High School.
Capel Henshaw also made the All-Tournament Team.
He was MVP a year ago and was joined on the All-Tournament team by the Gallatin County duo of Andrew Drone and Patrick Lowe.
Eldorado's Tyler Deaton also made the squad.
Henshaw noted how he has been coming to the EHT since he was a little kid and that coming away with a third title in four year's as a starter is a feat he never imagined would come true.
Harrisburg head coach Randy Sentiments shared some of Henshaw's sentiments, adding that "special" ingredient has been there for a while.
"This is a special group and they have been special for a while," Smithpeters said. "Tonight, these seniors were part of the three championships that they've won here. They played well tonight and they have played well all year long."
Page 2 of 4 - Gallatin County, one of southern Illinois' best Class 1A teams, got the title tilt by virtue of beating a very solid Meridian ballclub, but dug themselves a hole early against Harrisburg falling behind 10-0 and not scoring their first field goal until the 3:33 mark in the first quarter.
Henshaw added how defense has been the calling care for the Bulldogs, not just in the EHT, but through the team's first 14 ballgames.
"We've been playing real good defense and we came out with a lot of energy (Monday). We did what we wanted to do, which was come out and get a lead early."
Harrisburg led 17-7 after one quarter of play.
The Bulldogs led 29-17 at halftime and despite shooting 5-of-14 from the field in the first half, Gallatin County was able to hang around by going 5-of-9 from the free throw line.
It was much of the same for Harrisburg in the third period as they forced Gallatin County into four turnovers in the game's first minute and built a 36-17 lead, en route to a 47-27 advantage going into the game's final eight minutes.
Smithpeters expected something of a low-scoring affair from against the Hawks, knowing how quality each possession was going to be on both ends of the court.
"I thought we defended well in this tournament, holding teams to in the 30's and put that together with the offensive-power we have and again, we played with quality tonight, taking advantage of every opportunity we had."
Drone led all scorers with 18 points, going 8-of-12 from the field and pulling down seven rebounds.
Drone was a "load" all tournament, but Roper said the Bulldogs' defensive philosophy is what helped them keep the Rice University signee in check.
"Drone is a load inside, you can't really stop him, you just have to hope you can contain him," Roper said. "Our philosophy this year has been to get in front of the post and help behind. Especially with Drone, you have to do that. So, I thought we contained him pretty good tonight. (Patrick) Lowe is a load too, he crashes the boards, but I felt like we kept him in check, which was huge for us."
Lower finished with nine points for Gallatin County, while Daine Hish and Wes McGuire each had three points.
Harrisburg was led by 17 points for Smithpeters, followed by 13 points from Eli Taborn-Scott and 12 points from Henshaw.
Gallatin County 37
Name FG FT R F Pts
Storto 0-0 0-0 1 3 0
Page 3 of 4 - Hish 1-2 0-0 0 1 3
Lowe 3-9 3-6 3 0 9
McGuire 1-2 0-0 7 3 3
Drone 8-12 2-5 7 2 18
Belford 0-1 0-0 0 3 0
Ramsey 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Jackson 1-2 0-0 0 1 2
Scates 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Z. McGuire 1-1 0-0 1 0 2
Totals: 15-30 5-10 19 13 37
Name FG FT R F Pts
Smithpeters 7-14 1-1 5 2 17
Henshaw 5-7 1-1 5 1 12
Roper 2-8 0-0 5 0 5
Scott 6-9 1-1 0 2 13
Upchurch 1-2 0-0 2 2 2
Bjornsson 0-2 0-1 2 0 0
Amaya 2-3 0-1 1 1 5
Younger 0-1 0-0 0 1 0
Bartok 0-0 2-2 0 1 2
Simerly 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Page 4 of 4 - Batts 1-1 0-0 1 0 2
Oglesby 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Goldman 0-1 0-0 0 0 0
Hartley 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Totals 24-48 5-8 21 9 58
3-pt FG: Gallatin County 1-3 (Hish), Harrisburg 4-15 (Smithpeters 2, Henshaw, Roper). Turnovers: Gallatin County 17, Harrisburg 5.
Harrisburg 17 29 47 58
Gallatin County 07 17 27 37