Four basketball teams converged on SIU Arena Tuesday night looking for a trip to their respective state tournaments. Two left the venue happy. Two did not.
Nokomis punched the first ticket to Peoria when it rallied from an 11-point second quarter deficit to defeat Gallatin County, 57-54, in overtime in the Class A Super-Sectional.
I thought this game was, by far, the better of the two played on Tuesday night. The second contest saw Harrisburg upend.Teutopolis, 77-66, in the Class 2A Super-Sectional.
Gallatin County and Nokomis duked it out for four quarters, and the some. And it was entertaining from the very beginning.
The Hawks jumped out to the early lead behind the shooting of Daine Hish, who canned three 3-pointers in the first quarter against Nokomis' vaunted 1-2-2 zone defense.
In the second quarter, it was Gallatin County's Patrick Lowe's turn to get hot. Lowe went on a little run of his own to help the Hawks build an 11-point advantage, but Nokomis wouldn't go away and only trailed by seven points at halftime.
Things began to get interesting in the third period. Gallatin County was able to maintain a lead. But the Hawks appeared to be tiring a bit after spending the entire game trying to maneuver through the three-quarter court press that Nokomis employs.
Nokomis then made its move in the fourth quarter.
With the help of several Gallatin County turnovers, the Redskins chipped away at their deficit and pulled to within three points at 36-33 midway through the period.
Most everybody on press row figured Gallatin County would call a timeout at that point. But it didn't happen.
The Hawks would hang on to the advantage until the 2:48 mark of the fourth quarter. That's when Devon Wright his two free throws to give Nokomis its first lead of the contest at 40-39.
The Redskins would cling to that lead, and were up 48-45 with 13.5 seconds left in regulation. the only minus about the situation at that point was that Gallatin County had the basketball.
And the Hawks capitalized on that point when Josh Belford banked in a 3-pointer from the wing with two seconds remaining in regulation to send it to overtime.
The roar of the crowd when the shot banked in was absolutely deafening. It's not something you see, or hear, everyday. It was a buzzer beater for the ages.
Unfortunately for Gallatin County, though, it was wasn't able to sustain the momentum in the overtime period, and Nokomis celebrated when Hish's trey attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.
Gallatin County certainly has nothing to hang its head about. The Hawks achieved a lot during this basketball season, and it sure looked like they might be headed to Peoria once the game began.
Page 2 of 2 - But Nokomis wound up prevailing. The Redskins stuck to their game plan, and in the end it brought them a Super-Sectional trophy.
As for the nightcap, I though it was a rather boring game. Each team seemed to get to the rim at will, especially in the first half. To be blunt, I thought the defense played by both teams was not very good. And that surprised me a little.
I was also a bit surprised that Teutopolis was willing to try and keep pace with Harrisburg. I figured the Wooden Shoes might try to slow it down a little bit.
That didn't happen. In the end Harrisburg did what it does best, which is use its many offensive weapons to overwhelm the opponent.
Once the Bulldogs built a double-digit lead, the advantage, for the most part, stayed between 10-15 points for the remainder of the game.
Teutopolis never really got within striking distance, and the Bulldogs never really put the Wooden Shoes away.
It doesn't really matter now if Harrisburg didn't play great defense in their Super-Sectional victory. All that matters at this point is that Bulldogs, the top-ranked team in Class 2A, are going where they have wanted to go for the past few years... to Peoria to, hopefully, play for a state title.