LITCHFIELD — A sluggish first half was padded by a furious second half with junior David Lane providing the insurance in Civic Memorial's 70-64 win over Mount Zion on Friday at the 49th Litchfield Invitational.
The semifinal win elevated the Eagles to 14-4 and propelled them into the tourney title tilt at 7 p.m. Saturday in Litchfield. CM, the No. 1 seed, will face second-seeded Metro East Lutheran in the finals. MELHS bested Taylorville 74-60 in the other semifinal on Friday. Mount Zion (11-8) meets Taylorville at 5:30 p.m. in the third-place showdown.
The Eagles transformed a 36-24 halftime deficit into a 70-64 victory Friday vs. the Braves and head coach Doug Carey transformed from an angry coach to an ecstatic one.
“The second half was just an incredible effort by all the guys who played,” Carey said. “Offensively, we were very smart. We took what they gave us, we didn’t try to come down and jack up 3’s. If we play like that, the second half, all season long, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
At the heart of the comeback was Lane. He punched in a team-high 21 points, 16 in the second half.
“I was feeling it, so when I got it, I wanted to shoot it,” Lane said. “My teammates had confidence in me, so I just felt it was my job to score there.”
It didn't start out pretty for the Eagles. Mount Zion raced out on a 6-0 run and Carey called a quick timeout to get his team to regroup.
They returned to the floor to cut it to 6-5 on a bucket from Brandon Hampton and a traditional 3-point play by Adam Hill, but the Braves heated up again and led 20-10 at the close of the first quarter.
“I was really disappointed in the effort,” Carey said. “I don’t know why we came out and played like that, but that’s not us. I think they were upset with themselves, too.”
CM struggled to slow the larger Mount Zion lineup. The Braves went up by 12 points on 3 different occasions in the second quarter, including their 36-24 advantage entering the break.
“I know what we're capable of,” Mount Zion head coach Bryon Graven said. “I know they're a good team, but I've got confidence in my guys and I knew if we came out ready to go we could do that to them. We have strong guards and we play an up tempo game anyway and we knew we wanted to exploit the inside game and we executed. I told these guys if we could execute, be patient and play unselfish and that's what we did the first two quarters.”
Carey gave his guys a stern talking to in the locker room, but they were disappointed in themselves from their first half effort, too.
“We were a little embarrassed coming out like that in the semifinals, being the No. 1 seed,” Lane said. “We wanted to show everybody we belonged, to be the No. 1 seed. We wanted to show people that we earned it.”
Carey added, “Usually, we give great effort for 32 minutes. I never have to complain about effort. For some reason, we did not show up in the first half at all, especially defensively.
“I told them I was very disappointed with the effort. I said, 'I've never been disappointed in your effort all season long in games or practices and I don't know why we came out and played like that, but that's not us.' They were upset with themselves, too. They are a very competitive group and they knew they let each other down and they were ready to go in the second half.”
The Eagles came out in a flurry in the second half, racing out on an 18-4 scoring spree, transforming the 36-24 deficit into a 46-40 lead at the 3:52 mark of the third quarter. Lane had two 3-pointers and a 2-point field goal during the run, while his older brother, senior Brett Lane, supplied a trey and a traditional 3-point play to highlight the spurt.
The Braves didn't go away quietly though. They tied it at 48-48 with 2:37 to go in the frame on a pair of free throws by Brandon Price and then the two teams traded blows the remainder of the third. With time running out, Mount Zion's Charlie Kuhl got a steal and a basket, giving the Braves a 52-50 lead entering the final eight minutes.
Graven knew it was far from over though.
“I knew they weren't going anywhere,” he said. “That's a good team.”
Mount Zion led by five at 58-53 with 6:12 to play in the game after a bucket from Ryan Kernan. CM drew even again though at 60-60 with 4:18 to go on a score by JaQuan Adams.
It was David Lane's bucket with 1:53 left that put the Eagles ahead for good at 66-64. A couple free throws from Hill and two more from Brett Lane sealed the deal.
Now CM draws a MELHS team that likes to play a similar game to theirs, up tempo and high energy. The Knights are perched at 19-3 after Friday's win. They are in the midst of a 7-0 winning streak.
“Metro's a good team,” David Lane said. “We're definitely going to have to be ready for them. We definitely can't look over them. They've got some shooters and we've got to step it up on defense. We can't have a first half (like tonight) if we want to win.”
Brett Lane, 15 points, Adams, 12 and Hill, 11, joined David Lane in double figures Friday for the Eagles. The Braves were led by 21 points from Kuhle, 12 from Price and 10 from Kevin Cox.
CM 70, MOUNT ZION 64
Braves 20 16 18 10 — 64
Eagles 10 14 28 18 — 70
CM (14-4) — Brandon Hampton 5, David Lane 21, Adam Hill 11, Brett Lane 15, JaQuan Adams 12, Justin Williams 3, Geoff Withers 3. 2FG — 21 3FG — 6 FT — 10 PF — 13.
Mount Zion (11-8) — Charlie Kuhle 21, Kevin Cox 10, Jonah Smith 9, A.J. Davis 4, Brandon Price 12, Nate Ewing 6, Ryan Kernan 2. 2FG — 18 3FG — 6 FT — 10 PF — 15.