LITCHFIELD — Trace Gentry of Roxana High said the Shells’ pointed rivalry with East Alton-Wood River is forever passionate and meaningful.
Their neighborhood battle came alive again Saturday in the opening day of the 49th annual Litchfield Boys’ Basketball Tournament.
The Shells defeated the Oilers, 69-40, and Gentry, a 6-foot-2 senior, played a big part in the lopsided victory. He scored a team-best 21 points to send the 12-6 Shells past the 5-13 Oilers. Roxana, winning its third consecutive game, beat EA-WR for the second time this season and the 13th in the last 14 meetings. Both teams are cast in Pool D at Litchfield.
“It’s always our biggest game of the year when we play them,” Gentry said of the Oilers. “It's a big game because a lot of the players hang out together and we are friends.
“But when the game starts, it’s not about friendship. It’s about competition and winning the game.”
Elsewhere, top-seeded Civic Memorial beat Hillsboro, 64-42, in Pool A action. The Eagles, who improved to 12-4, are angling to win the tournament for the fifth time since 2004. They won it that year, plus 2005, 2008 and 2014.
Roxana 69, EA-WR 40
The Shells endured the scoring onslaught of the Oilers’ Blake Marks, a 30-point performer. Marks, who made 11 of 16 shots, including 7 treys, tallied 75 percent of EA-WR’s points.
“He’s something special and fun to watch,” EA-WR coach Kyle Duncan said. “Blake tried to pick up the slack for us today.”
Gentry added, “He’s a good player.”
Shells’ coach Mark Briggs noted, “He (Marks) made some tough shots. In all of my years of coaching, he’s one of the top five players I’ve coached against. He hit some big-time shots against us. He creates space for himself and he can shoot from anywhere.”
Despite Marks’ heroics, the Oilers couldn’t match the Shells’ scoring depth. Gentry netted five treys overall and logged 13 points in the second half. Chance Foss and Zach Golenor both tallied 14 points for the winners.
Roxana connected on 26 of 52 shots, including 7 treys. The Shells built a 14-0 advantage to start the game, then went on a 13-point binge to begin the second quarter. The Oilers closed to within 30-21 with 1:21 remaining in the half and trailed 32-21 at the break.
“I think it came down to energy and we played with a high level of energy,” Briggs said. “We were able to put them away in the second half. Our goal was to get down the floor as quick as possible and get some easy baskets.
“I liked what we did because it’s hard to beat a rival team twice.”
Duncan praised the Oilers for rallying after falling behind by 14 points at the start of the game. Yet he wondered why they couldn’t extend their comeback charge once the second half began. Before the Oiler knew it they trailed by 24 points. It took only three minutes of the third quarter for the Shells to bust things open.
“It has been a recurring theme for us at the start of the second half,” Duncan said. “We’ve struggled and have had to fight our way through it.”
Gentry said the Shells refocused once the second half began.
“It came down to whether they (Oilers) were going to stay in the game or if we were going to bury them. We knew we had to come out and bury them.”
In the third quarter, Roxana made 11 of 23 shots in scoring 28 points. Gentry packed the most powerful punch with 11 points, thanks mostly to a trio of treys.
“He has been drawing a lot of defensive attention and learned to make the necessary adjustments,” Briggs said of Gentry.
EA-WR resumes tourney play at 4 p.m. Monday against Mount Zion. Roxana tangles with Mount Zion at 6 p.m. Tuesday in more Pool D competition.
CM 64, Hillsboro 42
The Eagles ball-hawking ways stymied Hillsboro and dropped the Hiltoppers to 7-9. Hillsboro committed 29 turnovers, with 26 of them coming in the first three quarters.
“Our defense was very good tonight,” CM coach Doug Carey said. “We usually don’t get that many turnovers in a game, but I don’t think Hillsboro was used to seeing that kind of pressure.
“They (Hiltoppers) are a young team and handled our pressure better in the second half and we gave them too many layups late in the game.”
Donovan Moore, a 6-1 freshman, led Hillsboro with 10 points. The Hiltoppers, who start 3 juniors, 1 sophomore and 1 freshman, made 19 of 50 shots, or 38 percent. They trailed the entire way, including 9-0 in the first two minutes. CM led 31-19 at half and never looked back.
“Offensively, we were super sloppy,” Carey said. “There were times we were in too big of a rush. We are trying to play with our hair-on-fire defense and that’s fine. But on offense, we have to be more patient.”
Brett Lane scored 16 points, Brandon Hampton pitched in 14 points and David Lane had 11 points to lead the Eagles. They made 25 of 56 shots, including 7 treys, and withstood 7 of 15 foul shooting and 19 turnovers.
All figured, eight Eagles scored and Carey liked having that kind of a balanced attack.
“That’s the way we want it,” he said. “I’d like to have eight or nine guys scoring eight points a game.”
CM is idle until Tuesday when it faces defending tourney champ Greenvile at 7:30 p.m. The Comets are sitting atop the South Central Conference standings.
“Greenville is a pretty good team, so we don’t have an easy road. That’s for sure,” Carey said.
ROXANA 69, EA-WR 40
EA-WR 5 16 12 7 — 40
Roxana 18 14 28 9 — 69
EA-WR (5-13) — Blake Marks 30, Justin Englar 4, Hunter Hall 2, Hunter O’Brien 2, Cody Blacklock 2. 2FG-8 3FG-7 FT-3 PF-17
Roxana (12-6) — Chance Foss 14, Trace Gentry 21, Zach Golenor 14, Blake Vandiver 9, Dakota Stumpf 1, Cody McMillen 4, Zach Haas 6. 2FG-19 3FG-7 FT-10 PF-9
CM 64, HILLSBORO 42
Hillsboro 9 10 12 11 — 42
CM 16 15 15 18 — 64
Hillsboro (7-9) — Alex Hilt 4, Jordan Tuetken 2, Mitchell Reynolds 2, Steven Fenske 9, Dylan Civitate 8, Donavan Moore 10, Drake Paden 7. 2FG-18 3FG-1 FT-3 PF-16
CM (12-4) — JaQuan Adams 9, David Lane 11, Brandon Hampton 14, Brett Lane 16, Adam Hill 1, Jaxsen Helmkamp 6, Geoff Withers 5, Justin Williams 2. 2FG-18 3FG-7 FT-7 PF-9