ROXANA — Trace Gentry of the Roxana Shells and Collin Baumgartner of the Southwestern Piasa Birds staged a scoring shootout Tuesday at Milazzo Gym.
Baumgartner won the battle, but the Shells won the war.
Roxana edged Southwestern, 50-48, on Chance Foss’ tie-breaking reverse layup with 19 seconds remaining. The surging Shells improved to 18-8 overall and 5-2 in the South Central Conference. Roxana has won 4 in succession, 6 of 7 and 9 of 11. Southwestern fell to 12-13 and 3-3.
“I don’t think much has changed for us lately,” said Gentry, a 6-foot-2 senior bound for Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield. “But we are playing better and playing smarter.”
Gentry’s 21 points, including a trio of treys, kept the Shells percolating. His scoring offset the work of the Piasa Birds’ Baumgartner, a 6-6 junior. He made 10 of 17 shots and scored a game-best 24 points.
“Baumgartner was tremendous and Gentry matched him,” Roxana coach Mark Briggs said.
Piasa Birds’ coach Jason Darr said, “Our big man (Baumgartner) shot it well and their big man (Gentry) shot it well. I thought it was a pretty well-played game.”
Gentry added, “To be honest, I don’t think I was ‘feeling it’ with my shooting early in the game. But I stepped it up in the second quarter.”
He made 7 of 16 shots, including 2 treys and a 2-pointer in the final 2.5 minutes of the second quarter to give Roxana a 27-24 lead at the break.
Overall, neither team led by more than 5 points and it was knotted 39-39 after three quarters. It was also tied at 48-48 after Baumgartner punched in a shot with 57 seconds to go.
The Shells worked for a final shot after Briggs call for a timeout with 25.4 seconds to play. Foss drove the baseline and dropped in his reverse layup 6 seconds later. Southwestern sought a tying or winning shot, but Baumgartner couldn’t connect on a 3-pointer.
“The play (on Foss’ basket) was an isolation one where we wanted to get a good shot at the rim,” Briggs said. “Chance had to improvise on it at the end.”
Gentry noted, “It was a tough shot, but Chance has made shots like that.”
Darr hoped the Piasa Birds could at least convert the tying shot in the closing seconds. However, they couldn’t get close enough to the basket.
“The last shot wasn’t the play we drew up or the one we wanted to tie the game,” he said. “But Collin is one of our better 3-point shooters and we took what we could get.”
Things went back and forth in the tight game, typical of a Roxana-Southwestern tussle, hinging on a play or two near the end of the game.
“Every time we play them it’s like a rivalry game,” Gentry said.
Briggs pointed out, “I think the teams get up for each other. Southwestern has a young team, but they played at a very high level tonight.”
Zack Seymour’s 10 points complemented Baumgartner’s big night for the Birds. They hit 18 of 43 shots, including 4 shots. Southwestern made 8 of 9 free throws.
Zach Golenor (9 points), Blake Vandiver (8 points) and Foss (7 points) followed Gentry in the Shells’ scoring.
Nevertheless, the key to their victory might have been the defense, Briggs said.
“One of our main concerns was defending Justin Bailey and we did that,” he said. Bailey, a 5-10 sophomore guard averaging 15.1 points per game, didn’t score.
The win enabled the Shells to remain in second place behind SCC champion Greenville, which finished 9-0 in the league. The Comets closed a perfect conference schedule by defeating Carlinville, 63-43, on Tuesday.
“We’re trying to get better toward the end of the season like we did last year,” Briggs said. “We want to win 20 games.”
That approach appeals to Gentry. “I think we have a good shot to go far in the postseason,” he said.
Once the postseason is over, Gentry can turn his thoughts to college basketball.
“I like Lincoln Land and the style they play. They move the ball well,” he said of the Loggers’ fast-paced game.
“It’s also close to home.”
Roxana resumes action Friday at 17-7 Marquette Catholic, a 49-47 winner Tuesday at Highland.
ROXANA 50, SOUTHWESTERN 48
Southwestern 13 11 15 9 — 48
Roxana 13 14 12 11 — 50
Southwestern (12-13, 3-3) — Collin Baumgartner 24, Zack Seymour 10, Ben Lowis 6, Caleb Robinson 5, Caden Heyen 3. 2FG-14 3FG-4 FT-8 PF-11
Roxana (18-8, 5-2) — Trace Gentry 21, Zach Golenor 9, Blake Vandiver 8, Chance Foss 7, Zach Haas 5. 2FG-15 3FG-5 FT-5 PF-10