ROXANA — Chance Foss said the Roxana High boys’ basketball team puts plenty of stock in its defense.
It showed Tuesday night at Larry Milazzo Gym. The Shells guarded as if their lives were on the line.
They stuffed Litchfield, 61-41, in a South Central Conference game and improved to 7-2 overall. They shot to 1-1 in the SCC. Litchfield dropped to 5-3 and 2-1.
“I think we pride ourselves on our defense,” said Foss, a 5-foot-9 senior guard and the Shells’ floor leader. “We know we have to play good defense to win. Defense is my focus.”
Roxana limited Litchfield to 15 of 50 shooting, or 30 percent. The Shells also forced 17 turnovers, including 7 in the first quarter when they built a 14-4 advantage.
“We really didn’t stick with what we wanted to do,” Purple Panthers’ coach Drew Logan said. “We wanted to go inside-out with our offense, but we didn’t do that enough. We started had three turnovers in our first four possessions.
“We came out flat.”
Part of that might have been because Litchfield hadn’t played in a week. Or maybe it was that Cooper Scharf, a 6-4 senior, averaging 13 points per game, was sidelined with an ankle injury.
Then there was that stifling Roxana defense. It hounded the visitors.
“They (Shells) are aggressive and they were denying the passing lanes,” Logan said.
Shells’ coach Mark Briggs pointed to the team’s second-half start as a key component of their victory. Roxana led 26-17 at half and 46-28 after three quarters.
“We came out strong defensively in the third quarter,” Briggs said. “Offensively, I thought we did a good job even though Trace Gentry was never in synch.”
Gentry, the Shells’ top gun averaging 19.6 ppg, was limited to 6 points on 3-for-13 shooting. However, Foss punched in 15 points to lead them. Zach Golenor netted 14 points, Black Vandiver tallied 12 points and Cody McMillen had 10 points as four Roxana players scored in double figures. They shouldered the load.
“It was definitely a good game for me,” said Foss, hitting 6 of 10 shots, including a trey. “We all can score and when an opponent takes away somebody (Gentry), we can exploit that.”
Briggs noted, “That was Chance’s best game of the season. He has a lot of responsibilities for us and we put the ball in his hands about 75 percent of the time.”
There’s a reason for that. Foss can do it all.
“He’s the toughest kid I have coached,” Briggs said. “He’s the quarterback of the basketball team’s offense and the linebacker of our defense.”
Logan added, “He (Foss) was aggressive in going to the basket. We gave him some perimeter shots and he hit a 3-pointer early in the game. And when he drives to get to the rim, he gets there.”
All figured, the Shells made 23 of 52 shots, including 4 treys. Golenor hit 4 of 8 shots, Vandiver converted 5 of 9 field-goal tries and McMillen made 3 of 8 attempts. Roxana also sank 11 of 16 free throws.
Josh Franke’s 15 points spurred Litchfield and teammate David Seebaugh contributed 13 points. Franke went 0-for-1 in a scoreless first quarter, then made his remaining 7 field-goal attempts.
With six wins in their last seven games, the Shells will entertain neighborhood rival Civic Memorial on Friday. The Eagles are 6-2 following a 60-55 Mississippi Valley Conference win Tuesday at Mascoutah.
Prior to the start of Friday’s game, the Shells and Eagles will honor former head coach Mike Harmon. He will be inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame at Normal in April.
Harmon served as the Eagles’ head coach from 1985-94 and compiled a 149-91 record in those 9 seasons. He was 46-38 from 1998-2001 as the Shells’ head coach and then assisted Briggs, who became head coach during the 2001-02 season.
“He has done so much for both programs and been a great mentor for me,” Briggs said of Harmon. “He has taught me a lot about basketball and a lot about life.”
ROXANA 61, LITCHFIELD 41
Litchfield 4 13 11 13 – 41
Roxana 14 12 20 15 – 61
Litchfield (5-3, 2-1) – Josh Franke 15, Conner Simmons 5, Matt Meyer 2, Cam Morris 2, David Seebaugh 13, Sam Middleton 2, Matt Fenton 2. 2FG-13 3FG-2 FT-9 PF-12
Roxana (7-2, 1-1) – Chance Foss 15, Trace Gentry 6, Zach Golenor 14, Blake Vandiver 12, Cody McMillen 10, Zach Haas 2, Chris Pulley 2. 2FG-19 3FG-4 FT-11 PF-15