JERSEYVILLE – Civic Memorial’s first boys’ basketball regional championship in 22 years had the Eagles jumping for joy Friday. They erased more than two decades of postseason heartache.
“This is the biggest game I’ve played in so far and definitely our biggest win,” CM center Jakob Lowrance said. “It feels good to win a regional championship.”
The Eagles defeated Jersey, 53-45 in Havens Gym to claim the Class 3A Panthers’ Regional title. It’s the first time CM has snared a regional crown since 1992-93, when Mike Harmon served as the coach.
“It’s really big for the community,” CM coach Doug Carey said. “The girls’ basketball team has had so much success that it's nice to get a piece of the pie.”
He added, “It has been a long drought – 22 years too long as far as I’m concerned.”
Next up for the 19-11 Eagles is a date with 25-3 Belleville Althoff at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Carbondale Sectional. The Crusaders, who bested Cahokia, 65-53 on Friday to win the Mascoutah Regional, have won five consecutive games. Host Carbondale faces Mount Vernon at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the sectional opener. The championship game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.
Lowrance, Jaquan Adams and Zack Lehnen stirred CM’s latest victory, the Eagles’ second in three games against Jersey this season. The fourth-seeded Panthers finished 17-15.
“CM played well and that’s the best game that Lowrance has played against us," Jersey coach Stote Reeder said. "He was awesome.”
Lowrance scored 27 points and snagged 13 rebounds to propel the Eagles. He netted 12 of their 16 points in the fourth quarter to help close out the victory.
Adams, a freshman, contributed 11 points, including nine in the second quarter when the Eagles overturned a nine-point deficit and outscored the Panthers 21-12. Lehnen pitched in points, including a 3-pointer just before halftime to give third-seeded CM a 26-24 lead. Point guard Adam Hill collected six points.
“It means everything to win the regional because we hadn’t done it for so long,” Lehnen said. “It feels great.”
Jersey, getting a team-best 13 points from Zac Ridenhour, led 14-5 early in the second quarter before CM regrouped. Adams started the comeback and Lehnen continued it with his buzzer-beating trey.
“I wouldn’t have made it if it wouldn’t have been for my teammates,” Lehnen said of his momentum-changing shot. “We pressured them on defense more in the second quarter and started hitting our shots.”
Carey pointed out, “We began executing things better. I think we were a little tight in the first quarter, so going to a pressure defense helped us. And Lehnen hit that big shot before the half.”
The Panthers never regained the lead. They trailed 33-24 early in the third quarter and got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
“I was really proud of our kids, but give CM credit,” Reeder said. “They forced it with their defense in the second quarter and we got in a hurry. Then when they got going on a run, we couldn’t make a shot.”
While the Eagles made 19 of 38 shots and sank a dozen free throws, including six in the fourth quarter, the Panthers hit on 18 of 44 shots. They were 5-for-12 from the foul line, with all of the free throws coming in the second quarter.
“We got into foul trouble and that hurt us,” Reeder said. Seniors Jake Varble and Luke Shively, both nagged by foul woes, scored eight points apiece.
“We had six seniors that played in their last game and they meant a lot to our program,” Reeder said.
CM will play on and that was the Eagles’ goal Lowrance said.
“We really wanted to win a regional and it feels so good to do it,” said the 6-foot-8 senior, bound for Central Missouri State in Warrensburg.
Carey said the Eagles will celebrate a bit, then get primed for Althoff, a place he previously worked. Carey served as a Crusaders’ assistant for four years.
“It’s 22 years since we won a regional, so I want to enjoy this for a while,” said Carey, a Roxana assistant when CM last won a postseason title.
He figures to hear more about that last regional championship, which was the sixth one in school history. Harmon guided the Eagles to a 25-5 record that season.
“I haven’t got a call from him yet,” Carey cracked afterward about Harmon.
There’s little doubt he’s awaiting one and planning to swap regional championship stories.
CLASS 3A JERSEY REGIONAL
CM 53, JERSEY 45
Jersey 12 12 8 13 – 45
CM 5 21 11 16 – 53
Jersey (17-15) – Jake Varble 8, Jacob Witt 2, Luke Shively 8, Zac Ridenhour 13, Drake Kanallakan 7, A.J. Staples 4, Jacob Ridenhour 2, Brendan Loellke 1. 2FG-14 3FG-4 FT-5 PF-19
CM (19-11) – Jakob Lowrance 27, Adam Hill 6, Jaquan Adams 11, Zack Lehnen 9. 2FG-16 3FG-3 FT-12 PF-16