BETHALTO – Civic Memorial’s Eagles sought to knot the Mississippi Valley Conference boys’ basketball standings Tuesday.
Instead, they saw it unravel in Highland’s favor.
The Bulldogs defeated the Eagles, 54-49, to sweep the regular-season series from them and clinch the Valley title. Highland, which lifted its overall record to 12-14, improved to 7-2 in the MVC. The ’Dogs have one league game remaining – Wednesday at home with Jersey.
CM fell to 17-10 and 5-4, while Jersey’s 53-41 loss at Waterloo handed the Panthers their fourth conference defeat. They are 4-4.
“We hoped to win the conference outright and we knew we had to win here tonight to do that,” Highland coach Matt Elledge said.
Highland’s hopes were fulfilled when Jersey’s result was posted after Highland's victory. All four of those teams are cast in next week's Class 3A Panthers’ Regional. The Bulldogs and Eagles will tangle at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4.
Elledge added, “We’ll see them again.”
Eagles’ coach Doug Carey will stress a different outcome next week. He said CM has to refine its play the next time. The Bulldogs spoiled the Eagles' Senior Night.
“We did a poor job of taking care of the ball,” Carey said, referring to the Eagles’ 16 turnovers, seven more than the Bulldogs. “We have to be a lot better than that.”
Early on, the Eagles had things going their way. They made five of their first six shots and surged ahead, 11-2. Yet Highland regained its balance and sliced CM’s lead to 16-14 by the end of the opening quarter.
Then the Bulldogs took advantage of seven turnovers in the second quarter in outscoring the Eagles 17-8. They led 31-24 at halftime and maintained a lead the rest of the way.
“We were also so poor defending,” Carey said. “We didn’t take one charging foul and they went to the basket the whole game. You can’t win tough games unless you play good defense.”
Jakob Lowrance stirred the CM attack by scoring a game-high 21 points, including 13 of their 25 second-half points. He also snared 10 rebounds and emerged as the school's career leader with 646 rebounds. Eric Frankford previously held the all-time CM record with 644 rebounds from 1992-94.
Freshman Jaquan Adams contributed nine points before he fouled out with 49 seconds to play. Brett Lane connected on four of six shots and scored eight points.
Balanced scoring benefited Highland. The Bulldogs had four players score in double figure. Austin Elledge led the way with 13 points, including nine in the second half. Brode Portell collected 12 points, all in the first half. Justin Twyford (11 points) and Luke Theis (10 points) also contributed to the cause. So those four players accounted for all but six of Highland’s points.
“We have size, but they are quicker than us,” Carey said. “We have to be better the next time we play them.”
Coach Elledge liked the way the Bulldogs responded after falling behind by nine points in the first three minutes.
“We didn’t come out with much energy and they (Eagles) hit some shots,” he said. “But we fought back and stuck with our game plan. We used our quickness and got some good looks at the basket.”
CM closes its regular season Friday at Waterloo. Highland is scheduled to be idle for a week after welcoming Jersey on Wednesday. The Jersey Regional opens Monday with the Panthers playing Triad.
“It’s anybody’s regional,” Elledge said. “Anybody could win it.”
HIGHLAND 54, CM 49
Highland 14 17 10 13 – 54
CM 16 8 12 13 – 49
Highland (12-14, 7-2) – Austin Elledge 13, Cole Landmann 6, Brode Portell 12, Luke Theis 10, Justin Twyford 11, Matt Beyer 2. 2FG-16 3FG-4 FT-10 PF-16
CM (17-10, 5-4) – Jakob Lowrance 21, Zack Lehnen 7, Brett Lane 8, Jaquan Adams 9, David Lane 1, Brandon Alexander 3. 2FG-17 3FG-2 FT-9 PF-14