Photo by Diane Cox
The Civic Memorial Eagles pose with the third-place trophy at the Litchfield Invite after defeating Mount Zion 80-73 on Saturday in the third-place game at Litchfield.
One element emerges from the performance of the Civic Memorial boys’ basketball team thus far this season: The Eagles have demonstrated they are tourney tough.
They finished second in the season-opening Stove Top Stuffing event that concluded at Granite City. CM then took third in the Freeburg-Columbia Holiday Tournament and registered another third this past weekend in the 48th annual Litchfield Tournament.
So the Eagles, who were 12-7 heading into their nonconference game Tuesday against Mater Dei in Breese, are 9-3 in those three tourneys. That total accounts for three-fourths of their victories.
“Any win for us is important,” Eagles’ coach Doug Carey said following their 80-73 win over Mount Zion for third place Saturday at Litchfield. “We have to take care of business and keep winning.
“We can’t wait for the other teams to lose.”
CM remains in the hunt for the championship of the congested Mississippi Valley Conference chase. The Eagles, who play host to league foe Waterloo on Friday, are 2-2 in the Valley. Highland, Jersey and Mascoutah all have one conference defeat. Each MVC squad plays 10 league games.
“We played well Friday,” Carey said after Taylorville shaded CM in the Litchfield semifinals. “And we were as good offensively against Mount Zion as we have been all season. We were fairly crisp, we got to openings against their defense and we knocked down our shots. Give the credit to our kids for doing that.”
That snap, crackle and pop crispy play has lifted the Eagles since a wobbly 3-4 start. They have won nine of their last 12 games and a change in the lineup has spurred them.
Freshman Jaquan Adams, a 6-foot-2 forward, has supplied the Eagles with a shot of quickness. Adams, who scored 14 points against Mount Zion, is averaging nearly 8 points per game. He was cast in a reserve role at the start of the season.
“He has a quick first step and he takes the ball to the basket really well,” teammate Zack Lehnen said.
Carey added, “Jaquan gives us a different element with his speed and quickness.”
Lehnen, a 6-3 senior forward, provided another scoring component at Litchfield. He also punched in 14 points during the third-place game and joined teammate Jakob Lowrance — CM’s top gun — on the all-tourney team.
“I’m happy with the way I’ve been playing,” said Lehnen, averaging nearly 7.0 ppg. “My teammates are helping me to get open shots.”
Lowrance didn’t need much assistance in the Litchfield finale. He poured in a career-best 31 points after netting 21 in the semifinal loss to Taylorville.
The Central Missouri State recruit is averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game. He’s also better than 77 percent from the free throw line. Lowrance made all seven of his fouls shots, including six in the fourth quarter, to ensure the Eagles’ win.
It was their highest-scoring game of the season. CM scored 74 points in a lopsided win over Dupo in its Freeburg tourney opener. It was the first time the Eagles had surpassed the 80-point plateau in Carey’s two seasons as the head coach.
“We really wanted to win the game and we came out with a good attitude,” Lehnen said.
Carey noted, “We can play that up-tempo style. We’re not a slow-down style team.”
Brett Lane, a 6-3 junior forward and Adam Hill, a 6-0 junior guard, have contributed points and passing, respectively. Reserves Brandon Hampton and David Lane, among others, have offered needed support. Hampton is a 5-10 sophomore guard and Lane is a 6-1 sophomore guard.
Come Saturday, it’ll be CM facing Cairo in the Pinckneyville Shootout. The Eagles then entertain Columbia (Tuesday, Feb. 3) and rival Jersey (Friday, Feb. 6). They also have Valley dates remaining with Mascoutah (Feb. 10), Triad (Feb. 20), Highland (Feb. 24) and Waterloo (Feb. 27). The Eagles go to the Class 3A Jersey Regional that includes four Valley teams and Marquette Catholic of the Prairie State Conference.
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