LITCHFIELD — The East Alton-Wood River Oilers did something they hadn't done in the last 11 tries Monday at the Litchfield Invitational — they beat the Roxana Shells.
EA-WR and Roxana met in pool play action Monday at Litchfield with the Oilers prevailing 52-50 on a bucket by senior Mike Stimac with 12.8 seconds remaining. With the win, EA-WR improved to 7-12. The Shells slipped to 9-10 with the loss.
It was the third time Roxana and EA-WR had met in the '14-15 season. The Shells had won the previous two matchups.
For Stimac it was the first time during his tenure with the Oilers that they have beaten Roxana. The same can be said for his head coach Kyle Duncan, who was 0-6 vs. the Shells entering Monday. EA-WR hadn't defeated Roxana since the 2009-10 season.
“It's the first time since I've been there and it just feels good to finally get a win vs. them,” Stimac said. “I know all those guys and it's no fun having them constantly tell me that they beat us. That's just no fun.”
Duncan added about the rivalry, “We've never beat them so we've had this monkey on our back for so long. We were finally able to pull one out. They are usually always close and real physical games and it's just nice to get over the hump.”
It took a second half surge by the Oilers to pull out the win. Stimac only had two points in the first half and leading scorer Blake Marks found himself on the bench with two fouls midway through the second quarter. Marks finished with a game-high 22 points. Stimac scored 18 points and yanked down 12 rebounds.
It was EA-WR's knack at crashing the boards in the second half that Roxana head coach Mark Briggs thought hurt the most.
“They got to the rim more and they got more second-half offensive rebounds,” Briggs said. “The difference was offensive rebounds. They had at least eight in the second half. To me that was the difference, we got beat on the glass.”
The Shells shot out to a 7-0 lead to start the game with four free throws from Randy Skiff and a 3-pointer by Trace Gentry. When the buzzer sounded on the first quarter Roxana was ahead 14-9 and Skiff had eight points. He wouldn't score the rest of the way.
Duncan praised Skiff, who did a fine job defensively on Stimac early in the game, keeping him away from the rim and relegating him to shooting midrange jumpers.
“They did a great job on Stimac, they pretty much shut him down,” Duncan said. “That Skiff kid just works his butt off. He gives up four to five inches to Stimac and he's just a hard-nosed kid.”
Roxana utilized an 11-2 run over nearly six minutes in the second quarter to build a comfortable 27-14 lead with 30 seconds to go in the half. A 3-pointer by Dillon Buck and a free throw from Zach Butkovich dwindled the Shells' lead to 27-18 at the break, but Roxana was definitely in the driver's seat.
That changed when the two teams returned from the locker room.
“I just decided my jump shot wasn't there so I was going to attack the basket, get to the free throw line and get in a rhythm early and I think that's what everybody did, we all attacked the basket better,” Stimac said. “We started knocking down some shots.
“We had to quit settling. They wanted us to take outside shots and we needed to get to the basket. This was actually one time where we were actually bigger than somebody.”
The Oilers started the second half with an 8-0 run, all on points from Stimac, to cut it to 27-26 at the 3:56 mark of the third quarter.
But Roxana refused to relinquish the lead. Chance Foss knocked down a couple of 3-pointers to elevate the lead to 33-26. Even after Blake Marks nailed a trey with 43.2 seconds left in the frame to get it to 35-34, Zachary Golenor of the Shells hit a 3-pointer right before the buzzer to make it 38-34 Roxana after three quarters.
“They went into a triangle-and-2 against us, so they were leaving two guys wide open,” Briggs said. “They were taking away Golenor and Gentry and Foss hit some big shots for us there. We had to do that and it pulled them out of the triangle, but we just weren't able to get stops down the stretch.”
EA-WR kept clawing in the fourth quarter. A bucket by Stimac tied it at 41-41 with 4:50 to go and a score by Buck knotted it at 45-45 with 2:57 to play.
The Oilers enjoyed their first lead of the game with 2:02 remaining when Stimac scored to make it 47-45, but Foss drained another trey to catapult Roxana back on top 48-47.
Marks answered for EA-WR with a 3-pointer with 53.6 seconds left to propel his Oilers in front 50-48, but Golenor scored a bucket with 22 seconds to go to tie it at 50-50. That set up the heroics for Stimac's late bucket to secure the victory. Roxana had an opportunity for the last shot, but was unable to score.
It was good for the Oilers, who rebounded from a 93-51 shellacking at the hands of Taylorville on Saturday. Now the Shells get Taylorville at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“It's going to be a tough way to go now,” Briggs said. “We've got to find a way to bounce back and find out what our kids are made of.”
Duncan added, “Taylorville was such a tough team we just wanted to play well (Monday). We haven't won a game in pool play in a couple years. It's a tough tournament so getting a win right now is huge for us.”
Roxana was led by Gentry with 14 points, while Foss chipped in with 13 in the loss.
EA-WR 52, ROXANA 50
Roxana 11 13 11 12 — 50
EA-WR 9 9 16 18 — 52
EA-WR (7-12) — Blake Marks 22, Zach Butkovich 7, Dillon Buck 5, Mike Stimac 18. 2FG — 11 3FG — 7 FT — 9 PF — 11
ROXANA (9-10) — Blake Vandiver 3, Trace Gentry 14, Zachary Golenor 8, Randy Skiff 8, Chance Foss 13, Jordan Hawkins 4. 2FG — 10 3FG — 7 FT — 9 PF — 13