WOOD RIVER — What is an athlete to do after reaching a major milestone in his or her career?
Go for the win.
That's just what the East Alton-Wood River Oilers did on Saturday as senior Mike Stimac reached 1,000 career points. They logged a 65-55 victory over the Bunker Hill Minutemen in a Prairie State Conference battle in front of a packed Memorial Gym.
The Oilers improved to 9-14 overall and 1-2 in the PSC with the win. Bunker Hill slipped to 7-14 and 1-3 with the loss. The Minutemen had won seven of their last nine games entering Saturday after starting 0-11.
The Oilers were reeling from a disappointing loss on Friday to the Marquette Catholic Explorers, having lead the majority of the game on Marquette's home court. The Explorers made a come-from-behind charge to take the 44-37 victory. The Oilers were determined not to repeat the same mistake on Saturday against the Minutemen.
"We were totally different from last night," Stimac said. "Late in the game we really struggled. We talked after blowing that lead and we knew we were going to come out and pound it hard tonight. We wanted to make a statement and get the win as a team."
EA-WR alumni, Mike “OilerMic" Young announced the game and kept the unusually large crowd on their feet. The students counted down the 16 points Stimac needed to become the 13th player to join the 1,000-point club in the 80-plus year basketball history at EA-WR.
The Oilers kept to their game plan in the first half and took to the hoop early and often. The Minutemen made a charge to end the first quarter, down by just a point with a score of 14-13. EA-WR junior Blake Marks and senior Zach Butkovich each popped 3-pointers, while Stimac tallied six points.
The Oilers took off in the second period, scoring 25 points and kept the Minutemen to just five. Bunker Hill senior Mike Yates dropped a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Adam Brewer knocked down a 2-point field goal for the Minutemen.
Marks lit it up for the Oilers, scoring 11 points before the end of the half, including three 3-pointers. Stimac inched closer to the 1,000-point mark when he put up eight points in the second quarter, needing just one basket to reach the milestone by the end of the first half.
The Oilers headed to the locker room with a 39-18 lead over the Minutemen.
"We worked the ball around and got some wide open shots," Marks said. "There were times we rushed a bit and we just started chucking up shots. We started working and passing on offense and it all started to come together. I think overall we did great as a team. We've been playing much better ball lately. We've been playing as a team and that's all we need to do."
The crowd was on the edge of their seat as the second half started. The people in the stands chanted "Mi-key Sti-mac,” and "We want a thousand.” With 4:45 on the clock in the third quarter, the Oiler fans got what they wanted.
On a jump shot over the head of Bunker Hill junior Adam Brewer, Stimac joined his head coach Kyle Duncan on the EA-WR 1,000 career point list and made his mark in school history. Those two points would be the only points Stimac contributed in the third quarter.
The Minutemen outscored the Oilers in the third quarter 14-10 as Brewer warmed up, adding eight points for Bunker Hill.
Marks made two trips to the foul line for the Oilers and added four points for his team. Butkovich and freshman Justin Englar added a pair of free throws to round out EA-WR before the buzzer. The Oilers kept the lead at 49-32 going into the fourth quarter.
"I think a lot of our offense actually came from defense tonight," Duncan said. "Our kids played 100 percent and hard the whole time. They played so hard at one point they stretched the lead to almost 30 points, so we started subbing and letting some of the younger players get in there and see how hard they need to play at this level. We played great overall and I think the entire experience tonight was great.
“Having OilerMic announcing, the excitement of Mikey's accomplishment, our performance and a very large and energizing crowd, it just all made for a good night for us. (Dillon) Buck, Butkovich and (Nic) Daily were so strong on defense and generated a lot of opportunities. Marks and Stimac were solid on their shots, they had 22 points each tonight, that's two thirds of our points right there."
The Oilers pulled their starters midway through the fourth to give some younger players some time on the hardwood. Stimac stayed on the court to mentor his teammates until the final three minutes of the game.
The Minutemen took advantage and ran the ball for a 23-point fourth quarter to make up some room. The Oilers stuck it out and added 16 points to end the game with a final score of 65-55.
"I felt like we couldn't hit anything that first quarter," Bunker Hill head coach Jay Goltz said. "It seemed like Wood River was hitting almost everything they shot. It was one of those nights, it just happens. In the second half we turned it up a bit and started to get some offense going. It's hard to stop players like Stimac and Marks. Those two combined had like 28 of their 39 points in the first half. They came out to play tonight. They played really well, they're tough ball players."
Stimac is the first to join the 1,000 career point club since Colby Hall hit for 1,051 during the 2011 season. Now that Stimac has reached this accomplishment, he's ready to look to the next goal, a regional championship.
"Scoring most of the points early let me relax a little bit and not even think about it," Stimac said. "I know that if it got closer to the end of the game I would have probably worried about it a little bit. Everyone shared the ball tonight, it wasn't just one person. Marks and I will probably keep the high point totals, if we can get maybe 10 points or so from each teammate out there, we'd be golden. Personally, it feels good to be one of 13 to reach this accomplishment out of almost 90 years of school history. It's pretty cool to be one of the people to make it."
The Oilers board the bus for Southwestern to face the Piasa Birds at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
PRAIRIE STATE CONFERENCE
EA-WR 65, BUNKER HILL 55
Bunker Hill 13 5 14 23 — 55
EA-WR 14 25 10 16 — 65
EA-WR (9-14, 1-2) — Blake Marks 22, Zach Butkovich 7, Justin Englar 4, Dillon Buck 2, Mike Stimac 22, Joel Biesk 5, Lucas Wells 3. 2FG — 18 3FG — 5 FT — 14
BUNKER HILL (7-14, 1-3) — Michael Yates 8, Clay Coffman 1, Christian Summers 5, Stormmy Coffman 6, Dane Sellers 3, Adam Brewer 12, Jacob Mueller 7, Chase Williams 11, Ben Kahl 2. 2FG — 17 3FG — 6 FT — 3