ROXANA — The Roxana Shells came too close for comfort Friday night against the East Alton-Wood River Oilers.
Roxana tied the contest with five seconds left in regulation, forcing overtime where the Shells escaped the longtime rivalry game with a 59-57 victory at Milazzo Gym.
The Shells improved to 5-2 with the win, while EA-WR dipped to 2-5 after being tagged with the loss.
"We're friends off the playing field, so it's great to get the win and get those bragging rights," Roxana junior Chance Foss said. "We'll go out to eat after the game and give each other a little grief. We'll tell them good game, but hey, we got you."
After Roxana's 6-foot-3 freshman Jordan Hawkins won the tip-off against EA-WR 6-foot-1 junior Blake Marks, it was clear the Oilers and Shells were ready to go to work. Trading offense and defense through the first quarter, the Shells found themselves down by a point at 13-12 by the first buzzer.
The second quarter proved to be an Oiler clinic, as EA-WR outscored Roxana 21-17, sending the two teams to the locker room with the Oilers leading 34-28. Foss entered the locker room leading in points for the Shells with eight, while Marks went into the break with 16 points for the Oilers.
"Marks is a heck of a ball player," EA-WR head coach Kyle Duncan said. "He takes the shots, he makes the baskets, he's just a strong kid. Roxana did a good job early on with Marks, keying on other players, it allowed him to be opened up more. Eventually these teams are going to key up on Marks more. He's averaged over 20 points a game for us."
The Shells returned to the floor in the second half with a renewed energy, led by senior Randy Skiff and junior Trace Gentry. Roxana turned the tables on the Oilers and bringing the score to a one-point game before EA-WR senior Zach Butkovich nailed a 3-pointer to end the third quarter with the Oilers leading 46-42. The Shells outscored the Oilers 13-12 in the third to shorten the gap.
The intensity picked up between the rivals as the fourth quarter kicked off and the foul whistle blowing against both the Shells and the Oilers.
Hawkins was the first five-foul victim, leaving the game for the Shells with eight points and taking a seat on the bench. Roxana kept the Oilers to just nine points in the fourth quarter while the Shells kicked it up a notch to add 13 points to stay within striking distance.
As the time ran down on the clock, the Oilers led by two points with less than 10 seconds remaining. Just when it looked as though the Oilers were going to steal the upset from the Shells, Skiff took a last ditch drive to the net and tied the game 55-55 with five seconds remaining. The Oilers and the Shells were sent to a four-minute overtime battle to determine the winner.
The foul whistle would prove to be a player as the starting minute of OT kicked off, sending Marks to the Oiler bench with five fouls and 25 points. The Oilers and Shells would keep the score tied throughout the first two minutes of overtime before Roxana's Foss would break the silence and drop two points for the Shells.
The Oilers' 6-3 senior Mike Stimac returned to the court earlier in the week and is playing through the pain of a torn meniscus and took a foul to bring the Oilers to the free throw line. Stimac hit both shots from the charity stripe to tie the game once again at 57-57.
The Shells then took possession of the ball with a pass to Foss who drove the lane for the game-winning layup with just under a minute left, giving the Shells a 59-57 victory over the Oilers.
"Mike's knee, it's just a matter of it getting stronger," Duncan said. "He started off feeling pretty weak, he felt like his knee would tremble when he ran earlier in the week. He's already feeling stronger and he was able to play almost a full game tonight. We have one game before Christmas break and then some time off. We're going to take care of him and that knee and hopefully we'll be in good shape."
Shells' head coach Mark Briggs feels his team is backed up with strong players who play with intensity and determination like Gentry and Hawkins, as well as Foss and Skiff, who scored the points to tie and ultimately win the game.
"Randy Skiff should be a lesson to kids in sports," said Briggs. "These Wilson game balls cost about $55 each and I gave him one tonight. I've never done that. Skiff didn't have a lot of play time last year as a junior, but he worked hard and stuck with it. I've never seen a kid work harder than he did tonight, he's paid his dues and put in all the effort."
For the Oilers, Duncan said his team's performance was all about effort.
"The one thing we can take out of a loss like this is effort," said Duncan. "I think this is one of the hardest games we've played all year. I try to tell the kids that if they put the same effort up against other teams like we do when we play the Shells, we would win a lot of games."
The Shells won't get much of a break before having to face Pana on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at home for their South Central Conference opener. The Oilers will travel to Brussels at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
ROXANA 57, EA-WR 55 OT
EA-WR 13 21 12 9 2 — 55
Roxana 12 17 13 13 4 — 57
ROXANA (5-2) — Blake Vandiver 5, Trace Gentry 17, Chance Foss 12, Jordan Hawkins 8, Randy Skiff 7, Cody McMillen 2, Zachary Golenor 8. 2FG — 17 3FG — 5 FT — 10 PF — 18
EA-WR (2-5) — Blake Marks 25, Zac Butkovich 6, Justin Englar 2, Dillon Buck 8, Mike Stimac 8, Nic Daily 4, Joel Biesk 4. 2FG — 15 3FG — 5 FT — 12 PF — 16