FREEBURG — The Civic Memorial Eagles made the Freeburg Midgets live up to their name Saturday at the Freeburg-Columbia Holiday Tournament, using their size to make the Midgets play small ball.
CM defeated the host Midgets 57-44 to advance to the semifinals of the tournament where it will face top seeded Southwestern. The Piasa Birds bested Valmeyer 76-31 to earn their way into the semis.
The Eagles improved to 7-4 with their fourth straight win. Freeburg dipped to 7-4 with the loss.
CM showcased its size in the paint against the Midgets, keeping them from scoring a field goal until Jacob Mueller knocked down a 3-pointer at the 4:59 mark of the second quarter. That was Freeburg's only field goal in the first half. The Midgets didn't score a 2-point field goal until the final minute of the third quarter.
“That's the way it should be when we have Jakob (Lowrance) 6-foot-8 and (Caleb) Buhs 6-7 in there,” CM head coach Doug Carey said. “They alter a lot of shots and its tough to score inside against us. Defensively I thought we were great and I thought Adam Hill played his best floor game he's ever played. He took care of the ball, made great passes, good decisions. I was really pleased with his decision making most of all.”
Lowrance guided the Eagles' offense as the only player on either squad to reach double figures in scoring with 22 points. He credited the strong play of Hill and his other teammates as the explanation for his effort. He said they kept feeding him and making it easy for him to score.
“Everybody was looking for me a lot. My teammates really got me all those points,” Lowrance said. “Any point that I scored was from a teammate getting me the ball. Adam Hill and I had a couple of good give and goes on the break and Brett Lane had a few good entry passes. They were just looking for me inside and it was pretty easy once I got it in there.”
Lowrance was surprised to see one-on-one matchups for himself in the paint. He's used to seeing doubles and weak side help and it never came on Saturday.
“It surprised me, especially after I started getting a few easy ones inside,” he said. “I thought for sure they were going to start bringing a lot more weak side help and making it a lot harder, but they didn't really do anything to stop it so I was just looking for the ball and all my teammates were doing a good job of getting it in there to me.”
Lowrance surpassed 1,000 career points in Friday's win over Dupo and he admitted getting that monkey off his back in the first game of the tournament allowed him to buckle down and concentrate on the game Saturday.
“I got a little anxious last night and didn't play my best game,” Lowrance said. “I was missing some easy layups I should have made. I should have had the 1,000 points a lot quicker, but I think tonight I was just able to focus on the game at hand and not think about any of that stuff. I think it was nice to just be able to relax and play basketball.”
And play basketball is what the Eagles did, they charged out to a 13-2 lead to start the game and led 15-4 after the first quarter. The Midgets picked up four free throws to put themselves on the board.
In the second stanza CM kept rolling. After Mueller's 3-pointer got Freeburg as close as 17-9 at the 4:59 mark, the Eagles reeled off a 10-0 run to close the half.
David Lane kick started the scoring spurt with a bucket, followed by a basket from Brett Lane, a trey by Brandon Hampton, another David Lane score and a free throw from Brenden Ricci. Overall, eight Eagles scored on the night.
But coming out of the locker room Carey didn't like what he saw from his team and slowly the Midgets began to climb back into it.
“We played excellent defense in the first half and offensively we were pretty good and then at the beginning of the second half we take two horrible 3s to start and we should know better,” Carey said. “Jakob took a bad three and Brett took a bad three and those are two guys who have played. We don't need those 3s there. Just work it around and get a good shot, but overall I was pretty pleased.”
A couple 3-pointers from Freeburg's Ross Keleher late in the third quarter started to stretch CM's defense and Zack Diecker was finally able to put one off the glass with 47.6 seconds remaining in the frame. The Eagles led 41-23 entering the fourth quarter.
The Midgets got a couple more treys from Will Berger and D.J. Valleroy which began a 14-3 run for the host school, shredding the lead to 49-40. They dwindled it all the way to 51-44 with 1:09 remaining.
The 3-pointers helped break down the CM defense a little, but Lowrance said a little bit of foul trouble contributed to Freeburg's surge, too. He had four fouls toward the end of the game.
“Me and (Brett) Lane and Buhs were all in foul trouble and we were playing a little timid,” Lowrance said. “We should have just played regular basketball, but I know I tried to step out of the way one time and even got a foul called on me. I think that's why they got back in it a little bit. We started playing timid on defense instead of playing rough in the paint like we had been the whole game.
“We were playing a box-and-1 earlier in the game, trying to stop Mueller and once they started hitting some 3s we had to come out a little bit harder and that started opening up the paint a little bit.”
Four free throws from Lowrance and a pair from Brett Lane in the final minute sealed the deal for the Eagles.
Now they will prepare for Southwestern, a squad that Carey knows will make for a formidable challenge.
“I watched them earlier today and they are very well rounded,” Carey said. “They have bigs inside who can play and they've got some guys outside who can shoot it, so it's going to be a real good test for us and hopefully we'll come out and take care of it.”
CM will face the Piasa Birds at 8 p.m. Monday in Freeburg.
FREEBURG-COLUMBIA HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT
CIVIC MEMORIAL 57, FREEBURG 44
CM 15 12 14 16 — 57
Freeburg 4 5 14 21 — 44
CM (7-4) — Caleb Buhs 2, Adam Hill 9, Zack Lehnen 3, Brett Lane 7, Jakob Lowrance 22, Brandon Hampton 5, David Lane 4, Brenden Ricci 5. 2PT — 14 3PT — 2 FT — 21 PF — 15
Freeburg (7-4) — Jacob Mueller 9, Will Hogan 2, Brennan Dermody 3, Zack Diecker 7, Will Berger 7, D.J. Valleroy 9, Ross Keleher 6, Carter Bonta 1. 2PT — 7 3PT — 5 FT — 12 PF — 24