LITCHFIELD – There will be a new champion Saturday in the finals of the 48th annual Litchfield Boys’ Basketball Tournament.
Taylorville made sure of it Friday night by shading defending champ Civic Memorial, 59-57, in a semifinal at Simmons Gym. The 14-6 Tornadoes play 19-2 Greenville at 7 p.m. Saturday in the tourney’s title game. The top-seeded Comets, who defeated Mount Zion 58-45 in Friday’s other semifinals, last won it in 2009. Taylorville, the No. 2 seed, hasn’t finished at Litchfield since 1983.
“We’re excited and motivated about playing for the championship,” Taylorville coach Casey McVickers said. “We have a little history here.”
CM coach Doug Carey hopes the 11-7 Eagles are just as enthused about facing Mount Zion at 5:30 tonight in the third place game. In addition to last season, CM, seeded third this time, snared tourney titles here in 2004, 2005 and 2008. The Eagles took second in 2006.
“We’re coming out ready to play Saturday like it’s the championship game,” Carey said. “If we pout and come out feeling sorry for ourselves, we’ll lose. It’s still important to go out and win Saturday.”
East Alton-Wood River is taking a similar approach. The Oilers tangle with the host Purple Panthers for seventh place at 2:30 p.m.. Metro East Lutheran and Nokomis clash at 4 p.m. for fifth.
Roxana finished 1-3 at Litchfield after bowing to Pana, 70-65, in the ninth-place game Friday. The Shells are 10-12 overall. Hillsboro edged Lebanon, 58-53, for 11th place.
The Eagles made a strong bid to reach the title game. Jakob Lowrance scored 21 points, freshman Jaquan Adams pitched in 14 points and Zack Lehnen added 12 points to spark them in a see-saw game.
Taylorville fended them off in the closing moments. CM had the ball under its basket with 3.2 seconds remaining and planned for the tying or winning shot. But the Eagles couldn’t get it and the Tornadoes dodged another bullet. They slipped by the Eagles, 58-55, on Nov. 24 in Bethalto.
“The games were about identical,” McVickers said. “It was sort of what I expected. Both teams played hard. It was a fun game.”
Junior guard Lane Ruppert supplied the Tornadoes with a big boost. He scored 16 points and hit on four treys. Ruppert didn’t play Taylorville visited Bethalto two months ago.
“It’s a great lesson because he was the 11th man at one time and now he’s a starter,” McVickers said. “He just kept working hard.”
Carey figured the Eagles worked about as hard as they could in challenging Taylorville. And despite the defeat, CM has still won eight of its last 11 games.
“I thought we played pretty well and I wasn't disappointed with our effort,” Carey said. “If we keep playing like that, we’ll be fine.”
What propelled the Tornadoes was their long-distance shooting. They connected on 10 treys, just like they did in the first game against CM.
“They have seven or eight guys who can shoot treys and that makes them difficult to guard,” Carey said. “Overall, they made a few more shots than we did and we were terrible with our free throw shooting. We missed a lot of them and we’re usually decent shooting free throws.”
Although CM hit 25 of 54 field goals tries, the Eagles were 4-for-10 from the free throw line. Taylorville made 21 of 48 shots, including the 10 treys. The winners sank 7 of 12 foul shots.
Roxana, meanwhile, couldn’t slow down Pana, which used a 33-point fourth quarter to beat the Shells.
“They hit some 3-pointers, got some transition points and turned it into a free throw contest after that,” Shells’ coach Mark Briggs said of the final period. Roxana registered 25 points, but surrendered the lead. The Shells led 26-24 at half and 40-37 after three quarters.
Trace Gentry (16 points), Randy Skiff (14 points) and Chance Foss (13 points) led the Shells’ scoring.
“Going 1-3 here isn’t what we were looking to do,” Briggs said of the tournament. “But it showed us that we need to improve on some things. The kids did work hard in all four games.”
TAYLORVILLE 59, CM 57
CM 16 12 14 15 – 57
Tayorville 12 18 15 14 – 59
CM (11-7) – Jakob Lowrance 21, Adam Hill 2, Brett Lane 5, Zack Lehnen 12, Jaquan Adams 14, David Lane 3. 2FG-22 3FG-3 FT-4 PF-14
Taylorville (14-6) – Cole Sheedy 11, Eric Dust 8, Mitchell Rhymes 8, Blake Heimsness 10, Lane Ruppert 16, Jimmy Barry 6. 2FG-11 3FG-10 FT-7 PF-12