WOOD RIVER — The Vandalia Vandals escaped from East Alton-Wood River Memorial Gymnasium with a 61-57 victory over the host Oilers on Friday.
Vandalia improved to 3-11 with the victory, while EA-WR dropped to 5-10 with the defeat.
"Overall we're playing well," EA-WR head coach Kyle Duncan said. "We've had some tough and close losses. I think we're just getting out-toughed. On defense we're getting banged around and looking for excuses while the other team is playing hard ball. We need to get a little tougher ourselves."
The Oilers and Vandals not only traded buckets throughout the first half, but the battle for the lead as well. With just over three minutes left in the first quarter, Vandalia found itself under the pressure of the home team, clinging to a 13-10 lead.
The Oilers continued the pursuit to the buzzer, grabbing a 21-19 margin over the Vandals at the end of the first. Oiler senior Mike Stimac lead the Oilers with 14 points at the end of the first, while Vandalia senior Drake Dokey started it off with nine points.
The Oilers and Vandals stayed neck and neck throughout the second quarter, bringing the score to a 25-25 tie with 5:25 left in the half. Vandalia took control late to build a five-point lead, but the Oilers would settle for a 33-30 deficit at the break.
"Our kids didn't play perfect tonight, but they did play hard," Vandalia head coach Brian Buscher said. "We had to come into the game tonight with a game plan for Stimac and (Blake) Marks. With Stimac, we wanted to front him everywhere but the high post, but he's strong enough and was able to drive it to the hole. He can shoot. Marks is a heck of a player, can be dangerous anywhere. Playing the Oilers tonight was a catch 22. We don't want to give them anything on the outside, but we also can't give them a driving lane. We had to play them careful."
The third quarter brought on a defensive battle that allowed only three points to be scored in the first three minutes. Trading baskets for trips to the foul line, the Oilers found themselves ahead by only one point at the end of the third frame with a 40-39 lead over the Vandals.
The fourth quarter proved to be the challenge for the Oilers as they struggled to find the basket. The Vandals took control to draw up their largest lead of the game at 55-49 with just over two minutes remaining in the game.
The Oilers closed the gap to just three points, but the time ran out on the host team as the Vandals sank a free throw to take a four-point lead with just under 10 seconds remaining. Oiler senior Dillon Buck attempted a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but was unsuccessful.
"We have a couple of young players that have stepped up for us this season," Buscher said. "We have roughly three main scorers in (Nathan) Casey, (Drake) Dokey, and (Richie) Well. We've counted on them all year. Nathan Casey started in the lineup as a freshman from Day 1. He's a smart kid on the floor, the speed of the game doesn't affect him.
“Well has matured. He got in the second half of the season last year. He's become one of the people the other team needs to focus on when we play him.
“Dokey is that kid that will go from having a big game with high points to scoring maybe five points the next, but he'd contribute elsewhere."
While the Oilers are not getting the start of the season that Duncan had hoped for, he's finding positives that will give his team something to build on.
"Our two main scorers played great," Duncan said. "Mikey played great, 31 points and 14 rebounds, he's finally getting back to full speed, which is great. Marks is still playing well, 17 points tonight. He's struggled a bit with his outside shots, but he's still attacking the basket. Dillon Buck is improved and an asset. He works hard through the whole game. Zach Butkovich is one of those guys that if he nails his first couple of shots, he's dialed in for the game, we need to get his confidence back up. I have to say, I love watching Nic Daily play ball. He's one kid that hustles his butt off, I couldn't be more proud of him. Sometimes he's a bit out of control, but I'll take it. He's not someone who just shows up, he shows up to work. Daily knows his role and he does what is asked of him at full speed. I can't ask for more than that."
The Oilers now hit the road at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Litchfield and stay on the road at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Dupo.
VANDALIA 61, EA-WR 57
Vandalia 19 14 6 22 — 61
EA-WR 21 9 10 17 — 57
EA-WR (5-10) — Cody Blacklock 2, Blake Marks 17, Mike Stimac 31, Nic Daily 3, Dillon Buck 3.
2FG — 19 3FG — 5 FT — 4
VANDALIA (3-11) — Collin Nestleroad 11, Nathan Casey 13, Richie Well 14, Drake Dokey 13, Kain DuFaux 6, Kelly Jones 2, Austin Durbin 2. 2FG — 14 3FG — 8 FT — 9