By Steve Robinson | March 9, 2016 - 10:24 am
Posted in Category: LeRoy, LeRoy Leader

BasketballNORMAL – If you sat in the stands at Redbird Arena here Tuesday night, you could almost paint a stark picture of the options LeRoy’s boys basketball team had as they entered the SuperSectional here against Newark. That contrast was painted by the Panthers’ shiny white jerseys and shorts and were contrasted with those of the Norsemen who wore all black Tees and shorts with blue numbers. The obvious choice: Wear the white, save the day, and give the Panthers a shot at making it to the State Tournament in Peoria for the first time in school history.

As a result of the victory, the Panthers will take their 26-5 season record into Carver Arena to face Liberty in the Class 1A semis first game on Friday at 12:15p.m.

LeRoy jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead to open the first quarter on a trey, free throw, and deuce, all unanswered, by Matt Chastain, before Newark got on the scoreboard thanks to a deuce from center Jack Clausen, cutting LeRoy’s lead, 6-2. LeRoy’s early free throws at that point came as a result of a foul committed by Newark’s Will Clausel.

Chastain and Clausen exchanged deuces pushing LeRoy up 8-4 with 5:32 left in the first quarter before a trey each from forward Brett Egan and Chastain gave the Panthers a 14-6 advantage at the quarter’s 4:35 mark. A three each from Cameron Myre and Will Clausen pulled Newark even, 14-all, as the first quarter ended.

Chastain help push LeRoy up 16-14 and triggered a 13-0 run with a trey at 5:49 in the second quarter, putting the Panthers up, 29-18, before a free throw from Newark’s Evan Schomer halted the barrage with 2:21 left until halftime. LeRoy closed out the quarter with a 5-0 run featuring a Noah Perry trey to go into halftime owning a 34-19 lead.

Newark (27-3) fought back early in the third quarter on a deuce and two free throws from Schomer followed up by a bucket by Dylan Patrick, pulling within 13, 38-25, prompting LeRoy head coach Mark Edmundson to call a timeout. But after the timeout, Newark seemingly kept digging away at LeRoy’s lead, first with a basket from Schomer followed by a basket from Jack Clausel. LeRoy owned a 40-31 lead going into the fourth quarter.

LeRoy PanthersBack-to-back unanswered baskets put LeRoy up, 44-31, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but Clausel shot two baskets, including a trey to outpace Perry to close Newark’s gap, 46-36, with 6:23 left in the contest. A followup bucket from Schomer closed LeRoy’s lead to eight, 46-38. At one point in the exchange of buckets, Newark closed the gap to within six, 46-40, with 4:09 left in the contest. It was a margin that prompted Edmundson to call another timeout.

Newark got as close as seven, 53-46, on the strength of back-to-back successful shots by Patrick and Schomer before Newark foul difficulties put Perry and Chastain at the line for a combined 5-for-6 to seal the victory and a first-ever trip to State.

“We were never ranked all season,” Chastain told reporters following the contest. Chastain, the leading scorer for both sides with 34 points added LeRoy came into the playoffs with the attitude that “State rankings are just a number,” and then reminded that the Panthers spent the entire season playing without having been ranked.

“So, from there, we played as hard as we could, we won a couple games, so now, we have all the confidence in the world and I think that’ll carry over very well,” Chastain concluded.

Perry followed Chastain in double figures for LeRoy with 21 points. Newark had two players in double figures as Jack Clausel led with 19 points, followed by 15 from Schomer.

IHSA“I thought Newark would play us a tight man and then switch to zone,” Edmundson said. of the coverage he anticipated encountering from the Norsemen. “I thought we did well against both, and when you’re making shots like we did in the first half, there’s not a lot an opponent can do.”

In fact, LeRoy was shooting 13-for-20, or 65 percent from the field in the first half. That percentage cooled somewhat to 53 percent in the second half. Conversely, Newark was 20 for 57, or 35.1 percent from the field for the contest, including shooting 8-for-23, or 35 percent, from the field during the first half.

Newark head coach Rick Tollefson said the early foul trouble Will Clausel ran into foul trouble early on in the contest. Tollefson said those fouls “dictated the game. We tried to pretty much go small, which was probably a mistake on my part. We tried to save some minutes for him while putting pressure on LeRoy. Those fouls just changed the game.”