By Steve Robinson | March 10, 2018 - 10:02 pm
Posted in Category: Central Catholic, The Normalite

PEORIA – The way Bloomington Central Catholic head coach Jason Welch saw his team’s Illinois High School Association Class 2A Championship game against Pinckneyville, the Saints wanted to issue a challenge to the Panthers.

But when BCC (25-7) went from leading 7-6 after a free throw by senior forward Patrick Rahuba at 5:14 in the first quarter to owning a 12-6 lead courtesy of another Rahuba charity stripe shot over three minutes later, it looked as though the challenge might have been too great for the Panthers, as the Saints registered a 69-61 victory to come in 3rd place in the Class.

“I’m just extremely proud of these guys,” BCC head coach Jason Welch said during the postgame news conference. “They’ve worked extremely hard and the guys off the bench did a great job. Our kids came out today and we gave Pinckneyville a challenge.” Going into the second quarter, BCC owned a 14-8 lead.

Only a three by senior guard Grant Jausel cutting BCC’s lead, 21-15, at 4:59 in the second quarter, followed by a Jausel jumper that made BCC’s lead, 23-17 seemed the closest the Panthers would come in the first half before BCC would go on a 5-0 run which helped stretch the Saints lead, 28-17, at the 2:52 mark. Fouls by Pinckneyville (31-4) sent senior guard Elijah Davis to the line making the Saints lead, 30-18, on the way to a 35-20 halftime lead.

A layup by senior guard Austyn Ellison, free throws by fouled junior guard Luke Yoder, and a trey from senior forward Jack Gilmore had BCC owning a 42-25 lead at the 4:58 mark in the third quarter. But threes by Jausel and sophomore guard Dawson Yates, plus a deuce from Jausel allowed the Panthers to come within nine, 49-40, with 1:29 left in the quarter. An Ellison trey with 35 seconds left restored BCC’s double-digit lead as the fourth quarter began, 52-40.

But the fourth quarter began with BCC’s lead reduced to seven on an unanswered trey and deuce by senior forward Kyle Luke, giving the Saints a 52-45 lead with 7:28 left. The Panthers came within four, 56-52, thanks free throws and a trey by senior guard J. C. Moll and a jumper by Kyle. The Panthers came within three – their closest margin, 64-61 – on a Jausel layup at the 1:23 mark. But after that, beginning with a pair of free throws by senior guard James Morris, BCC finished the game on a 5-0 run.

Ellison and Gilmore scored 10 points each for BCC. Pinckneyville had four players in double figures led by Moll’s 16 points, followed by 15 from Yates, 14 from Jausel, and 10 from senior forward Tyler Rice.

Welch credited senior leadership from Rahuba, Ellison, Morris, Gilmore, Davis, forward Owen Talbott, and center Garrison Kear for the success his team had throughout the season which led the team getting to State.

“Everybody stepped up defensively,” Ellison said during the postgame news conference.

“It feels amazing to be finishing with a win, but knowing that it’s my last time to play with my brothers, these guys aren’t just my teammates, they’re my best friends,” said Eli Davis. “It feels good that we got to leave a legacy and that we got to finish on top.”

Pinckneyville head coach Bob Waggoner admitted the news conference would be “hard for me” because he would be losing the seniors on the team to graduation. As for the contest, Waggoner said the team’s biggest fear wasn’t losing but rather letting down the small community of just over 5,400 in Perry County in southern Illinois. Because the team is close-knit, off-and-on during the interviews, boys wiped away tears.

Waggoner said BCC “was a lot quicker, their pressure on the ball hurt us early.” He admitted it was tough to prepare for Winnebago in the semifinal Friday, and then turn around to face BCC Saturday because the two teams had decidedly different playing systems.

BCC Loses Semifinal, 60-49, To Chicago Orr: BCC had hoped to stay in front of their semifinal opponent and Class 2A reigning champion, Chicago Orr, when the two met on Friday on Peoria’s big stage. And for nearly two full quarters, the Saints pulled that off. In the first quarter, thanks to a jumper from junior forward Tommy Nelson and a trey from junior guard Luke Yoder, the Saints owned a 9-4 lead at the 5:24 mark in the period. Two free throws by Orr’s Tyronn Mosley followed by a rebound shot by senior guard James Morris kept BCC out front, 11-11-6 with 4:34 left. A trey each from senior forward Jack Gilmore and senior guard Austyn Ellison extended BCC’s lead, 17-11, with 2:55 left in the quarter en route to starting the second quarter with a 19-15 lead.

BCC (25-7 following this game) stayed in front, 26-20, on a trey by Gilmore, and 26-22, but that was followed shortly by a BCC basket by junior forward Tommy Nelson put BCC up, 28-23. That lead prompted a timeout from Orr head coach Louis Adams with 4:38 until halftime. Following the timeout, a trey and two free throws by Orr senior guard Chase Adams helped pull the Spartans within three of BCC, 32-29, giving the Saints reason to call time with 1:24 until the half. But after that, a deuce by Orr senior forward Dannie Smith and a jumper by BCC senior guard Elijah Davis a deuce by senior guard Brian Hernandez put Orr in front for the first time, 34-31 with 38 seconds in the half. But the teams would enter the half tied following a trey by Orr senior guard Brian Hernandez with 8 seconds in the quarter. The teams would enter the third quarter tied at 34-all as a result.

The beginning of the third quarter started out with Smith hitting a jumper to put Orr (29-4 after this game) up, 36-34 and from there, BCC found themselves in chase mode for the remainder of the contest despite a three in that quarter by Ellison, and deuces by senior forward Patrick Rahuba and Morris. As a result, Orr owned a 51-45 lead going into the fourth quarter.

A free throw by Orr senior forward Raekwon Drake nudged Orr’s lead to 52-45 at 6:56 in the last quarter. Free throws by Yoder sliced that lead to five, 52-47 with 4:45 left but a basket and a free throw by Drake pushed the lead to 55-47. Nelson added a deuce to cut the lead to 55-49 before free throws by Smith and Adams, and a dunk by senior guard Emanuel Oneal closed out the contest, advancing the Spartans to the title game.

Orr head coach Adams blamed falling behind BCC in the opening period to his team “not having any sense of direction. We rely on defense pretty heavily. BCC shoots the ball pretty good. For us to come out tied that we were in the second half, we couldn’t get no worse. We could only get better. In the second half, our boys came out and played like they normally do.”

“We played a really great Chicago Orr team. They’re battle-tested,” said BCC head coach Jason Welch. “They did a great job. Our kids did a nice job of resisting for as long as we could. They did a nice job. I was proud of them. We fought our brains out. Ultimately, they’re a really good basketball team and we tip our hat to them and say, ‘congratulations.’”

Despite that loss, Welch said he had a team that showed they were tough. The Saints only were outpaced on rebounds by a 14-11 count. Welch said that stat showed, “we’ve got a bunch of fighters in here. That’s what we’ve got…a bunch of fighters. The guys played their guts out, ultimately gave themselves a chance to win “ He said Orr may have made more shots than BCC, but in Welch’s words, “They didn’t out-tough us.”

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