By Steve Robinson | January 29, 2019 - 10:24 pm
Posted in Category: Sports, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – The boys’ championship at the 108th Heart Of Illinois Conference/McLean County Tournament showed each team which got to the contest looked to have the right to be there, showing control in the half they commanded. But in the end, top seed Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley held overtook sixth seed El Paso Gridley for a 40-36 victory and the tourney title.

EPG senior forward Noah Smith led off the game with a bucket which GCMS quickly countered with baskets to open the contest at 2-0, but quickly fell behind 3-2 on a trey by senior guard Bryce Barnes. Junior forward Silas Steiner and senior guard Teron Fairchild doubled the Titans lead, 6-3 with 5:58 in the opening quarter, forcing GCMS head coach Ryan Tomkins to call a timeout.

Following the timeout, a trey by senior forward Caleb Bleich at 4:39 in the quarter, tied the game at 6-all. A foul committed by EPG senior guard Ryne Faulk sent Barnes to the free throw line where he sank one, putting the Falcons up, 7-6. But Titans senior guard Teron Fairchild countered with a trey, giving his team a two-point advantage, 9-7, at the 3:17 mark. Two free throws by Fairchild increased EPG’s lead, 11-7. But the half ended with EPG’s lead reduced to two, 11-9, after Bleich’s jumper with 56 seconds remaining.

Fairchild opened the second quarter for EPG (18-6) with back-to-back baskets – a trey and a deuce to extend his team’s lead, 16-9, at 5:30 left in the quarter. GCMS recovered with a basket from senior guard Connor Birky closing the lead to 16-11. But a Steiner bucket pushed EPG up, 18-11. But EPG junior forward Jack Weber’s foul sent Barnes to the free throw line where he hit both shots, narrowing EPG’s lead to five, 18-13.

EPG (18-6) responded with back-to-back unanswered deuces from senior forward Noah Smith and Faulk, increasing the Titans’ lead to nine, 22-13, prompting GCMS (20-2) to call for a timeout. Following GCMS’ regroup, Barnes hit a deuce with 35 seconds left in the half, but EPG held a 22-15 advantage.

Barnes hit a deuce to open the third quarter, closing EPG’s lead to five, 22-17, but that was brief as EPG added a trey from Fairchild and a deuce from Faulk to go up by 10, 27-17. Freehill hit two deuces to close the gap, reducing EPG’s lead to 27-21, but Fairchild helped push the Titans up again with a deuce, 29-21. When CGMS closed the gap to 29-23, GCMS called time to discuss strategy. After that timeout, Barnes hit a trey with 3:06 left to narrow EPG’s lead to three, 29-26. And from that point on, the contest became defensive in nature with no points scored until the period ended.

But it wasn’t until 6:35 in the fourth quarter when another basket was scored, courtesy of junior forward Jack Weber, putting EPG up, 33-26. A pair of free throws nudged GCMS within five, 33-28 with 6:28 left. A Fairchild free throw at 5:59 put EPG in front by six, 34-28, with 5:59 left.

Barnes hit a deuce to pull GCMS within four, 34-30, with 5:18 left, and that prompted EPG to call a timeout. In fact, once the boys were back on the court after that timeout, head coach Nathaniel Meiss called a second timeout with 4:50 on the clock. After that, Freehill hit his next score, reducing EPG’s lead, 34-30 with 4:44 left. A deuce by EPG’s Smith pushed the Titans further ahead, 36-32. But a deuce by Barnes made it a two-point game, 36-34 with 41.1 seconds left, at which point the Falcons called time.

Once out of the timeout, Barnes fouled an EPG player who missed a lone free throw and the Falcons took another timeout with 41.1 seconds remaining. Once out of the timeout, both defenses were on display until with 15.5 seconds left, Barnes hit a jumper to tie the game and was fouled by EPG’s Steiner in the process. Barnes completed the three-point play, giving GCMS a one-point advantage, 37-36. EPG took two timeouts – right after Barnes’ free throw, and again at 12.8 seconds.

With six seconds left, GCMS senior forward Ryland Holt fouled Steiner, who missed the free throw. EPG’s Weber fouled Holt with 4.5 seconds left, but before Holt to take his free shots, the Titans took a time out. After that, Holt sank one of the two, increasing GCMS’ lead to two, 38-36. The final score was achieved on a rebound shot by Barnes.

“The play we had in the final seconds was that the ball was going to go to Barnes,” explained Tompkins. He added that although the two teams had played a couple weeks ago, EPG gave his kids what they were expecting in terms of play. They’re a tremendous team. It was a battle up at their place two weeks ago and when you have that, you’re always leery to play the same team twice. It was a battle.”

“We had our opportunities, but I’m happy Barnes is graduating,” EPG head coach Nathaniel Meiss said smiling. ”We tried to be really patient offensively toward the end of the third quarter, and that’s something we try to do. I think we defended at a really high level.”

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