Central A&M heads back to SIU
Raiders roll late, 57-43, for third consecutive sectional title
CASEY - Turnovers are always a big factor when it comes to high school basketball games.

Perhaps even more importantly are “points off of turnovers.”

The Central A&M Raiders forced Effingham St. Anthony into 14 miscues in Friday night's 1A Casey-Westfield Sectional title game and turned nearly all of them into points.

With 6-foot-4 senior Conner Heaton leading the way with 23 points and nine rebounds along with a defensive effort that turned most of the stops into points, the Raiders captured their third consecutive sectional title with a 57-43 win in front of an overflowing crowd of 2,500 fans.

Unofficially of the 14 turnovers, CAM produced nine fast break baskets for 18 important points.

But the final two steals and scores belonged to Heaton as he put an emphatic exclamation point on the team's 30th win of the season (30-3).

With under a minute left with St. Anthony in a panic mode, Heaton made a steal on the defensive end and raced toward his team's basket.

The result was a one-handed slam dunk that forced a St. A timeout with :28.7 left.

Heaton anticipated the ensuing inbounds pass at halfcourt and took it, and the Bulldogs' hopes, away for another fast break jam.

Only this time he put it down two handed, sending the Central A&M crowd into a frenzy as everyone wearing “Red and Black” now realized that they need to make travel plans for a return trip to SIU Arena.

“My legs were feeling good and after I got that first one (dunk) down I was going to go up with two (hands) the next time. I just knew it,” said Heaton. “I just wanted to put that emphasis on the game. We played our hearts out. We prepared well and everyone played great. We will do whatever we can to prepare for Goreville on Tuesday.”

Heaton had a lot of help on this night as his teammates all did their part.

Five-foot-eleven senior guard and play-maker Jacob Paradee added 20 points while 6-foot-6 forward Griffin Andricks added eight.

Coach Rob Smith will take his team to the 1A Carbondale Supersectional for a third time, with a rematch from 2018 awaiting.

Goreville edged Woodlawn 59-57 at the 1A Norris City-Omaha-Enfield Sectional final to advance back to SIU.

The Blackcats beat the Raiders 74-61 March 6, 2018.

Coach Cody Rincker and his Effingham St. Anthony program, the 2017 1A state champions who dropped back down to 1A after two seasons in 2A, saw their hopes of a return trip to Peoria come to an end at 29-4.

“They are a phenomenal athletic team. They are the most athletic team we have played since we played Chicago Hope at the state tournament (semifinals) three years ago,” said Coach Rincker. “That is just who they are.”

They were led in scoring by senior guard Jack Hoene with 14 points while 6-foot-7 senior center Jaccob Dust ended his prep career with 13 points and “monster” of a rebounding display with 20 boards.

But the Raiders managed to hold his (Dust) scoring down some with a box-and-one sort of defense.

“We played kind of a junk defense tonight, and we don't play it that often (box and one) with Hutchins on him and the rest in a zone finding the shooters,” said Coach Smith. “But it also made it difficult for us rebounding, we gave up a lot of long rebounds. We were able to weather the storm.”

The story, as it has been for most of the last three seasons, came down to making the big plays and Heaton and Paradee made them.

With a huge crowd on hand at a great “old time” venue, the two teams put their best defensive efforts on display.

It showed in the final statistics as both teams struggled on the offensive end.

Neither team shot the ball particularly well but there was a huge factor in the contest that showed up on the stat sheet.

The Raiders, unlike a lot of 1A teams, only shot three 3-point shots in the game and made two of them; both by Paradee.

Central A&M prefers to get to the rim and they did it better than the Bulldogs on this night.

On the contrary St. Anthony was just 3-of-17 from the arc.

Ironically senior guard Aaron Webb hit two of the 3-pointers for St. A in the first quarter as he opened the scoring with his first bomb early.

Dust hit a pair of free throw as the Bulldogs had their largest lead of the night.

But then the turnovers began and the Raiders got going.

Four of the transition scores came in the next few minutes as Heaton, Paradee, senior Conner Hutchins and classmate Brycen Burgener took turns finishing.

Dust was an early “collector” as he snagged seven first quarter rebounds as he ended up with chances at the free throw line (3-of-4) and added one field goal on an inbounds pass.

Two more buckets by Paradee and Heaton closed the frame at 16-12.

A weird thing happened as the second quarter began as St. Anthony was issued a technical foul in what amounted to an “illegal substitution” as Dust thought he was supposed to be on the floor but he ended up running off to the bench.

The coaches called him off of the court believing that they had six players on the floor when they actually had five.

When he left the playing floor while the ball was in play, he was issued a technical foul for leaving the court during a live ball.

Heaton made 1-of-2 technical free throws.

But St. Anthony hung around in the second quarter with Dust scoring inside and also hitting a pair of free throws

Dust ended up having to go to the bench as he picked up his third personal foul with 2:17 left in the second quarter.

Heaton scored 11 of his points in the second quarter, including two different conventional three-point plays.

He grabbed an offensive rebound and drove inside for a score while being fouled with 6:00 left.

His made free throw gave Central A&M a 22-16 lead.

Heaton also got Dust to the bench with his third foul with 2:17 remaining as Heaton made both free throws.

The senior leader closed the half for the Raiders with another “and-one” with :08.0 as CAM went to the break ahead 33-25.

Heaton and Paradee both produced points to begin the third quarter but things didn't go smoothly on the offensive end for the rest of the frame.

Central A&M was just 3-of-17 from the floor in the third quarter, a stat that would normally spell trouble.

However while the Raiders offense stumbled out of the locker room in the second half, the defense held things together.

Hoene was a bright spot for St. Anthony, converting a three-point play and also nailing a driving bank shot.

A steal and a fast break lay in by Webb, who went nearly the length of the court, cut the margin to just 40-32 heading to the fourth quarter.

One final move by the Bulldogs made things a bit interesting.

Trailing 43-32 after a Paradee hit his second 3-pointer, St. Anthony went on a 9-2 run.

A score in the paint by Dust, a 3-point bomb and a drive by Hoene and a steal and fast break score by guard Logan Antrim gave the Bulldogs some hope at 45-41.

After a timeout by A&M, the Raiders gave St. Anthony opportunities as both Paradee and Andricks each missed front ends of consecutive 1-and-1's.

But a couple of plays by Central A&M kept the lead out of reach.

On an inbounds play with the length of the court to go and St. Anthony in man-to-man pressure, Heaton was set to inbound the ball as he made eye contact with Paradee who was to his left near the baseline.

Like they did so many times in their football careers Heaton (quarterback) and Paradee (wide receiver) were on the same page.

On a long pass, in what turned out to be a “post pattern”, Heaton hit Paradee on the fly for a fast break score to push the lead to 49-41.

“He (Paradee) is an all-state receiver and I don't mind throwing it to him, it doesn't matter if we are on the field or on the court,” said Heaton. “I trust him, if it was a bad throw he would have gone up and got it anyway.”

Paradee added to the lead moments later with a steal from Dust which turned into a lay up.

Andricks followed with a baseline drive for a 53-43 lead with :49 left.

Heaton took care of the rest with his steals and slams as the Raiders advanced.

“They (St. Anthony) are really good and well coached. They are disciplined and play great defense. We didn't take this for granted. I'm really proud of our kids,” said Coach Smith.

Central A&M ended up 23-of-52 overall while the Bulldogs finished 13-of-58, which isn't going to win many contests.

Behind Dust the Bulldogs held a 36-30 rebounding spread but the turnovers and missed chances were too much to overcome.

Dust and the other seniors ended their season's on Friday night.

“His dedication in the off-season to get stronger and faster, his effort everyday at practice, that is why you saw such improvement,” said Coach Rincker about Dust. “He was absolutely a monster for us this year. You can't make light of what Jaccob did for us this season.”

The two teams had played at the Teutopolis Shootout back on February 15th, with St. Anthony winning 50-49.

But this game had a much different ending.

“This was a hard fought ballgame. We had a heck of a season, a heck of a ride. One of these two great teams had to lose and they (Central A&M) played a better ballgame than we did,” said Coach Rincker. “We just made too many mistakes offensively which turned into easy buckets for them. Anytime you give a team with that ability chances like that you are really putting yourself behind the Eight-Ball.”

1A Casey-Westfield Sectional Championship
Effingham St. Anthony (29-4)
Moweaqua Central A&M (30-3)

Effingham St. Anthony (43)
– Webb 1 2 0-1 8, Antrim 2 0 2-4 6, Hoene 3 1 5-5 14, Walsh 0 0 0-0 0, Elder 1 0 0-0 2, Fearday 0 0 0-0 0, Dust 3 0 7-8 13.
2FG-10, 3FG-3, FT-14-18, PF-18.
Moweaqua Central A&M (57)
– Sloan 0 0 0-0 0, Andricks 3 0 2-2 8, Paradee 6 2 2-4 20, Heaton 9 0 5-8 Burgener 1 0 0-0 2, Hutchins 2 0 0-0 4, Enge 0 0 0-0 0, Waterman 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-21, 3FG-2, FT-9-14, PF-17.
Fouled Out
– None.
Technical Fouls
– Dust - Effingham St. Anthony.