Waltonville wins fifth straight game
Spartans use 17-4 run to build big lead, cruise to 61-46 triumph

- The 2016-17 season didn't get off to a great start for the Waltonville Spartans but things have gotten a lot better since.

Coach Tyler Mitchell has witnessed a stark improvement in his club after a 1-2 beginning of the campaign.

After losses to Wayne City and Webber Township at the Christopher Thanksgiving Tournament things weren't clicking yet.

Since that time, the Spartans have gotten on a roll.

With balanced scoring and a fine all-around defensive effort on Tuesday night, Waltonville picked up their fifth consecutive victory, 61-46 over visiting Crab Orchard.

The Spartans used a 17-4 run at the end of the first half and the beginning of the third quarter to take command in improving to 6-2 heading into the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament next week.

Three of the Spartans hit double-figures in scoring and the club “clubbed” the Trojans on the boards in earning the non-conference win.

Senior's Isaac McPhail and Zane Wilson scored 18-points each and Tanner Spihlmann added 12-points in the decisive win.

Wilson, a 6-foot-2 forward, scored 11 of his points in the third quarter, helping Coach Mitchell's team make a run before intermission that forced the Trojans to play from behind the rest of the way.

He also added a pair of 3-point bombs in the second stanza.

McPhail did most of his damage to Crab Orchard by driving to the basket for points or assists.

The 6-foot senior guard, who was wearing a face guard protecting his broken nose, showed no ill effects of the mask as 12 of his 18 came in the second half.

Spihlmann delivered his points early, with three baskets in the first quarter in the paint.

For the Trojans, coming off of a fifth place finish at the Wayne City Holiday Tournament, Caleb Vaughn topped the scoring chart for Coach Jon Brown.

Vaughn, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, had to earn every one of his 15-points while 5-foot-11 senior Jaden Schell did the same, having to work hard for his 12.

The key stats from the entire contest came from the Waltonville defensive end.

The Spartans shut down the dribble drives of the Trojans for the most part, forcing the normally good shooting Trojans into a 17-of-45 performance from the floor and just 5-of-20 from long range.

“We have really been harping on our defense lately and we have shown improvements for sure. Vaughn last week had a couple of 30-point games and we held him to 15 tonight,” said Coach Mitchell. “We knew that they (Crab Orchard) like to dribble penetrate and spread their shooters. They want to shoot it and send Ferrell, Beasley and Vaughn to go get it. But tonight we eliminated second chance points tonight, that was huge.”

They held a commanding 31-15 advantage on the glass, while also grabbing nine important offensive rebounds.

“I thought we did a respectable job guarding them, especially early but we didn't do a good job keeping them off the boards,” said Coach Brown. “There in the second quarter we had chances but we just sort of self-destructed. They (Waltonville) just came out and out-played us in the third quarter and in the second half. They were physical. They put bodies on us and clearly out-played us.”

Four of those offensive rebounds occurred in the opening quarter, which helped Waltonville take an early 12-3 lead.

Spihlmann grabbed a pair of those caroms with one of them ending up as a put back for early points.

McPhail and 6-foot-3 senior teammate Dalton Banach also scored during the opening run that forced a Crab Orchard time out.

The Trojans quickly answered with a run of their own, with Schell closing the frame with a pair of scores that followed a score from junior guard Levi Vinson.

Schell made a 3-point bomb and then added a fast break score in the run that closed the Waltonville lead to just two at the first horn.

Schell scored again to open the second frame to even the score at 12.

After trading baskets in the early part of the quarter with Crab Orchard, the Spartans took control.

Caleb Jourdan, a junior forward for Waltonville, hit one of his two 3-pointers in the game to give his club the lead.

After a Vaughn drive to the basket got the Trojans back to within a point, the Spartans started their game-changing drive.

Consecutive scores by Spihlmann, Wilson and McPhail got the run going.

Wilson followed an inside bucket by Spihlmann with a 3-pointer from the right wing.

McPhail scored on a drive in the lane where he finished with his left hand for a lay in and a 25-17 lead.

Vaughn hit a pair of free throws for Crab Orchard as they went to intermission down by six.

Waltonville began the third quarter with purpose, finishing their run and to get their first double-digit advantage.

Wilson opened and closed the scoring barrage, hitting his third trey and scoring twice inside the arc.

When he drove the baseline for a score with 3:41 left, Waltonville led 35-21.

Despite four turnovers in the quarter the Spartans maintained the lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Wilson added two more baskets and McPhail cashed in another fast break chance off of a Crab Orchard turnover as the Spartans advantage was 43-29 at the end of the third.

The only real lapse of the evening from the hosts came in a let up of intensity at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Coach Mitchell's squad committed three consecutive turnovers, which turned into two consecutive buckets by Schell and Vaughn as the Trojans had a glimmer of hope.

Vaughn's score cut the deficit to just 43-34 with 6:30 to go.

But that was the end of the run for Crab Orchard as the Spartans recovered quickly.

McPhail drove the lane for a conventional three-point play and Jourdan scored twice; a 3-pointer and a basket in the paint, as Waltonville got the lead back to 51-36.

The Trojans would get no closer than 12-points the rest of the way as they saw their record slip to 10-4 on the season.

Waltonville sealed the win from the foul line, hitting 4-of-5 in the stretch that made the final score a 15-point margin.

During that streak, the Trojans missed four straight 3-point attempts.

“A big thing that we have done a great job making decisions with the ball. When to push, when to pull out, and these guys are taking note,” said Coach Mitchell. “They are showing some leadership and we are getting some of the younger guys to do it, too. We are looking good right now, on a good roll.”

The Spartans were much better from the field hitting 55 percent of their attempts (25-of-45) with 5-of-12 from 20-feet plus.

Waltonville is the fourth-seed at the upcoming Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament which begins for the Spartans at 9 am on December 26 with a contest against 4-7 Cobden.

Crab Orchard, after having played in its tournament and the Wayne City event, won't be back to the hardwood until taking on Century on the road January 6.

“Things are starting to come together. We have beaten three good teams in a row and the kids are starting to believe in what we are doing. I thought it was going to take some time for us to gel. Summer is a totally different ballgame than regular season,” said Coach Mitchell. “Hopefully we can keep this going.”

Crab Orchard
Crab Orchard (46) – Vaughn 4 1 4-4 15, Stephens 0 2 0-0 6, Ferrell 2 0 1-2 5, Vinson 3 0 2-2 8, Schell 3 2 0-0 12, Beasley 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-12, 3FG-5, FT-7-8, PF-15.

Waltonville (61)
– McPhail 8 0 2-6 18, Banach 1 0 0-0 2, Jourdan 1 2 0-0 8, Sphlmann 5 0 2-2 12, Wilson 5 3 2-3 18.
2FG-20, 3FG-5, PF-6-11, PF-13.

Fouled Out
– None.
Technical Fouls
– None.