Galatia 'takes care' of GEC business
Bearcats top Gallatin County to win their first league tourney title in 51 years

HARRISBURG - When the GEC Tournament was drawn up last week, there was little doubt that Galatia and Gallatin County would hook up in the title game.

After what had transpired just two weeks earlier when the two teams met, a 75-71 Galatia win, most in the capacity crowd at Southeastern Illinois College on Friday night were expecting a close game.

And for three and a half quarters it was just that, a tight contest.

However the Bearcats, as they have done for most of this so far stellar season, wore down their opponent in the second half.

Riding a hot streak of seven straight made shots in the fourth quarter, Galatia took advantage of seven second half Gallatin County turnovers to reel in the schools' first Greater Egyptian Conference tournament championship since 1953 with a convincing 78-62 win over their rival Hawks in front of a crowd of at least 1,500 fans Southeastern Illinois College.

The Bearcats turned five of those second half GC mistakes into points as coach Rod Wallace's club moved to 18-1 on the season with the victory.

This win came about from the defensive end as the Bearcats made a major adjustment at halftime to help slow down Gallatin County's Kyle Oldham.

This 6-foot-3 senior marksman had his way in the first half with 20-points. But the Hawks best gun in the final 16 minutes had trouble scoring, which made the other Gallatin County players have to take on more of the offensive load.

In this game, the weight became too heavy for the other Hawks to handle as they saw their record drop to 15-6 on the season.

Oldham finished with a game high 31, but balanced scoring from Galatia overshadowed his work on this night.

"We made some really good adjustments at halftime to try and shut Oldham down and we did a good job on him in the second half," said Wallace, whose team has earned its number two ranking in the latest ABV 'Deep South' Rankings. "Those adjustments allowed us to take over the game late. We knew what we needed to do and we went out and did it."

After Derek Sloan, the Bearcats leading scorer this season, and Seth Cockrum both took turns guarding Oldham in the first half with little success, coach Wallace turned to 6-foot-4 junior Kyle Hodson to shadow Oldham in the second half. The strategy paid off as the Bearcats held Oldham down in the second half.

In a sparkling fourth quarter, Galatia put the game away with not only 7-of-8 shooting from the field, but also a game-closing 11-of-12 from the foul line.

"We wanted to win this game for all of those other teams that didn't get a chance to win and for our fans and our town," said Galatia guard Derek Sloan, who topped the 2,000-point mark for his career in this game. "I was really impressed with my teammates tonight, we all contributed and this is a great win."

As the game started out, it appeared that Gallatin County was going to be the ones celebrating a three-peat in the GEC.

The two-time defending league tourney titlist jumped out to an early 16-7 lead on the strength of the scorching hand of Oldham and a rare four-point play by Bryan Hargrave.

A running one-handed shot by Oldham while being fouled by Sloan became a conventional three-point play that gave the Hawks a 12-6 lead with 4:18 left.

Hargrave canned a long 'trifecta' from the right wing while being pushed by Cockrum at the 3:38 mark.

His subsequent free throw connection gave the Hawks their biggest lead of the game.

But Galatia quickly responded with seven straight points.
A basket by Sloan, a quick steal and bucket off the Gallatin County inbound pass by Cockrum and a 3-pointer by Eli House quickly got the Bearcats back in the mainstream.

A back door lay in by Brant Duffy just before the buzzer ended the quarter at 20-17 Hawks.

The second quarter produced eight lead changes and much excitement for the standing room only crowd.

Oldham produced 13 of his points in this frame, including his only 3-pointer of the contest to put his team back in front after brief Galatia lead at 23-21 with 6:07 left.

Oldham continued his hot streak in this frame and, for a short time; he got a big lift from his cohorts.
Andrew Montgomery and Duffy both hit big shots in the second quarter. Montgomery on a short jumper and Duffy on a short bank shot which put the Hawks back up by a point at 33-32.

Then on the next GC possession, Cockrum fouled Hargrave while the GC guard was shooting a 3-pointer from the right side. His three made free throws gave the Hawks a 36-32 lead at 1:44 before the half.
Two more baskets by Oldham finished off a great first half performance, sending the kids to the lockers at 40-35 Gallatin County.

However there was a storm brewing at the SIC Gym and it was wearing Red and White colors.

It took only a few moments in the third quarter to become the kind of game that Galatia wanted.

And unfortunately for Gallatin County, they could do little to stop what was going to transpire in the second half.

Two Gallatin County missed shots became fast break opportunities for Galatia early in the third quarter.

Both were converted into points, part of a 7-0 run to give the Bearcats back the lead for keeps.
A House 3-pointer evened the score at 40-all with 5:28 to play in the third quarter.

House scored again on a beautiful lob pass from Jess Moore. Then House stole a pass and fed a streaking Sloan on a fast break lay in that started this 6-foot-1 seniors' run into the Bearcat record book.

Three straight baskets by Sloan put him over the 2,000-point total. His shot at 3:12 of the third quarter not only eclipsed that cherished plateau but also gave his squad a 48-41 advantage.

The Hawks did battle back in toward the end of the third quarter.

Stuart Aud, a 6-foot-1 senior, scored four straight points for GC. A couple of scores in the paint while the Bearcats were over playing Oldham cut into the Gallatin County deficit.

However a defensive play late in the quarter from Cockrum gave the Bearcats a huge spark heading into the final stanza.

After getting the ball back underneath the Galatia basket with just four seconds left in the period, Gallatin County turned the ball over when Cockrum made a steal. He was fouled on a shot attempt at the buzzer that sent the 6-foot-1 senior to the line.

He converted both free throws to give his team more breathing room at 52-47 heading into the fourth quarter.

Oldham converted two more three-point plays in the final period as he tried to keep his club in the hunt.

The second one cut the Galatia lead down to 63-58 with 5:05 remaining.

But a severe blow to the GC chances happened with 5:30 to go as Montgomery, the GC top defender, sprained his ankle on a play underneath the basket and left the game and didn't return.

Without Montgomery on the floor, the Hawks were hurting defensively.

"We are not as good a team without Andy (Montgomery) on the floor," said Coach Fromm. "He is our best defender and when he came out they were able to slow it down and spread the floor."

By this time in the game, the Fat Lady grabbed the microphone.

Ten straight points, including a 6-of-6 run at the free throw stripe put the game on ice.

In that ten-point spurt were two crucial baskets by Hodson, who took great passes from Cockrum to score easy baskets on a now overplaying Hawks defense.

Six more free throws put the game to bed, and sent the championship back to Galatia for the first time since 'I Like Ike' was the presidential slogan.

"I think this was our best team effort that we have had this season. Everyone contributed and we played great on both ends of the court," added Wallace. "I'm just proud to be a part of it. Hodson did a tremendous job on Oldham in the second half."

Gallatin County can point to the turnovers and their failure to slow down the hot shooting of Galatia, especially in the second half, as its downfall on this night.

"We stayed right with them for most of the game but they got hot in the third and fourth quarters," said Gallatin County coach Chris Fromm. "Galatia played one heck of a game tonight and they beat us straight up. We turned the ball over on the offensive end too many times."

Four Galatia players hit for double figures led by Sloan with 23, House added 21, Cockrum 16 and Hodson added 13.

The Bearcats were a sharp 27-of-53 from the field, including 5-of-14 from behind the arc.

Oldham topped the Hawks with 31 while Hargrave added 12.

Gallatin County was equally as successful from the field by connecting on exactly half of their shots (24-of-48) from the field to go along with 3-of-9 from long range.

Galatia held a slight 21-17 rebounding edge.

But those seven turnovers in the second half proved to be something that the Hawks could not overcome.

"We are looking forward to meeting them again in two weeks at our place," finalized Fromm.
The Bearcats head back in action next week against Elverado at home while Gallatin County will make a visit to Crab Orchard. Both of those games are on Tuesday.

Gallatin County

Gallatin County (52) - Oldham 12 1 4-6 31, Duffy 3 0 1-2 7, Montgomery 3 0 0-0 6, Shoulders 0 0 0-0 0, Hargrave 0 2 6-6 12, Aud 3 0 0-0 6.
2FG-21, 3FG-3, FT-11-14, PF-20.

Galatia (78) - Cockrum 4 1 5-6 16, Moore 0 0 1-2 1, Sloan 9 1 2-3 23, House 3 3 6-6 21, Hodson 4 0 5-6 13, Allen 2 0 0-0 4.
2FG-22 3FG-5, FT-19-23, PF-15.
Fouled Out - Duffy, Galatin County.
Technical Fouls - None.