Rockets get second chance at title
Okawville tops Goreville, reaches state championship game

PEORIA – The Okawville Rockets are back in the same spot as there were this time last year; in the 1A state championship game.

Because the majority of Coach Jon Kraus' club returned from the squad that lost to Effingham St. Anthony in the finale last March.

Having played two games last season at Carver Arena, the Rockets weren't effected by the setting or the moment.

Okawville improved to 26-8 on the season as they jumped out to an early lead and defensively shut down deep southern Illinois representative Goreville, 48-33, in the second semifinal contest Friday afternoon.

The Rockets forced the Blackcats into a 14-of-52 showing from the field and forced 13-costly turnovers that they turned into 14 direct points.

The end result was a victory that gets Okawville back into a championship contest that not many thought could happen.

“I'm excited for our kids. We were in this situation last year and the kids have had it on their minds since the Sunday we got back from the state tournament. All the credit goes to those guys. They battled all year long and played some really good teams. We had some tough times and had some tough losses but it built some character in our guys,” said Coach Kraus. “It was a good win for us. We got a good lead early and I think last year's experience may have helped us. I thought they (Goreville) was a little shaky early but our defense was key.”

Okawville lost ABV 1A “Player of the Year” Noah Frederking to graduation last spring and the school's all-time leading scorer was sorely missed.

But from the time the final buzzer went off in last season's overtime loss, the remaining players pointed toward getting back to the title contest.

They accomplished this mission by jumping out to an 18-5 lead in the first quarter and they held off two Goreville scoring runs to drop the Blackcats into Saturday's third place game.

“It (our defense) is the backbone of our program. I preach to our guys that defense and rebounding is the key to winning in the postseason. I believe that you can have some high scoring teams and high scoring offenses but you have to be able to stop the other team,” said Coach Kraus. “Our guys have bought into that.”

Coach Todd Tripp's club fell to 23-12 on the season and they will now face Sterling Newman Catholic Saturday morning at 11 am.

Newman lost to Annawan, 59-44, in the first semifinal on Friday.

Annawan and Okawville will hook up Saturday at 12:45 pm.

Okawville was led in scoring by senior guard Peyton Harre with 16-points, including four 3-pointers as he hit a pair of bombs in the first quarter to help get the Rockets moving.

Six-foot-seven senior forward Luke Hensler scored 12-points, hauled down 15-rebounds and blocked four shots in the win.

Although Okawville didn't shoot the ball well, either, during this contest that defenses ruled, the Rockets hit enough shots that got them the victory.

The Rockets ended up a 20-of-57 overall but it was Harre who had the hottest hand.

The 5-foot-10 senior was 6-of-11 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from the arc.

He nailed a shot from the top of the circle in the first quarter to give the Rockets a 7-3 lead and then he closed the frame with a backbreaking 3-pointer from the right corner for 13-point advantage.

Goreville didn't have a player in double-digits in scoring in this afternoon tilt as senior's Cole Tosh and Braden Webb shared scoring honors with eight-points each.

The Blackcats were forced into a lot of outside shots that wouldn't fall, going just 1-of-17 from the 3-point line.

The only statistical category in which Goreville had an each was rebounding, as they grabbed a 42-36 advantage.

Fast break points (12-to-2) and points in the paint (30-to-20) favored the Rockets.

“We went up against a really good team today. We knew that going in. When you get to this stage, you have to be able to do a lot of things right for four quarters,” said Coach Tripp. “We didn't play well in the first quarter but we battled back. We didn't get it done for four quarters today.”

Goreville finally got its offense going in the second quarter, with Tosh and sophomore Landon Albright getting points in the lane, which were followed by a pair of baskets by senior Tanner Dunn that cut the Okawville lead to just 25-13 with 1:52 left in the half.

But the Blackcats best move of the day came at the beginning of the third quarter.

Peyton Massey, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, hit his only shot of the game.

His 3-pointer from the left wing triggered a 9-2 run that got the Blackcats back into the game.

Tosh put back a rebound and Webb scored on a pair of drives to the basket as suddenly Goreville's crowd had something to cheer about as their team trailed just 28-24 with 5:38 left in the third quarter.

“We came back and got on a run in the third quarter but it got away from us really quick,” said Coach Tripp. “But they came right back and scored quick and got back up by 10 or 11. They are a nice ballclub. Their guards get after you (on defense) pretty good, probably better than anyone we've seen all year. I thought we did a pretty good job getting by them but when you have a 6-foot-7 kid in the middle that can block shots and adjust shots, it makes a big difference.”

Good teams will always respond to adversity and Okawville did just that for the rest of the quarter.

The Rockets turned right around with a 12-0 run where they turned Goreville over four times which resulted in points on each takeaway.

Junior Will Aubel and Hensler scored two baskets each, with Aubel converting fast breaks and Hensler putting in rebound attempts.

Harre started the run with a steal and fastbreak lay in and closed the sprint with a rebound bucket to give Okawville a 40-24 lead with 1:30 remaining.

When the dust had settled on the third quarter, the Blackcats were just 5-of-15 from the field and had five turnovers as they trailed by 14.

Webb closed his scoring for the afternoon on a driving bank shot to open the fourth quarter but his team wouldn't get any closer to the Rockets.

Coach Kraus' club put the outcome to rest with an 8-1 run for a 48-29 lead before both coaches emptied the benches with 2:50 left.

Coach Tripp reflected on his program's run this season.

“Hanging that basketball banner, it's big,” said Coach Tripp. “It's been a roller coaster ride. We were 10-2 after we won the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament, something we hadn't done in 17-years. This group (seniors) are special and they have played together. We have won the conference championships and a regional championship two years ago. This year they did it right, they listened. We stepped our defense up. They became better players and we became a better team.”

1A State Semifinals
Goreville (33) – Tosh 3 0 2-3 8, Dunn 2 0 0-0 4, Geyman 0 0 0-0 0, Massey 0 1 0-0 3, B. Webb 4 0 0-2 8, Brown 0 0 0-0 0, Bishop 1 0 0-0 2, K. Webb 0 0 0-0 0, Lewis 1 0 0-0 2, Frassato 0 0 0-0 0, Hankins 0 0 0-0 0, Glidewell 0 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0 2-2 2, Schuetz 0 0 0-0 0, Albright 2 0 0-0 4.
2FG-13, 3FG-1, FT-4-9, PF-12.

Okawville (48) – Aubel 3 0 0-0 6, Henslier 5 0 2-2 12, Harre 2 4 0-0 16, Frederking 2 0 0-0 4, Krohne 1 0 0-0 2, L. Frederking 0 0 0-0 0, Green 0 0 0-0 0, Killion 0 0 0-0 0, Riechmann 0 0 0-0 0, Parsley 0 0 0-0 0, Roesener 0 0 0-0 0, P. Riechmann 0 0 0-0 0, Segelhorst 0 0 0-0 0, Heckert 2 0 1-2 5.
2FG-16, 3FG-4, FT-4-6, PF-13.

Fouled Out – None.
Technical Fouls – None.