Meridian stuns Panthers
Bobcats deal Pinckneyville 68-66 2OT loss; Benton, Carlyle post wins
BENTON – For basketball teams the free throw line can be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on how well you do while standing at the stripe.

On Friday night the Pinckneyville Panthers found out how the down side of the relationship can be.

Coach Bob Waggoner's Panthers had the opportunity to close out a victory against Mounds Meridian by simply making the charity tosses in the fourth quarter, and then again in overtime.

But the normally efficient Panthers didn't get the late freebies to fall.

Pinckneyville was just 4-of-9 from the line in the final stanza, which included three consecutive front ends of 1-and-1's that could have distanced themselves from the Bobcats.

The Panthers followed those missed shots up by misfiring on four consecutive free throws in the second overtime as they tried to protect they lead.

Given a new lease on this basketball game life, Meridian took advantage of the opportunities.

Six-foot-six senior forward Darnell Lowe scored 21-points and his conventional three-point play with just :03.0 left in the second overtime gave the Bobcats a stunning 68-66 double overtime win over the Panthers.

Trailing 66-65, the Bobcats worked the ball for a good look at the basket and got the ball to Lowe.

He drove into the lane and spun around for a one-handed attempt that found the mark as he was fouled.

He calmly nailed the free throw to give his club a two-point lead.

“Darnell Lowe really stepped up and he performed tonight like we expect him. But that has been our calling card this year, someone is always going to step up for us,” said Coach Griffin. “He is a senior and he has been through some wars. He and his teammates have played against Pinckneyville for four years now and they knew this was their last opportunity to beat them. They kind of relished that moment.”

The Panthers had a last second chance to win the game but senior guard Grant Jausel's 3-pointer from the left wing went wide right of the goal as the buzzer sounded and the celebration began for Meridian.

Coach Erik Griffin's Bobcats had never been 2-0 in this event, let alone being in the position to win the BIT.

In Meridian's three previous appearances in the event, they were just 5-10 overall.

“If you make free throws when you are ahead you win the ballgame. If you miss free throws when you are ahead in a ballgame you give teams a chance. It comes down to that, it is that simple,” said Coach Waggoner. “I thought we did a great job rebounding the ball. We limited their second chance opportunities, the pace of the game was how we wanted to play. We thought that we were going to wear them down but we just didn't take advantage of our opportunities.”

The Bobcats persevered after allowing the state-ranked, and ABV 2A second ranked , team to go on a 16-0 run at the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third.

Previous teams that this mentor had at Meridian may have not recovered but these Bobcats responded to stay close to the Panthers the rest of the way.

Meridian answered when they needed to and improved their overall mark to 12-8 with its first signature win for the program this season.

Demond Vasser, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, was next on the scoring list for the Bobcats with 18-points.

Senior guard Ja'Quan Jones tossed in 15-points before fouling out late in the game.

Besides the Lowe game-winner in the second overtime, perhaps the biggest shot of the game came from 5-foot-9 junior guard Norris Young.

Young scored just five-points in the game but his second made basket for the Bobcats was maybe the biggest shot of his prep career.

Trailing in the final minute of regulation, Young got a look at the basket right in front of the Meridian bench on the left side of the court while behind the 3-point arc.

He let fly a 20-footer that found the bottom of the net to tie the score at 59-all to send the game into the extra time.

The Panthers' story on this night was the foul line (19-of-27 overall) but Pinckneyville had other chances to put this game away long before the end.

Dawson Yates, a 6-foot-1 sophomore guard, led the 18-2 Panthers with 20-points.

Seniors Grant Jausel and Tanner Spihlmann added 14 and 10 while J.C. Moll pitched in 11-points.

Yates scored six of his points during a second quarter scoring jaunt as Pinckneyville turned a 27-22 deficit into a 35-27 lead at intermission.

Thirteen points in succession, with five of the field goals being lay ups, seemingly changed the look of the contest.

Yates then opened the third quarter and finished the 16-0 run with a 3-point bomb for a 38-27 Panthers' lead.

But Meridian showed what it was made up by retaliating immediately to get back to contention.

Jones scored five-points in the third quarter, which included a 3-pointer from the left side of the floor to cut the Panthers' lead down to 46-43.

“I remind the kids all the time; if we are going to be a championship team then we have to respond in those moments (being behind) like a championship team is going to. Every game, no matter who the opponent is, they are going to make a run and the key to a win or a loss is how you deal with it. You can drop your head or you can dig deeper and do the things that you need to do to get back into it.”

There was no indication that Pinckneyville would do anything to harm its chances late in the game from the foul line.

In fact Coach Waggoner saw his club nail eight-consecutive free throws in the third quarter and were, at that point of the game, 12-of-12 from the line.

In other words everything was going as planned for the Panthers heading to the fourth quarter.

However Meridian got the game tied in the first :13 of the fourth with Lowe again getting to the rim.

His three-point play evened things at 48-apiece.

Meridian got a brief lead with Vasser hitting a shot in the lane and then a free throw by Lowe got the score to 51-48 Bobcats.

But Moll hit his only long range shot of the night, a 3-pointer from the left corner on a nice assist from Jausel, and then Spihlmann and Jausel hit shots to give the lead back to Pinckneyville at 55-53 with 3:50 remaining in regulation time.

These shots were important, but all three could have been game clinching baskets.

Moll, Spihlmann and Kyle Luke missed the previously mentioned 1-and-1's in three possessions before the brief run.

Clinging to a one-point lead with :20.1 left in the fourth, Jausel broke the free throw string of misses by hitting a pair of tosses for a 59-56 lead.

The next possession by the Bobcats resulted in the Young 3-pointer to send the teams into the first overtime.

“Pinckneyville has killed teams all year with those runs. I put that on the board; we have to handle their runs and limit their runs. Fortunately tonight it was just one,” said Coach Griffin. “We got enough stops down the stretch that gave us a chance to send the game into overtime. We were pretty tough defensively in both of the overtimes tonight.”

For the Bobcats they hit on 50 percent of their overall shots (26-of-52) but just 3-of-11 from the arc while committing just nine-turnovers.

Pinckneyville was 21-of-55 overall (38.1 percent), and 5-of-14 from long range with just six-turnovers in a cleanly played contest.

The Panthers held a 31-20 rebounding edge.

“You have to look at how they (Meridian) scored. They broke us down and scored. You have to do a better job of guarding your yard. You have to be able to get your guy out of the lane. We didn't do a good job of that tonight,” said Coach Waggoner. “I give Meridian a lot of credit.”

The Meridian win puts them in position to win the tournament with two victories on Saturday.

They will face the host Rangers, who are also unbeaten in the tournament (3-0), at 11:30 am and they will then come back with a 5:30 pm match up with Carlyle.

If they can hold serve, they will take home the title with a 5-0 mark.

The Panthers will head back into action Saturday with a 1 pm matchup against Hamilton County and then they will tangle once again with Benton in the finale at 8:30 pm.

Benton has won this tournament the past two seasons, each time with a win over Pinckneyville in the final game.

“We knew tonight coming in that if we did the little things well that we would have a chance down the stretch and that is all we wanted was a chance to win the ball game,” said Coach Griffin. “We didn't want it to go into double overtime but we will take it.”

Game 9
Mounds Meridian
Pinckneyville (66) – Kreger 0 0 0-0 0, Moll 3 1 2-3 11, Yates 5 1 7-8 20, Luke 2 1 0-3 7, Kitchen 0 1 1-2 4, Rice 0 0 0-0 0, Jausel 4 0 6-6 14, Spihlmann 2 1 3-5 10, Bartnicki 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-16, 3FG-5, FT-19-27, PF-15.

Mounds Meridian (68)
– Amerson 0 0 0-0 0, Jones 5 1 2-2 15, Lowe 6 0 9-11 21, N. Young 1 1 0-1 5, Nicholson 1 0 2-3 4, Vasser 9 0 0-0 18, Robertson 1 1 0-0 5, M. Young 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-23, 3FG-3, FT-13-17, PF-19.

Fouled Out
– Luke - Pinckneyville; Jones, Nicholson - Mounds Meridian.
Technical Fouls
– None.
The Rangers moved to 3-0 in the BIT and 16-2 overall with the win over Franklin County rivals Sesser-Valier in the second game on Friday night behind the stellar performance from senior Gehrig Wynn.

The 5-foot-10 guard nailed five 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 22-points as the Rangers stayed in the title hunt in the 45th annual event.

Coach Ron Winemiller, and Wynn, received ample help from senior's Hamilton Page and Parker Williams as each tossed home 14-points for the Rangers.

Benton held off the Red Devils by converting free throws when they needed them.

The Rangers finished 15-of-17 from the stripe in the victory, including 7-of-7 in the fourth quarter.

Sesser-Valier saw its mark dip to 0-3 on the week with just two Red Devils hitting double-figures in scoring.

Preston Launius and Peyton Rock scored 14 and 12-points respectively as Coach Shane Garner's club fell to 11-8 overall for the season.

Game 8
Sesser-Valier (51) – J. Gunter 1 0 0-1 2, L. Gunter 2 1 0-1 7, E. Gunter 0 1 2-2 5, Launius 4 2 0-0 14, Rock 4 0 4-4 12, Boles 2 0 0-0 4, Page 2 1 0-0 7.
2FG-15, 3FG-5, FT-6-8, PF-18.

Benton (65) – Thomas 1 0 2-2 4, Page 5 0 4-4 14, Wynn 1 5 5-7 Lewis 2 0 0-0 4, Morris 0 0 0-0 0, Williams 5 0 4-4 14, Wills 1 0 0-0 2, Bonenberger 2 0 0-0 4.
2FG-17, 3FG-5, FT-15-17, PF-14.

Fouled Out – None.
Technical Fouls – None.
The Indians snagged their first win of the week after a pair of losses with the victory over the Foxes on Friday night.

Coach Andy Palmer's club is now 7-14 overall on the season and 1-2 in the BIT after the victory, which was helped by 6-foot-3 senior guard Tyler Siever scoring 18-points.

The Tribe got 10-points from junior guard Luke Boatright and they held off Hamilton County by hitting 6-of-7 free throws in the final frame for the win.

Chase Taylor and Caleb Darr added seven-points apiece in the triumph.

Coach Jeremy Varner's Foxes got 12-points from senior guard Jake Whipple in the loss, the third of the week for the club (0-3) while its overall record now stands at 7-13.

Senior Matt Rubenacker added 10-points while junior Hunter Braden added nine.

Game 7
Hamilton County
Hamilton County (42) – Morgan 2 0 0-0 4, Gray 0 1 0-0 3, Whipple 6 0 0-0 12, Schaefer 2 0 0-0 4, Rubenacker 4 0 2-2 10, Braden 1 2 1-2 9, Webb 0 0 0-0 0, VanAbbema 0 0 0-0 0, Weaver 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-15, 3FG-3, FT-3-4, PF-18.

Carlyle (54)
– Reinaccher 1 0 1-2 3, Huels 1 0 3-4 5, Boatright 1 2 2-3 10, Jones 0 0 0-0 0, Taylor 2 1 0-0 7, Siever 7 0 4-8 18, Smith 0 0 0-0 0, Heinzmann 0 0 0-0 0, Becker 1 0 2-2 4, VonderHaar 0 0 0-0 0, Darr 1 0 5-6 7.
2FG-14, 3FG-3, FT-17-25, PF-9.

Fouled Out
– None.
Technical Fouls
– None.