Aces advance to title game
Mulberry Grove beats top-seed Cumberland; Latham nets 20-points

– The Mulberry Grove Aces, despite an undefeated record, came into the 59th annual St. Elmo Holiday Tournament as just the fourth seed and head coach Andrew Beckham and his club believe that they deserved a higher ranking.

Not only were they searching for some respect coming into Thursday night's semifinal game against Cumberland, the Aces were also seeking a signature win and some revenge from last season.

On this night, they hit the trifecta.

The Aces jumped out to a 9-0 lead, while they only relinquished their edge briefly in the second quarter.

Three Mulberry Grove players hit for double-figures in scoring as these Aces held off the Pirates for an important 60-54 conquest.

Five-foot-seven senior guard Courtlyn Latham, who has been a four-year starter for MG, led the scoring on the night with 20-points as the Aces will now face either #2 seed Vandalia or #3 seed St. Elmo/Brownstown in the finale Saturday night.

Six-foot-five junior forward Wyatt Criner added 14-points on the inside for Mulberry Grove while 6-foot-2 junior Kaleb Scoggins netted 10.

The Aces are now 9-0 and are within a victory on Saturday night from winning their second tournament championship this season as they won their own Thanksgiving Tournament title three weeks ago.

Using the quickness that they possess, the Aces took command early in the game as they forced some Pirate mistakes in the win over the 2A club.

Forcing early turnovers and then hitting enough shots in the second half, Mulberry Grove will play in the title game of this historic event for the first time since capturing the championship in 1997.

“We have handled adversity all season. Our game plan was just get up in their face and we got off to a good start with a 9-0 run and we never looked back,” said Coach Beckham. “This team has a lot of heart and they give me 110 percent everyday. We prepared all week for this game.”

Cumberland and head coach Justin Roedl saw their overall mark slip to 4-5 on the season.

The Pirates were led by 6-foot-4 senior guard/forward Zach Wolke with 24-points.

Being held to just six-points in the first half, Wolke got the ball in the lane and got to the foul line in the final two quarters as he helped rally his team late before the effort fell short.

Wolke was 12-of-13 from the foul line as he got the Aces attention in the paint.

Six-foot-three junior forward Brennyn Cutts added 10-points for the Pirates.

Cumberland, with the loss, will play in the third place game on Saturday against the loser of the St. Elmo/Brownstown vs. Vandalia semifinal.

“We didn't look good on either end of the floor tonight. We got off to a slow start. And I think after talking to the team (after the game) we were a little overconfident. The kids thought they were going to come here, just show up, win the game and go home.,” said Coach Roedl. “They (Mulberry Grove) showed up ready to play. They come out and get a big start on us. We were just a step slow tonight.”

Coming into this semifinal, Cumberland was in this same exact position last winter.

The top-seed from last year's event, the Pirates ended up beating the fourth seeded Aces with a fourth quarter rally, 67-63.

It was a game where they didn't play well but they ended up winning anyway.

However a year later Cumberland played “sub-par” basketball and there was no one on the court able to bail them out of the bad night.

Mulberry Grove, with players a year older and more experienced, didn't implode late in the game like they did in 2017.

Coach Beckham had his kids ready to go from the outset as they jumped out with four unanswered baskets.

Swain opened the offensive showing with a basket which was followed by Criner getting points in transition.

A 3-point bomb by Latham and another bucket by Criner forced a Pirates' timeout at the 4:37 mark.

A pair of 3-pointers, one each from Cumberland senior guards Myles Gerhardt and Connor Butler, along with a basket by Wolke cut the Pirates deficit to just 16-10 at the end of one quarter.

Despite five turnovers and 3-of-9 shooting, Cumberland was still in the game.

They made a run that seemed to have gotten the Pirates on the right track in the early part of the second quarter, which got them their only lead of the contest.

A 9-2 burst, with Wolke, junior guard Ross Hemmen, Butler and senior Gabe Hatfill all producing points, gave Cumberland a very brief 19-18 lead.

As it turned out, the lead lasted just :13.

Latham scored six-points and senior Braeden Links added a score as the Aces came right back as they held a 26-24 halftime advantage.

Cumberland needed some sort of run in the third quarter to get going but they couldn't get enough defensive stops to back it up.

Mulberry Grove managed to answer every time the Pirates made a move.

Late in the quarter Cumberland got consecutive buckets by Hatfill, Wolke and Cutts, all with shots close to the basket as they finally took advantage of their size inside to trail just 37-36.

Nevertheless, as they did for most of the game, the Aces got points right back.

Consecutive scores on drives to the basket by Scoggins, one on an inbounds pass where he got the ball and drove in for an easy score, pushed the lead to 41-36 heading to the fourth.

Although the Pirates were playing a bit better offensively, the Aces matched their scoring because of Cumberland defensive breakdowns.

Four different times during the contest the Pirates had difficulty communicating on half-court inbounds plays where they gave up easy points to Mulberry Grove.

Donta Latham, Courtlyn's 5-foot-5 senior cousin, finished with eight-points on the night for Mulberry Grove.

His biggest bucket of the night opened the fourth quarter scoring on a 3-pointer from the right wing.

On this inbounds play, Donta Latham was wide open and calmly nailed the 20-footer.

The Aces also got a rebound bucket on the next trip down the floor as Criner scored to give them a 46-36 lead with 5:51 to go.

“(Courtlyn) Latham hit a lot of tough shots on us and he creates space and I thought we did a better job on him in the second half but they had other kids step up,” said Coach Roedl.

Mulberry Grove still has much room for improvement, especially from the foul line.

For the game these Aces hit just 13-of-25, with nine of the missed shots coming in the final eight minutes.

A 3-pointer from Cutts cut the Pirates' deficit to 51-47 as the door was slightly ajar for a Cumberland comeback.

But the Pirates were unable to seize the opportunity.

Eventually Mulberry Grove got their free throw shooting lined out Courtlyn Latham, Criner and Scoggins combined to hit 6-of-8 in the final 1:06.

The Pirates issues on this night were many, but shooting and turnovers were the main problems.

Coach Roedl saw his club hit just 17-of-44 from the field (38.8 percent) and just 5-of-16 from the arc.

Although they held a slight rebounding edge (25-22) and the turnovers were pretty even (12-11 with Cumberland having one more than MG) it was the defensive end of the floor that eventually painted a gloomy picture on a gloomy Thursday night.

“I think people were doubting us saying our schedule was weak. But we proved tonight that it doesn't matter, we will play anybody. We proved tonight that we can beat teams,” said Coach Beckham. “I'm hoping we can start getting credit for what we have done so far.”

Mulberry Grove was much more accurate from the field as the Aces hit 21-of-40 overall, but a very good 16-of-28 inside the 3-point line (57.1 percent).

In other words, when Coach Beckham's bunch needed stops they got them and when they needed scores they got them as well as they picked up their most important victory to date.

Cumberland's struggles got them demoted to the third place game on Saturday.

“Two of the things that I thought would be our strengths this year were shooting and sharing the ball and we didn't do either of those things well tonight,” said Coach Roedl. “When you don't do those things well, you are going to struggle. We didn't communicate tonight and we weren't ready.”

Semifinal #1
Mulberry Grove
Mulberry Grove (60) – C. Latham 5 2 4-8 20, D. Latham 0 2 2-7 8, Swain 2 0 2-2 6, Scoggins 2 1 3-6 10, Isringhausen 0 0 0-0 0, Link 1 0 0-0 2, Criner 6 0 2-2 14.
2FG-16, 3FG-5, FT-13-25, PF-14.

Toledo Cumberland (54) – Hemmen 1 0 0-0 2, Gerhart 0 2 0-0 6, Butler 1 2 0-0 8, Labaume 0 0 0-0 0, Talley 0 0 0-0 0, Wolke 6 0 12-13 24, Hatfill 2 0 0-0 4, Cutts 2 2 0-1 10.
2FG-12, 3FG-6, FT-12-14, PF-18.

Fouled Out – Swain - Mulberry Grove.
Technical Fouls – None.

The Hatchets moved into the consolation title game to be played on Saturday afternoon with a win over the Rams.

Senior guard Beau Bennett scored 12-points for W/S-S in the matchup while teammate senior Jackson Miller added 10.

The Hatchets got eight-points from freshman Gavan Wernsing and seven-points from senior Adam Burton as the club improved to 5-5 in 2018-19.

Ramsey and head coach Mike Kellow got 19-points from 6-foot-1 junior Koester Cook, seven-points from sophomore Blaine Marx, six-points from 5-foot-7 sophomore Ean Forbus and five-points from 6-foot-1 sophomore Hayden Seaton in the loss.

The Rams might have gotten the win but they had a tough night at the foul line, hitting just 5-of-15 from the stripe.

W/S-S will play the winner of Friday night's CH/BC vs. Patoka consolation bracket semifinal Saturday afternoon.

Ramsey will play in the seventh place game against the loser of that matchup.

Consolation Bracket
Ramsey (42) – Marx 2 1 0-4 7, Aderman 1 0 3-4 5, Dunn 0 0 0-0 0, Berner 0 0 0-0 0, Forbus 0 2 0-1 6, Hadley Seaton 0 0 0-0 0, Hayden Seaton 2 0 1-5 5, Cook 9 0 1-4 19.
2FG-14, 3FG-3, FT-5-15, PF-15.

Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg (50) – Domzalski 0 0 0-0 0, Bennett 3 1 3-4 12, Greuel 0 1 2-2 5, Miller 2 1 3-4 10, Tabbert 2 0 2-4 6, Smith 1 0 0-0 2, Burton 2 1 0-0 7, Wernsing 4 0 0-1 8.
2FG-14, 3FG-4, FT-10-15, PF-16.

Fouled Out – Forbus - Ramsey.
Technical Fouls – None.