Okawville wears 1A crown
Rockets' third quarter run propels team to first state title, 59-48

Goreville finishes third after 65-50 loss to Sterling Newman Catholic
– For the Okawville Rockets boy's basketball program, the years of being close to winning a state championship led to many heartbreaking loses.

Reaching the state finals four different times with two second place finishes and a third place trophy sitting in the trophy case.

Two crushing last second defeats in title games, including last season's 49-46 overtime loss to Effingham St. Anthony have previously kept the Rockets from taking home the biggest prize in the state.

But this school now needs to make room for that elusive crown jewel.

Coach Jon Kraus' club, with several players returning from last season's runner up team, left no doubt in who was the best 1A team in the state.

Behind the sharp outside shooting of junior guard Wyatt Krohne and a stingy second half defensive effort, Okawville can call themselves “State Champions” following their impressive 59-48 win over Annawan to claim the 1A title Saturday afternoon at Carver Arena in Peoria.

Krohne led an onslaught from the outside that took advantage of the Braves switching to a zone defense late in the second quarter due to foul trouble.

This turned into an opportunity that the Rockets (27-8) used to propel themselves into a second half advantage they clung to until the final horn.

Championship teams fundamentally succeed while others perish.

Okawville put the game away by hitting 8-of-14 3-point shots and then canned 10-consecutive free throws in the final 1:08 to finish 19-of-22 from the line in the game.

“Our guys did an unbelievable job, but it is the same thing that they have done all season,” said Coach Kraus. “We didn't do a good job attacking the zone in the first half, we stood around a little bit. Just kind of passed it around. Coach (Ryan) Heck came up with something at halftime to get some screen action. We came out in the second half and got some ball screens. We made the shots in the second half and 8-of-14 from the three in a championship game is pretty good.”

Krohne connected on five of his treys, with four of them coming in a game changing 19-6 third quarter.

This broke the game's final tie, which was 24-all at halftime, and gave the Rockets all the space that they needed.

When the Braves needed second chances in the final minutes, Okawville was even stingier on the boards.

They won that battle 22-16 as they allowed just three offensive rebounds.

Krohne, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, finished with a team-best 18-points while senior backcourt mate Payten Harre added 14.

Six-foot-seven senior Luke Hensler added 11-points and grabbed eight rebounds in the win.

Annawan closed their season at 31-4 despite a game-high 20-points from Owen Landwehr, 12-points from Ben Bursesh and 11-points from Brendon Shaw.

The two teams committed just five turnovers each in a well played contest which was decided by Okawville's defensive effort.

While they were hitting shots, they were also keeping the Braves from getting to the foul line.

Annawan was just 6-of-8 from the stripe.

“They (Okawville) executed really well on the offensive end, there wasn't much that we could do on defense to limit them,” said Coach Coppejans. “When they're getting their inside game going with Hensler and when they're getting their shooters open 3's, it's tough to guard. They just did an excellent job of executing. You have to give a lot of credit to Okawville, they played a great game.”

The game was tied seven times in the first half as both teams ended each quarter even.

Senior guard Caleb Frederking scored just six-points for the Rockets but his 3-pointer with :52 left in the first quarter gave Okawville its first lead at 15-12.

Shaw matched Frederking with a 20-footer as the two teams were even at 15-all at the close of the first quarter.

Krohne hit two of his long distance bombs as Okawville led 24-18 with 4:09 before halftime.

Annawan made one more big rally evening things at 24-24 at the break with Landwehr, a first team 1A all-state selection, hitting a pair of free throws in between buckets by Buresh and Julian Samuels.

Okawville missed three of their 3-point shots in the second quarter trying to adjust to the zone defense that Annawan switched to.

They made the adjustments at halftime, the offensive strategy that sent them into the record books as 2017-18 1A champions.

“I didn't tell them anything different at halftime than what I told them at the beginning of the game. I said 'you have 16 minutes to redeem ourselves from that championship game last year and how we finished,” said Coach Kraus. “We have 16 minutes to be state champions.”

Krohne nailed three of his 3-pointers in a run that forced Annawan head coach Alex Coppejans to call a timeout less than two minutes into the third.

The Rockets closed the frame with the third 3-pointer from Krohne, who then drove the lane while Okawville was in its spread offense holding for a final shot.

His made lay in while being fouled with :03.0 was converted into a three-point play and a 43-30 lead heading into the final stanza.

Harre added a 3-pointer during the fourth quarter as the senior guard canned two free throws to start the championship clinching parade to the foul line.

Harre hit six of the 10-straight while reserve Lane Schilling and Hensler each hit two.

When Harre closed the charity run with :19.8 remaining, the Okawville championship celebration began.

Annawan finished 19-of-37 overall (51.4 percent) but they weren't as accomplished from the 3-point arc as they hit just 4-of-13.

“We played really, really hard, I can't say that enough,” said Coach Coppejans. “It characterizes our team that we just had to battle all game long because these guys work so terribly hard on the floor.”

The Rockets ended up at 50 percent overall shooting the ball (16-of-32) but they hit 7-of-10 shots in the pivotal third quarter.

After losing a close contest in last season's title tilt, Coach Kraus' team removed the doubt in the final minutes as they made Annawan go just 2-of-8 from the arc in the final eight minutes.

“It (free throws) has been a real strength for us. It is a focus of ours, something we try to focus on every day. We want the kids to stay focused on making those free throws,” said Coach Kraus. “I'm sure they are happy that they did a good job of focusing. Those are free points. 19-to-6 is what we outscored them on the free throw line.”

1A State Championship
Okawville (59) – Aubel 2 0 2-2 6, Hensler 3 0 5-5 11, Harre 1 2 6-7 14, C. Frederking 1 1 1-3 6, Krohne 1 5 1-1 18, L. Frederking 0 0 0-0 0, Schilling 0 0 4-4 4.
2FG-8, 3FG-8, FT-19-22, PF-9.

Annawan (48) – Buresh 4 1 1-2 12, Weathersby 0 0 0-0 0, Shaw 2 2 1-2 11, Wolf 0 0 0-0 0, Landwehr 8 0 4-4 20, Thurston 0 0 0-0 0, Samuels 1 1 0-0 5.
2FG-15, 3FG-4, FT-6-8, PF-19.

Fouled Out – Weathersby - Annawan.
Technical Fouls – None.
The Comets ended their season with a third place win over the Blackcats, getting 20-points from senior forward Travis Williams, 15-points from senior guard Cade Gorzny and 11-points from 6-foot-7 sophomore Devon House as they closed their season at 29-5.

Goreville ended their state tournament with a loss as they finished at 23-13 on the season.

Head coach Todd Tripp saw his club shoot poorly in both of their games, hitting just 15-of-50 shots from the floor in the third place contest.

They were led by senior Peyton Massey with 11-points while senior Cole Tosh added 10.

Goreville was just 2-of-16 from the 3-point line and the were out-rebounded by the Comets, 48-32, with Williams and House snagging 13 and 10 of those boards.

The Blackcats fell behind 18-8 at the end of the first quarter and it was 40-24 at intermission.

“We're proud to be here playing today, a lot of teams don't get to experience this, playing on the last day of the season, and we got to do it. Not that we were coming in not looking to win the game, because we were, I told them top make this the most relaxing game you've had in four years, said Coach Tripp.

“They (Sterling Newman) hit shots better than most teams do at this level and in this arena. It's a great experience, I wish it would last a little longer.”


1A Third Place
Sterling Newman Catholic
Goreville (50) – Tosh 4 0 2-2 10, Dunn 2 0 2-2 6, Geyman 1 0 0-0 2, Massey 2 1 4-6 11, B. Webb 2 0 4-6 11, Brown 0 0 0-0 0, Bishop 1 0 0-0 2, K. Webb 0 0 2-2 2, Frassato 0 1 0-0 3, Hankins 0 0 0-0 0, Glidewell 0 0 2-2 2, Johnson 0 0 0-0 0, Schuetz 0 0 0-0 0, Albright 1 0 2-2 4.
2FG-13, 3FG-2, FT-18-26 PF-14.

Sterling Newman Catholic (65) – Williams 3 3 5-8 20, House 5 0 1-2 11, Koerner 2 1 0-0 8, Bartel 1 0 0-2 2, Gorzny 1 4 1-3 15, Farster 0 0 0-0 0, Behrens 1 0 0-0 2, Terveer 3 0 1-2 7, Heald 0 0 0-0 0, McBride 0 0 0-0 0, Payan 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-15, 3FG-9, FT-8-19, PF-23.

Fouled Out – None.
Technical Fouls – None.