St. Elmo defends Holiday Tournaemnt title
Eagles force 19 Altamont turnovers, overcome shooting woes, 47-44

ST. ELMO - Saturday night's championship contest at the St. Elmo Holiday Tournament between the host Eagles and Altamont was a special one in so many ways.

The two teams played hard throughout the 32-minutes with neither club holding more than a five-point lead.

The other team mostly forced the mistakes made by the two teams.

With seven lead changes and seven ties, this game rolled into the category of a classic. Two standout defensive efforts, two outstanding coaches matching wits, three quality basketball officials and two tremendous basketball teams were on display.

One can feel sorry for the fans not in attendance.

On a night where emotions of the tournament title and temporary bragging rights filled the gym with spectators, the two teams didn't send one customer home disappointed in the effort on the court.

St. Elmo made the biggest plays of the game at the end and edged their rivals from the East, 47-44 to capture the 46th Annual St. Elmo Holiday Tournament.

In spite of a poor shooting night while being outrebounded, the Eagles overcame their offensive ineptness by forcing the Indians into 19 turnovers.

The biggest two came with less than :30 left.

With the game deadlocked at 44-all, St. Elmo came up with two huge defensive plays to snatch the victory away from their NTC rivals.

Colton Booher got in front of an Altamont pass and his steal and fast break lay in while being fouled by Altamont's Ethan Wolff turned out to be the game winner.

Hitting the subsequent free throw, Booher finished his night's scoring with 16-points.

But the Indians weren't done.

They had a chance to get even but another steal, this time by tournament MVP Logan Mahon, took away Altamont's best chance to send the game into overtime.

Mahon went to the free throw line with a chance to put the game on ice.

But after an Indians timeout, Mahon uncharacteristically missed both charities.

However, after getting the Mahon rebound, Altamont's Justin Hovis' 3/4 court 3-point attempt fell short as the buzzer sounded.

"I wish he (Mahon) had made at least one of those shots," said St. Elmo coach Kevin Jackson, talking about the final free throws. "But I knew they (Altamont) weren't going to get a good look at the basket even if he missed them."

Mahon joined Booher in double-figures with 14 points for the Eagles.

The Indians saw their record drop to 5-1 after their first loss of the season.

"Give the credit to St. Elmo because down the stretch they did make the big shots and we did not." said Altamont mentor Doug Hill.

The Eagles struggles from the field were part Altamont defense and part mystery, according to Jackson.

"Our offense wasn't very good tonight and that is to Altamont's credit because they guarded us," added Jackson. "But we also had a lot of open looks that just weren't falling. For one reason or another, the shots weren't going in."

With a big crowd looking on with excitement, it was the Indians that executed early.

Getting the ball inside the paint to 6-foot-5 junior Eric Heiden, Altamont went on a 9-0 run to take the lead finish the first quarter.

After a Zach Gillespie basket for the Eagles made it 6-2, Heiden scored seven of those nine points. His mid-range shot from the right side made it 11-6 at the end of the first.

The Eagles mysterious first quarter saw them perhaps over-hyped by the situation.

SE hit just 3-of-15 attempts in the opening eight minutes, many of which were open shots.

But, as was the case for most of the game, the Eagles forced Altamont into mistakes.

Six turnovers in the quarter helped keep the Indians from gaining some distance on the scoreboard.

Coach Jackson's club got the lead back in a hurry in the second eight minutes as the first seven points of the frame belonged to the Eagles.

A Gillespie rebound basket started the run off and then Mahon scored on a 3-pointer from the right corner and a steal and fast break lay in.

His second score in that run made it 13-11 St. Elmo with 4:50 until halftime.

While St. Elmo concentrated on keeping the ball away from Heiden in the second quarter, the other member of the Tribe took advantage.

Hovis, Wolff and Erich Schmidt stepped up and hit key shots.

Wolff canned a 3-pointer from the right wing right in front of the St. Elmo bench at the 2:10 mark to break a 15-all tie.

A backdoor lay in by Mahon on an assist from Gillespie closed out the first half scoring at 18-17 Altamont.

Despite committing 12 first half turnovers, the Indians held a one point lead at intermission.

"We had too many turnovers tonight and that is something we can fix," added Hill.

The Eagles made a push to take the lead again in the third quarter.

Booher hit a pair of 3-pointers in the stanza.
Another Altamont turnover resulted in Booher's first one, which capped a 10-2 run turning a 20-17 deficit into a 27-22 lead.

Following pair of buckets by Schmidt and Heiden that cut the lead to one, Booher struck again with another 'trey' from the right wing.

Wolff scored again for the Tribe with under a minute to play as the 'see-saw' quarter ended 30-28.

After yet another Booher 'trifecta' pushed the lead back to five, Altamont methodically worked its way back into the game.

Hovis came up big for the Indians, hitting a pair of shots in a run that got his team back even.

Wolff then connected on his second 3-pointer from the right corner to even the score at 38-apiece.

It looked like all of the hard work in getting back into the contest was going to pay off for the Indians.

Scoring six straight points after a St. Elmo basket, the last two on a pair of free throws by Heiden, Altamont led 44-40 with just 1:31 remaining.

But more mistakes by Altamont sealed their fate.

St. Elmo got back even on a basket by Mahon and two free throws by Gillespie, setting up the final two possessions.

The Eagles were just 18-of-51 from the field (35.2 percent) including 4-of-14 from beyond 20-feet while Altamont was much better on their shooting night, connecting on 18-of-33 (54 percent) and 2-of-5 from the 3-point line.

Coach Hill's team held a commanding 30-18 rebounding edge as well.

But it was those turnovers, especially twelve in the first two quarters, which kept the Indians from pulling away early while the Eagles were laying bricks.

"You can't ask for much more than what happened. If you had told me that with 1:11 to go and we got the ball and the game is tied, I would say 'let's go play 1:11' and take our chances," added Hill. "We came in the two-seed and we are walking out the two-seed.
We played hard, there was no lack of effort but somebody has to step up for us."

Heiden topped the Indians with 16-points while Wolff added 12.

Following Booher (16) and Mahon (14) St. Elmo got eight points from Gillespie.

"We really struggled offensively tonight but our defense gets the credit for this win," explained Jackson. "They (Altamont) have some nice ball players and a nice ballclub but I would like to think that if we had made a few more shots that the margin would have been a bit wider at the end."

St. Elmo (8-2) plays Thursday night at home in a make up game with St. Anthony caused by a snow cancellation back on December 9th.

Altamont will play at the Vandalia Holiday Tournament after Christmas, beginning on Tuesday the 27th.
"This thing (tournament) is a big deal to us. We have won it four of the last eight years and two in a row now," finalized Jackson.
"It is very important to us."

St. Elmo

Altamont (44) - E. Heiden 6 0 4-6 16, Wolff 5 2 0-0 12, Schmidt 4 0 0-0 8, Hovis 3 0 0-0 6, Anderson 0 0 2-3 2.
2FG-16, 3FG-2, FT-6-9, PF-15.
St. Elmo (47) - Booher 6 3 2-2 17, Mahon 6 1 1-4 14, Gillespie 2 0 4-4 8, T. Haslett 2 0 0-1 4, Nevergall 1 0 0-0 2, Donaldson 1 0 0-0 2, Hill 0 0-0 0.
2FG-14, 3FG-4, FT-7-11, PF-14.
Fouled Out - None.
Technical Fouls - None.

In the third place contest, Mulberry Grove did too much wrong to win the game, even though the score ended up close.

The Aces trumped the Hornets on the glass, out-rebounding C-H by a 'whopping' 42-19 margin.

But MC committed 21-turnovers and hit just 19-of-45 shots from the field.

In the meantime, Cowden-Herrick (2-4) lived from the outside, connecting on 8-of-16 shots from behind the 3-point line.

Coach Terry Pruemer's club nailed five 3-pointers in the opening quarter, including three by first team all-tourney selection Garrett Moffet in staking a 15-6 lead.

Mulberry Grove kept the game close by keeping the Hornets from second chance baskets.

But key turnovers, including eight in the final quarter, doomed coach Tom Jackson's club.

Moffet scored his team's final 11-points.

Two 3-pointers, a deuce on a drive to the basket that gave C-H back the lead for good at 44-43, and 3-of-4 free throws at the end put the win on ice.

Moffet led all scorers with 28-points. Teammate Tyler Sarver chipped in eight.

Mulberry Grove (3-5) was paced by Aaron Kendall and Dustin Lindahl with 11-points each.

On a side note, Coach Jackson was honored after the game for his participation with his team at the St. Elmo Tournament.

This veteran coach (whose son is St. Elmo's coach Kevin Jackson) is retiring at the end of this season, his 24th at Mulberry Grove.

Mulberry Grove

Mulberry Grove (43) - Kendall 5 0 1-2 11, Lindahl 4 0 3-4 11, Clinton 4 0 1-2 9, Jolliff 4 0 0-0 8, Betts 2 0 0-4 4, Rickman 0 0 0-1 0, Nickel 0 0 0-2 0.
2FG-19, 3FG-0, FT-5-15, PF-12.
Cowden-Herrick (47) - Moffett 8 5 7-9 28, Sarver 3 2 0-0 8, Black 1 1 2-3 5, Krammer 1 0 0-1 2, Turner 1 0 0-0 2, N. Boehm 1 0 0-0 2, T. Boehm 0 0 0-2 0. 2FG-7, 3FG-8, FT-9-15, PF-16.
Fouled Out - None.
Technical Fouls - None.

Coach Grant Beals' Eagles ran their 'Four-to-Score' offense to near perfection in taking care of Ramsey in the consolation title game.

Getting 17-points from Trenton Rexroad and 16 from point guard Deano Tull, Beecher City (5-4) was never headed after sprinting off to a 30-17 halftime lead.

Spreading the floor and shooting a lot of backdoor lay ups, BC cruised to a relatively easy victory over the Rams.

Ramsey (2-8) received 11-points from Derek Gibson and 10 from Isaiah Miller in defeat.

The ten member All-Tournament Team included:
First Team - Logan Mahon, St. Elmo (MVP), Colton Booher, St. Elmo, Deano Tull, Beecher City, Garrett Moffet, Cowden-Herrick, Eric Heiden, Altamont.
Second Team - Trenton Rexroad, Beecher City, Justin Hovis, Altamont, Zach Gillespie, St. Elmo, Derek Gibson, Ramsey and Ethan Wolff, Altamont.