Blackcats are SIU bound
Goreville blankets Sesser-Valier in second half, advances to "Elite Eight"
ELIZABETHTOWN – In the many seasons that head coach Todd Tripp has been the head coach of the Goreville Blackcats, the moniker of this program was always that of a high scoring program.

Lots of shots and lots of points produced.

But as they struggled during a second half of the season slump, this coach challenged his team to get better defensively and his kids stepped up.

The team focused on the shutting down teams on the defensive end.

Friday night his Blackcats put together perhaps the best defensive performance in the school's long history of postseason games.

Goreville, who trailed 26-20 at halftime of the 1A Hardin County Sectional title game, came out and imposed its defensive will upon Black Diamond Conference rival Sesser-Valier, holding the Red Devils to just two made field goals in the first 14:12 of the second half.

“That (defense) is something we talked about three weeks ago. I really thought that we had one of the worst defenses in the South as far as teams that had a chance (to go to state). We talked about that and changed some stuff up,” said Coach Tripp. “Going into our regional and knowing how we needed to play, we changed our tempo and our shot selection. We have done that since and I think it really showed up tonight.”

Goreville opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run that changed the game in its favor and now the Blackcats can call themselves “Sectional Champions” for the first time in the history of the boy's basketball program after a convincing 48-44 win in front of a packed house of over 2,600 fans at Oxford Gymnasium.

Coach Tripp's troops forced the Red Devils into a 6-of-28 shooting effort in the second half, and at one point it was 2-of-20.

The Blackcats held on at the end despite missing some free throws (16-of-28 for the game) in the fourth quarter.

Senior guard and team leader Braden Webb led the Blackcats with 13-points while classmate Tanner Dunn added 11.

Those were the only two 'Cats to hit double-figures in points.

But that wasn't the story in this game as the other end of the floor was where Goreville put on the show.

“I picked Sesser-Valier to win our conference because the are one of the hardest playing teams in the South. I told our guys that you have to match their intensity,” said Coach Tripp. “I felt like our athletic ability was better than theirs and if we could match their intensity we could win. It's a sectional final, why wouldn't your intensity be high?”

Sesser-Valier saw its season come to a close at 21-12 overall for Coach Shane Garner as his team, after a strong first half, couldn't get anything going in the final two quarters.

The Red Devils were led by senior Preston Launius who netted 17-points while junior guard Tyler Winchester added 13.

Despite a late rally that got the score closer in the final minutes, the Red Devils saw their season end on a sour note.

“They made shots and converted and we missed shots (in the third quarter) and it just snowballed on us,” said Coach Garner. “It was pretty simple. I think we saw the score there and got a little shaky and we made some turnovers we normally don't commit. But hats off to Goreville. They made plays. Our guys didn't quit.”

These Red Devils, who had topped Woodlawn in overtime in the regional championship last Friday night and then added Cairo to their list of conquests on Wednesday, ran into a brick wall in the second half against Goreville.

After connecting on 9-of-20 field goals in the first half and all four of their free throws, S-V slumped badly.

The Red Devils used a quick 6-0 run in the first quarter, sparked by three consecutive turnovers by Goreville as Launius (2) and senior Lukas Gunter scored in transition for a 12-8 lead.

Two free throws by Goreville sophomore Landon Albright got the score to 12-10 S-V at the end of the first quarter.

Sesser-Valier enjoyed a six-point lead four different times in the second quarter.

Winchester converted a three-point play and also bombed home a 3-pointer for an 18-12 spread with 6:11 remaining until halftime.

Winchester later added a pair of free throws and Gunter converted a drive down the baseline.

When Launius hit a pair of free throws with just over a minute left in the second quarter, Sesser-Valier held its largest lead of the night at 26-19.

A free throw made by Goreville senior Peyton Massey sent the teams to the break with the Red Devils up six.

“We were only down six at halftime and we had some guys on the bench (fouls) and we felt like we didn't play very well offensively or defensively,” said Coach Tripp. “We stopped all of that (bad play) in the second half. We set the tone, especially in the third quarter.”

Unfortunately for Coach Garner and his crew, the second half turned out to be a nightmare.

Nine-straight points from Goreville was a “smash to the mouth” as the Red Devils surrendered the lead.

Dunn, Massey and Webb all delivered points on the inside on drives and post ups.

Dunn's second bucket, on a rebound with 4:58 left, gave the Blackcats a 29-26 advantage.

Launius temporarily stopped the carnage with a 3-pointer from near the top of the circle at the 4:00 mark that evened the score at 29-29.

But it would be another 7:29 before S-V would score again.

While the Red Devils shutdown, Goreville went on an 11-0 run to produce its largest spread.

Webb made a steal in the half-court and raced to the other end for a left handed lay up to begin the wave.

Senior guard Morgan Bishop took a nice assist from Webb on a fast break and his score while being fouled by Lukas Gunter turned into a three-point play.

Then with the clock running down in the third, Goreville got three shot attempts with senior forward Cole Tosh getting a tip in just before the horn for a 36-29 Blackcats' lead heading into the pivotal final frame.

Another score from Tosh on a pass from Dunn and a steal and fast break lay in by senior Peyton Geyman, gave Goreville a 40-29 advantage with 5:21 remaining.

Coach Tripp's club could have tucked this game in for the night had they converted from the foul line in the final quarter.

Goreville was just 8-of-15 from the line in the last eight minutes.

Nevertheless, the defense bailed them out as they kept Sesser-Valier from getting closer than what ended up as the final score.

The Red Devils got a 3-pointer from by Launius on an inbounds play and then they later added two free throws from Winchester, a steal off of the press by Joshua Gunter and another bomb by Launius.

This got S-V back to within 44-39 but the clock was running out on the Red Devils season.

The Blackcats finally got some free throws to fall in the last minute, with Massey and Tosh hitting a combined 4-of-6.

Lukas Gunter banked home a 3-pointer from the top of the circle in the final seconds but the Blackcats didn't have to inbound the ball as the horn sounded on the Red Devils season.

“We did a better job this time as opposed to the three other times we played them (one win, two losses) on the way we guarded people. That showed tonight,” said Coach Tripp. “We won this tonight with our defense and that is something that we really aren't known for. Our defense is probably better than it has ever been.”

Coach Tripp saw his club connect on just 16-of-40 shots and they missed all five of their 3-point attempts.

They also survived six fourth quarter turnovers (13 for the game) by having no turnovers during their third quarter push.

Sesser-Valier closed its campaign by hitting just 15-of-48 overall and 7-of-28 from the arc while also coughing up 14-turnovers.

The two teams were even on the boards at 29-29.

“They (Goreville) did a good job of taking away our cut lanes and driving lanes,” said Coach Garner. “They executed and in the postseason that is what it comes down to.”

Goreville improved to 22-11 on the season and they will now face Moweaqua Central A&M on Tuesday night at 6 pm at the 1A Carbondale Supersectional at SIU Arena.

The Raiders (22-8) bested top-seeded Nokomis, 69-56, to win the 1A Sectional on their home floor on Friday night.

“I'm glad I get a banner (to hang in the gym) for basketball,” said Coach Tripp. “I didn't know how I would feel or how I would celebrate, but it feels good.”

Sectional Championship
Sesser-Valier (44) – J. Gunter 1 1 0-1 5, L. Gunter 2 1 0-2 7, Winchester 1 2 5-5 13, Launius 3 3 2-2 17, Rock 1 0 0-0 2, Boles 0 0 0-0 0, Page 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-8, 3FG-7, FT-7-10, PF-22.

Goreville (48) – Geyman 2 0 0-2 4, Massey 1 0 4-6 6, Webb 3 0 7-10 13, Bishop 1 0 1-1 3, Frassato 0 0 0-3 0, Tosh 4 0 1-2 9, Dunn 5 0 1-2 11, Glidewell 0 0 0-0 0, Albright 0 0 2-2 2.
2FG-16, 3FG-0, FT-16-28, PF-16.

Fouled Out – J. Gunter - Sesser-Valier.
Technical Fouls – None.