Sesser-Valier edges rival Spartans
Red Devils crash offensive glass, rebound from slow start for 52-51 win
SESSER – Rivalry games are special in the sports world and they have been since the beginning of athletic competition in this world.

Sesser-Valier and Waltonville renewed their annual boy's basketball rivalry on Tuesday night.

Although it wasn't an instant classic, it had enough drama to send most of the fans home satisfied.

At least the ones wearing Maroon and White.

In a contest that featured more errors than execution, the host Red Devils did just enough good work to earn a 52-51 victory over the Spartans.

Coach Shane Garner's club put together their best run of the game in the second quarter and somehow made that stand up as they picked up a very important win for the program.

With the coaches in southern Illinois set to seed the regional tournament on Wednesday online, the victory over Waltonville is a nice line on the resume for the club who improved to 14-12 on the season.

After a tough start to the 2016-17 campaign, Sesser-Valier has now won six-consecutive games.

The Red Devils got balanced scoring from eight different players and for some reason they came out on top despite some serious shooting problems.

S-V finished just 19-of-54 from the floor and 13-of-20 free throws.

Improvement on either of those stats would have resulted in a much easier go of it.

Instead the game was in doubt until the final buzzer.

The hosts were also mistake prone handling the ball, committing 12-turnovers, eight in the second half when they could have put the outcome to rest much sooner.

However there was one key stat in which helped the Devils to the win.

They got 13-offensive rebounds out of those missed shots and more than a few times they turned the second chances into points.

Lukas Gunter, a 5-foot-11 junior guard, led the Devils with 16-points on the night while 6-foot-2 senior forward Jamie Lance came up big inside with 11.

Sophomore guard Tyler Winchester added eight-points, including a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that gave the Red Devils back the lead for good.

It was a significant basket as it turned out to be the only made 3-pointer of the night for Sesser-Valier as they were just 1-of-11 from beyond the arc.

On the other side of the coin, the Spartans also had their issues after a strong first quarter beginning.

Head coach Tyler Mitchell saw his team commit 19-turnovers in the game, including five crucial mistakes in the fourth quarter when they needed steady play.

Zane Wilson, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, led Waltonville with 20-points on the night.

Senior guard Isaac McPhail added 11-points and 6-foot-5 senior forward Tanner Spihlmann tossed in 10.

Wilson, a transfer from Sesser-Valier before the school year started, started out hot against his former teammates.

He nailed a trio of 3-pointers in the opening frame, helping the Spartans to their largest margin in the contest.

In fact his bombs fell in succession as Waltonville led 9-2 with 4:55 left in the stanza.

Consecutive baskets by Spihlmann and McPhail and a then two free throws by McPhail gave Waltonville a 15-6 spread.

At this juncture of the game, Coach Garner saw his club begin to find openings in the Waltonville defense which produced some easy shots at the basket.

Reserve guard Addison Baxter entered the game and promptly picked up a couple of assists finding both Preston Lanius and Gunter for easy scores close to the basket.

Joshua Gunter, a 6-foot-1 junior forward, scored his only two-points of the game on a baseline drive as the Devils cut the lead at the end of the quarter to 18-12.

Sesser-Valier outscored the Spartans 15-6 to take the lead at halftime behind its best offensive showing of the game.

S-V was 7-of-13 from the floor, all inside the arc, as they took a 27-24 lead at the break.

“The second quarter they outscored us by nine and we had our turnovers at 17 tonight and just seven assists. And that's not good no matter who you are. We missed some bunnies underneath the basket. We have to be able to finish at the rim,” said Coach Mitchell. “We played hard. It's always a tough game against Sesser-Valier.”

Senior Charles Farmer scored twice in the second quarter and sophomore forward Seth Boles converted a three-point play after grabbing an offensive rebound.

Launius snagged another offensive rebound for the Devils and his stick back with :08 left gave Sesser-Valier its three-point lead at intermission.

“We executed a lot better and got to the rim a lot better in the second quarter. We knew that the speed of the game was in our favor. Our numbers (depth) are better than their numbers and I knew that would be a benefit to us,” said Coach Garner. “Our guys just kept playing. Our guys adjusted tonight. We gave up some easy looks early to Wilson. He is a great player and knocked down some shots.”

The Spartans had several chances in the second half to get themselves a win and squandered several of those in the third quarter.

Five additional turnovers and seven missed shots kept them from the lead.

If you were looking for a shining spot on the chart for the visitors it was their free throw shooting as they ended up 17-of-22 in the game.

They hit 7-of-8 in the third quarter and managed just two field goals, one each from Wilson and Spihlmann.

Lance helped keep the Devils ahead by hitting three shots in close, including a bucket on yet another offensive board for a score and a 38-35 lead at the end of the frame.

Four lead changes and a technical foul highlighted the first four minutes of the fourth quarter.

Waltonville got its first lead since the second quarter, 39-38, on a basket by McPhail and a pair of free throws by senior Dalton Banach, who finished with six-points on the night.

A free throw by Lukas Gunter and a pair of charity tosses by Lance gave back the lead to S-V.

But during the dead ball situation after being fouled by Banach, Lance was assessed a technical foul.

Lance hit his two free throws but McPhail misfired on both of the technical tosses.

The Spartans final lead occurred when Wilson converted two free throws and Spihlmann scored on a drive down the middle of the lane for a 43-42 lead with 4:59 left.

However Sesser-Valier struck back with the biggest shot of the contest, when Winchester found himself open from the right wing in front of the Sesser-Valier bench.

His 20-foot jumper found the mark with 4:02 left.

Lukas Gunter added a drive to the basket for a 48-43 lead.

Waltonville got back close from the foul line as junior Caleb Jourdan and Spihlmann hit 3-of-4 from the line and a basket by McPhail on a drive to the goal cut the lead to just 49-48 with 1:02 left.

A defensive lapse on their press cost the Spartans the game just moments later.

Sesser-Valier broke through the pressure and Lance got the ball for a lay in and a 51-48 lead.

Wilson scored for the Spartans a few moments later as Waltonville took a timeout at 51-50 with :31.5 left.

Having to foul, the Spartans sent Winchester to the line with :11.9 remaining.

Winchester missed the first chance but made the second for a two-point lead.

After another timeout, the Spartans got the ball to McPhail on a set play for a shot at a win from the top of the circle coming off of a screen.

But Sesser-Valier's Lukas Gunter got a hand on the shot, deflecting the ball up into the air.

McPhail ended up with the ball once again and he attempted a game-tying shot.

The shot was no good but Lance was whistled for his fifth personal foul.

McPhail went to the line with just :00.1 left on the clock.

His first free throw closed the gap to just 52-51.

Sesser-Valier then took a timeout and, when McPhail returned to the line, his attempt to even the score was just long.

The ball hit off of the back of the iron and the rebound was tipped by S-V as time expired as the Red Devils survived for the important triumph at home.

The Spartans were 15-of-38 overall from the floor, 4-of-12 from the arc in the game.

Sesser-Valier held a 26-24 rebounding edge, but the 13-offensive boards proved decisive in the Devils' victory.

“We would play good defense and we thought we had a stop, force them to take a bad shot but then they would get an offensive rebound,” said Coach Mitchell. “We have to do a better job boxing out.”

Both clubs have conference work left to do before the postseason begins on February 20.

Waltonville (16- 7) has a non-conference road game at Hamilton County on Saturday before closing out the Midland Trail Conference schedule with a road game at Cisne and a showdown with Wayne City at home on February 17.

Both the Spartans and Indians are unbeaten in the MTC.

Sesser-Valier hosts Goreville on Friday and then they hit the road for games at Christopher and Chester next week in the Black Diamond Conference.

“The best teams are playing their best at the right time and we are playing fairly decent right now. There is a lot we can improve on. We just have to play hard every game,” said Coach Garner. “We lost a handful of games early by a handful of points. After Christmas we told the kids 'Hey lets start winning these games instead of losing them. The BIT (Benton Invitational Tournament) did nothing but toughen us up. Especially on the defensive end. Our guys are continually showing up to get better and that's all we can ask for.”

Waltonville (51) – McPhail 3 0 5-8 11, Banach 1 0 4-4 6, Jourdan 0 1 1-2 4, Spihlmann 4 0 2-2 10, Wilson 3 3 5-6 20, Griffith 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-11, 3FG-4, FT-17-22, PF-15.

Sesser-Valier (52) – J. Gunter 1 0 0-0 2, L. Gunter 6 0 4-6 16, Winchester 1 1 3-4 8, Farmer 2 0 2-4 6, Baxter 1 0 0-0 2, Launius 2 0 0-0 4, Boles 1 0 1-1 3, Lance 4 0 3-5 11.
2FG-18, 3FG-1, FT-13-20, PF-19.

Fouled Out – Lance - Sesser-Valier.
Technical Fouls – Lance - Sesser-Valier.