Sesser-Valier tops West Frankfort
Winchester nets 36-points, passes 1,000 for his career in 81-65 triumph

SESSER – The senior season for Sesser-Valier guard Tyler Winchester opened with a “bang” on Friday night in front of a large home crowd.

It is safe to say this 6-foot-2 shooting guard didn't disappoint anyone wearing Maroon and White on opening night.

Winchester “lit up” the visiting West Frankfort Redbirds as he netted a game-high 36-points in the Red Devils' 81-65 victory.

In the process Winchester surpassed the 1,000-point plateau for his career as he is the lone starter returning from the 2017-18, 21-12 team.

“He (Winchester) is a really nice player. He is going to have a great season,” said West Frankfort head coach Evan Wyllie. “Shane (Coach Garner) does a great job here. I know they are replacing a lot of players but they will be just fine. Winchester is a tough guard for us. We lost him tonight in some bad spots where we needed a stop.”

Head coach Shane Garner saw his club overcome the normal “shaky” moments most teams have at the beginning of a campaign, and the mistakes that come with it, to post a key non-conference triumph.

But most importantly, the Red Devils' defense stepped up in the half-court.

Against a team that wants to get up and down the floor and score a lot of points, S-V forced WF into a tough shooting night by getting back on defense and keeping the Redbirds from getting easy looks at the basket.

Just two nights after picking up a big win over ABV and state-ranked Pinckneyville, Coach Wyllie's Redbirds struggled shooting the ball while also having issues in a half-court setting on both ends of the floor.

The Red Birds, after hitting for nine 3-pointers in an 86-79 overtime win at home over the Panthers Wednesday night, finished just 3-of-24 from the arc (12.5 percent) on Friday against the hosts.

On the defensive end, WF also had issues keeping the Red Devils from getting to the basket.

The Red Devils shot the ball much better in the contest and Winchester did a lot of the damage by getting to the basket and also the foul line.

The senior ended up with four made 3-pointers to go with his six made 2-point field goals.

Winchester also converted 12-of-13 from the foul line.

“He (Winchester) is a special kid. He works hard and he deserves he gets out here. You talk about kids who do things well and have talent. But this kid has talent but works his butt off everyday,” said Coach Garner. “He is just a special player.”

Six-foot-one junior Peyton Bates was second in scoring in the game with 16 for S-V while 6-foot-3 senior forward Seth Boles added 10.

Sophomore Garrett Gunter and junior Logan Kirk tossed in eight points apiece.

Winchester came up big for the entire contest but he helped hold off West Frankfort in the fourth quarter by notching 14 of his points.

He nailed seven consecutive free throws inn his final frame process.

For the Redbirds they were led in scoring by 6-foot senior guard Bryson Dorris with 18-points.

Seniors CJ Johnson and Kyle Hammers added 12 and 11.

“Primarily we wanted to be in position to get good close outs on defense and try to disrupt Johnson and get him off of the cuts to the basket,” said Coach Garner. “We wanted him to have to take tough shots and make other guys make shots. Tonight we were able to do it.”

Although they out-rebounded the Red Devils, 30-22, that was the only statistical category that West Frankfort won.

Coach Wyllie's club coughed up 23-turnovers and hit just 22-of-53 shots overall (41.5 percent) for the contest.

They also never held a lead in the ballgame, forcing just a pair of tie scores in the opening frame.

Behind two early 3-pointers from Winchester and a long range bomb from Bates, Sesser-Valier broke away from a 5-5 tie to lead 13-6 with 3:05 left in the first quarter.

Four late quarter points from Garrett Gunter gave the hosts a 17-10 lead at the end of one.

The Redbirds committed eight of their 23 turnovers in the first quarter and were just 3-of-11 from the floor.

Five-foot-eleven junior guard Quincy King scored all seven of his points in the second quarter for West Frankfort.

He nailed a pair of shots on a backdoor cut and a 3-pointer, which got WF to within 19-15 with just over a minute gone in the stanza.

Sesser-Valier responded with points from Winchester, on a fast break lay in, and back-to-back scores from Boles to push the lead back to double-digits at 26-15.

West Frankfort got the score back to 37-33 at the half with King adding two more points while Johnson and Dorris added transition scores.

King and Winchester traded two made free throws each as the two teams headed to intermission with the Red Devils up just four.

“We knew if we forced them (West Frankfort) to guard us we would have some opportunities to score, especially with their pressure it opened up some lanes in the end,” said Coach Garner. “We executed well tonight.”

As poorly as the Redbirds played in the first half and were only down four points, Coach Wyllie felt pretty good about his team's chances in the second half.

That was, until, the second half began.

Two runs by Sesser-Valier, one in the beginning of the quarter and the other to close it, got the Red Devils back in control.

A 7-0 move, sparked by a pair of Winchester scores sandwiched around a Boles steal and fast break lay in, gave the hosts some breathing room.

Late in the quarter, Kirk scored twice and Gunter hit one last shot to close the scoring.

Having picked up his dribble and not being able to find a teammate to pass to, Gunter pivoted and fired a 12-footer from just to the left of the lane.

His bank shot found the mark to beat the buzzer for a 54-44 advantage heading into the final quarter.

That basket kind of summed up the night for West Frankfort as even when they played good defense at times, they would still give up points.

The Redbirds would get no closer than nine points the rest of the way.

“We were just slow on our rotations defensively tonight. We were late when they would get a drive to the basket. And when they kicked it out, they made nearly every three they shot,” said Coach Wyllie. “On the flip side, they (Sesser-Valier) ran everybody to the ball and clogged all of our driving lanes and we weren't under control when we drove to the basket (three charges in the first quarter) and we struggled shooting the ball.”

A driving lay in by Winchester turned into a conventional three-point play to begin the fourth.

Baskets by Bates and Kirk pushed the lead to its largest of the night at 63-47 with 5:24 left.

The final move by WF was a 7-0 run off of three Red Devils' turnovers.

Hammers, Johnson and reserve Paxton Griffith all scored points that forced a S-V timeout.

After the stoppage, Winchester hit a pair of free throws and nailed a fall away 3-pointer from the right corner as the Red Devils never looked back.

Another drive for a score while being fouled was converted by Bates.

That score put the outcome to rest.

A couple of late technical fouls (on both teams) marred the ending a bit but the outcome wasn't in doubt.

Coach Garner's club ended up 28-of-47 overall (59.5 percent) from the field overall and 9-of-16 from the arc.

They also had some turnover problems as they coughed up 19 of them.

But just seven came after intermission.

Had Sesser-Valier been a bit more proficient from the foul line (18-of-28) they might have breathed a bit easier late in the game.

West Frankfort fell to 1-1 on the season while Sesser-Valier began the campaign with a big win over a 2A SIRR Ohio foe.

Other than Winchester, there were no returning starters for Sesser-Valier who made it to the sectional championship game last March.

Picking up an opening night win at home was a good beginning for the 2018-19 edition.

“We only have three kids (back) that stepped onto a varsity floor (and played minutes) last year,” said Coach Garner. “For these guys to step out there tonight and play the way that they did, I am very proud of them.”

The Red Devils get back to work with a Black Diamond Conference West Division game at Zeigler-Royalton on Tuesday night.

West Frankfort doesn't get much rest as they play host to Trenton-Wesclin, and high scoring 6-foot-5 senior forward Nathan Brede, on Saturday night.

In two games this week, Brede scored 36 and 26 points (31.0 p.p.g.).

“I said in the locker room, the season is like a roller coaster. We were at an all-time high on Wednesday, we knocked off a team (Pinckneyville) with great tradition at home and then you go on the road and we didn't play that well,” said Coach Wyllie. “You have to play well on the road and you have to be ready each and every night. We just struggled tonight.”

West Frankfort
West Frankfort (59) – Levanti 2 0 2-5 6, Dorris 6 1 3-4 18, King 1 1 2-2 7, Griffith 1 0 0-0 2, Hammers 2 0 7-8 11, Dorris 0 0 0-0 0, Johnson 4 1 1-2 12, Culley 1 0 2-2 4, Melvin 2 0 1-2 5, Chullen 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-19, 3FG-3, FT-18-25, PF-24.

Sesser-Valier (81) – Woodland 0 0 0-1 0, Winchester 6 4 12-13 36, E. Gunter 0 1 0-0 3, G. Gunter 3 0 2-2 8, Kirk 4 0 0-0 8, Bates 5 1 3-8 16, Boles 3 1 1-2 10, Eubanks 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-21, 3FG-7, FT-18-28, PF-21.

Fouled Out – Hammers, Johnson - West Frankfort; Gunter - Sesser-Valier.
Technical Fouls – Hammers, Bench - West Frankfort; Bates - Sesser-Valier