Thompsonville, Hardin County open GEC with wins
Tigers roll past Carrier Mills-Stonefort; Cougars edge Crab Orchard in OT

– To repeat as champions of a bracketed tournament, there can be no mistakes in any game.

You have to win the first one to defend that last one (tournament) and on Monday night at the annual Greater Egyptian Conference Tournament, the top-seed Thompsonville Tigers took a step towards their second consecutive GEC crown with a convincing 64-43 win over Carrier Mills-Stonefort in Game #2 of the opening night of the event.

It wasn't so much of a “step” as it was a “leap” as the Tigers “pounced” on the Wildcats as they used full-court pressure to build an insurmountable advantage in the first half.

Thompsonville cruised home for the victory, improving the overall mark to 19-2 on the season.

Coach Pete Gordon got all the points his club needed with just five players scoring.

Six-foot-two junior guard Corbin Fitch led the parade with 23-points while 5-foot-10 senior backcourt mate Tyson Kessler added 14.

Six-foot-seven senior center Anthony Darge tossed in 11-points; 5-foot-9 senior guard Peyton Roberts added nine while 6-foot-1 sophomore Grady Furlow put in seven.

Putting the game on ice early, the Tigers advanced to the tournament semifinals where they will face Hardin County, a 60-58 overtime winner over Crab Orchard in Game #1.

The Tigers and Cougars will play Friday night at 8:30 pm.

“The kids played hard tonight, there are definitely some things to clean up but when you jump on teams quickly sometimes it is hard to stay focused with our intensity,” said Coach Gordon. “I took that timeout and told them we don't want to be sloppy. I want to be boring and clean, make free throws, make lay ups. Overall I was pleased with the effort.”

Head coach Keil Peebles has a young team and it showed on Monday night as they struggled with the full-court pressure applied early by Thompsonville.

Carrier Mills-Stonefort fell behind by double-digits in the blink of an eye and never dented the deficit as the Wildcats fell into the consolation bracket with the defeat.

Three different Wildcats scored eight-points to lead their scoring on the night.

Five-foot-nine freshman Colton Mitchell, 6-foot-1 freshman Aidan Rollins and 5-foot-10 junior Trey Collins were the leading scorers for the 2-15 club.

“They (Thompsonville) are a very good basketball team. They play every facet of the game well. We have no answer for Kessler and Fitch. They just get up and down the floor so well,” said Coach Peebles. “They do the things well that our kids are just learning to do.”

The real story of the game wasn't points, it was about turnovers for Carrier Mills-Stonefort.

The Wildcats surrendered 21-miscues in the contest with 15 of those coming in the first half.

Of that total, nine were forced in a dominating quarter by Thompsonville.

By contrast, the Tigers handled the ball well in the first half with just five turnovers of their own.

Coach Gordon's club never trailed as they won their fifth game in succession since the beginning of the new year.

It took just over a minute before the scoring avalanche hit the Wildcats, but when it did the onslaught took away any of the potential upset drama.

Furlow nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner and seconds later Fitch converted a lay up into a conventional three-point play.

Kessler added two free throws and a rebound of his own missed shot as Thompsonville forced a CM-S timeout at 10-0 with 5:22 left.

Darge scored on an assist from Fitch and then Fitch got a feed from Kessler on a lay in.

Another score off of the press on a driving lay in by Fitch made it 20-1 with 2:13 remaining.

Darge and Fitch both added field goals for a 24-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Carrier Mills-Stonefort's sophomore Jeremy Choat hit 3-of-4 free throws to represent all of the Wildcats' points in the period.

The Wildcats wouldn't hit their first field goal until 6:39 of the second quarter, a bucket by Rollins.

As it turned out the second quarter was the best one of the night for Carrier Mills-Stonefort, as they finally got to double-digits in points.

Mitchell scored on a pair of drives to the basket and Collins nailed two 3-pointers.

Thompsonville three more scores from Fitch in the frame and Kessler closed the half on a nice drive in the lane for a short jumper and a 41-18 advantage at the break.

The Wildcats scored the first two buckets of the second half, getting to within 18-points.

But Thompsonville responded with a Fitch and Darge scoring on a fast break and a score in the paint before Roberts nailed down a 3-pointer for a 49-25 lead at the 4:22 mark.

Five late points combined by Fitch and Kessler made it 52-27 heading to the fourth.

Roberts added another 3-pointer and Fitch fast break score off of a Darge blocked shot got the Thompsonville lead to 62-32 which began the continuous clock.

If there is a silver lining to the night for Coach Peebles, it came in the final 4:08 of the quarter with the clock running.

Carrier Mills-Stonefort, with young players on the floor for both teams, outscored the Tigers 11-2 to close out the game.

The Wildcats shot the ball well, when they managed to get attempts, hitting just under 50 percent from the floor (16-of-33) and 6-of-11 from the 3-point line.

But the 15 first half turnovers kept their offense from executing like Coach Peebles would like to see.

“We are just not as fluent and a veteran team like they are,” said Coach Peebles. “When you play that many young kids like we do, you have to expect that.”

Thompsonville was 26-of-48 overall from the floor, 4-of-10 from the arc.

The Tigers held a 24-16 rebounding advantage and they committed the majority of their 16 turnovers in the final two quarters after the damage had been done.

The Tigers own a 61-31 win over their next opponent, Hardin County, in a game that was played at home on January 4th.

Crab Orchard topped the Wildcats back on January 8th, 54-45 at Carrier Mills-Stonefort.

“I thought our defense was focused and locked in for the most part, we got some turnovers that got us some points,” said Coach Gordon. “Carrier Mills is a young team but we know their kids are going to get better and better. Coach Peebles does a great job over there. Overall it was a good day and we look forward to the rematch with Hardin County on Friday night.”

Game #2
Carrier Mills-Stonefort
Carrier Mills-Stonefort (43) – Mitchell 3 0 2-3 8, Hambleton 0 0 0-0 0, Choat 1 0 4-8 6, Z. Rollins 1 0 2-2 4, Reed 0 0 0-0 0, Gilliam 0 0 0-0 0, Betz 1 0 0-0 2, A. Rollins 1 2 0-0 8, T. Collins 1 2 0-0 8, VanMeter 2 1 0-0 7, N. Collins 0 0 0-0 0, Ward 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-10, 3FG-5, FT-8-15, PF-13.

Thompsonville (64) – Kessler 5 0 4-7 14, Roberts 0 3 0-0 9, Furlow 2 1 0-0 7, Fitch 10 0 3-7 23, Darge 5 0 1-4 11, Jones 0 0 0-0 0, Bybee 0 0 0-0 0, Overturf 0 0 0-0 0, Clark 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-22, 3FG-4, FT-8-18, PF-8.

Fouled Out – None.
Technical Fouls – None.
The Cougars rallied for an overtime win over the Trojans in the opening night of the GEC Tournament on Monday.

Trailing late in the contest, Coach Rodney Lane got a key score from freshman Jake Vaughn with :05.9 left in regulation to send the game into overtime and then 6-foot-5 senior Conrad Cowsert scored a pair of quick buckets in the extra session to get the Cougars into the championship bracket semifinals.

Senior Gabe Fowler added four points in the overtime, to go with Cowsert's six extra session points as the Cougars improved to 9-11 on the season.

Sophomore Jermaine Johnson topped Hardin County with 15-points while senior guard Jaron Austin added 13 as eight different Cougars scored.

Crab Orchard saw its record slip to 13-9 with the defeat, in spite of three Trojans hitting for double-digits in points.

Junior forward Hunter Throgmorton scored 17 for Crab Orchard while Tony Lakotich added 16.

Sophomore Kegan Peek tossed in 15.

Game #1
Hardin County
Crab Orchard
Hardin County (60) – Austin 5 0 3-4 13, Je. Johnson 2 3 2-4 15, Fowler 4 0 1-2 9, Jo. Johnson 1 1 2-4 7, Vaughn 1 0 4-7 6, Cowsert 3 0 2-2 8, Smock 1 0 0-0 2.
2FG-17, 3FG-4, FT-14-23, PF-12.

Crab Orchard (58) – Throgmorton 4 2 3-5 17, Dawes 0 2 0-0 6, Peek 5 1 2-4 15, Lakotich 0 5 1-2 16, Powell 2 0 0-1 4, Ray 0 0 0-0 0, Killman 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-11, 3FG-10, FT-6-12, PF-16.

Fouled Out – Peek, Powell - Crab Orchard.
Technical Fouls – None.