Tigers get past Gateway Academy
Furlow's 25-points leads to 66-54 win; Thompsonville improves to 26-2
– In a contest that in the biggest of regular season pictures amounted to little more that a make up game scrimmage from a snowed out shootout, the Thompsonville Tigers played it like it was a regional title game.

Coach Pete Gordon had his team ready to go against private school Gateway Legacy Christian Academy on Monday night at home.

Playing against a very big, athletic squad at home the Tigers stepped up with a big effort for a 66-54 win in a contest that was originally scheduled as part of the MLK Shootout at Mounds Meridian that was canceled on January 12.

Both schools decided to make the game up and Thompsonville played inspired basketball to notch their 12th straight win while improving to 26-2 on the season.

The Tigers led most of the game and survived some runs by the Lions to pick up a confidence boasting victory.

For most of the season Thompsonville has relied a lot on its top three scorers in seniors Tyson Kessler and Anthony Darge along with junior Corbin Fitch.

All of whom average double-figures in scoring and all three accomplished those numbers in the contest.

However the Tigers continue to prove they have more for defenses to deal with.

Six-foot-one sophomore Grady Furlow, who came in to the game averaging 7.5 points per game, stepped forward with a big offensive effort.

His 25-points, including six 3-pointers, paced the Tigers in the victory.

The aforementioned trio (Fitch 14, Kessler 12 and Darge 10) gave Thompsonville the extra offensive balanced they needed to hold off the Lions.

“I thought the kids 'rose to the occasion' tonight. Our last couple of games our defense has been really good but our offense has kind of stalled. But we shot the ball well tonight and Furlow was on fire tonight,” said Coach Gordon. “He (Furlow) did a really good job getting us out of the gate. It kind of set the tone for us and built some offensive confidence that had been lacking the last couple of games.”

Gateway Legacy from Granite City, an “approved school” but not a full a member of the IHSA, dropped its overall mark to 9-12 on the season.

They are a member of the National Christian School Athletic Association and they were the D-III National Champs last season.

Head coach Deryl Cunningham got 16-points each from Filip Karanovic and Justin Kirksey, both senior guards on the team.

Although the Lions got offensive numbers from six other players, none scored more than eight on the night.

Six-foot-nine junior center Ognjen Kovacevic was held to just eight-points on the night by Thompsonville's defense.

The game was tight for most of the way with the Tigers holding most of the leads.

Both teams came out hot from the field in the opening eight minutes, scoring a combined 45-points.

How “hot” were they in the opening frame?

The combatants hit 18-of-26 shots total from the floor.

Furlow canned three of his six 3-pointers in the first quarter, including the first two buckets of the game for a quick 6-0 lead.

Fitch and Kessler added four-points each the early going and Darge scored six-points on two field goals and a pair of free throws.

His second made bucket was a two-handed dunk which gave the Tigers a 21-13 lead with 1:56 to go.

Karanovic and Kirksey helped keep the pace for the Lions by scoring seven and five-points in the frame with Kirksey nailing a 3-pointer at the buzzer as the visitors trailed 25-20 at the first horn.

Kirksey opened the second quarter by scoring three times, all in transition.

His third bucket got the Lions to within 27-26.

Furlow, however, added another trey and Kessler also scored on a nice drive to the basket.

Karanovic also added to his totals as his score on an inbounds play tied the game at 33-33 with just over a minute before halftime.

Darge got an offensive rebound for a stick back to give the Tigers a 35-33 halftime lead after a high scoring first half.

Gateway got its only lead of the game early in the second half.

Karanovic and senior guard Caleb Moultrie scored on back-to-back trips as the Lions led briefly 37-35.

Thompsonville then went on their best run of the night (13-2) to get the lead to stay.

Darge hit a pair of free throws which was followed by a score from Fitch and consecutive 3-point bombs by senior guard Peyton Roberts and Furlow.

After a score by Kovacevic, Furlow buried another bomb from the left corner as Thompsonville led 48-39 with 3:08 left in the third.

The Lions rallied with a 9-2 run, sparked by Karanovic 3-pointer and a Kovacevic rebound bucket.

Roberts, who only scored five-points for the Tigers, always seems to come up with big plays defensively for his teammates.

He had a hand in two consecutive scores by Fitch to end the third.

He assisted on a shot by Fitch on a drive to the basket and then the senior guard dived after a loose ball and pushed the ball forward to Fitch who scored on a fast break lay in to give the Tigers a 54-48 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“It gets back to playing hard. Sometimes the ball will bounce your way and when you play hard you tend to get some of those breaks,” said Coach Gordon. “He (Roberts) got a piece of it and we ended up getting a score. Sometimes the 'Basketball Gods' shine down on you.”

After playing pretty well in the first two quarters, Gateway committed five costly turnovers in the third quarter which kept them from taking over the game.

An inside score by Kovacevic that began the final quarter turned out to be the final gasp for the Lions.

Furlow got loose in the lane for a score while being fouled by Karanovic.

His conventional “And-One” proved to be all of the points the Tigers would need.

Coach Gordon instructed his team to spread the floor on offense which forced Gateway to chase.

It ended up as a free throw parade for the hosts as they closed the book on the game by hitting 7-of-9 from the stripe.

A back door cut to the goal by Furlow on yet another nice pass from Roberts in the final minute iced away the Tigers win.

When the Lions had the ball in the fourth quarter, they couldn't convert as they were just 3-of-17 from the field.

Thompsonville held Gateway to just 23-of-53 overall after the torrid start.

Coach Cunningham's team was just 4-of-18 overall from the 3-point arc.

The Tigers ended up 23-of-43 overall, 7-of-14 from 19'9”.

The hosts also held a 27-23 rebounding edge.

Thompsonville will host Galatia on Tuesday night for their “Senior Night” and then travel to Norris City-Omaha-Enfield on Friday to close out its regular season, one that has been one of the best in the school's history.

The Tigers are the #3 seed in Sub-Sectional A of the Gallatin County 1A Sectional and will play Grayville on Tuesday night at 6 pm at the Wayne City Regional.

Thompsonville has never won a boy's basketball regional and they will have an opportunity next week to take home that elusive hardware.

“We had some good defensive rebounding positioning tonight where we could get to the ball. Sometimes the ball will do that (find you) when you are in good position,” said Coach Gordon. “We worked hard to try and contain them tonight. It was a good win for us and a good confidence builder. Hopefully we will keep that moving forward.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: Gateway Legacy head coach Deryl Cunningham has quite an extensive and successful background when it comes to basketball. He played at Westchester St. Joseph in Chicago for the legend Gene Pingatore, who is Illinois' All-Time winningest coach. Cunningham was a Parade All-American his senior season (Top 25 Players in the Nation) and is a member of the Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame (2003).
St. Joseph retired his jersey in 2004, where it sits next to the retired jerseys of Basketball Hall of Famer's Isaiah Thomas & Daryl Thomas, who both won NCAA basketball titles at Indiana. Cunningham was also in the 1994 Academy Award nominated documentary “Hoop Dreams” which was filmed at St. Joseph’s. He played three seasons at Kansas State.
Cunningham spent several seasons overseas playing professional basketball before starting his coaching career. He spent ten seasons as an assistant coach at the D-I level at South Dakota State, Indiana State & SIUE. While coaching at Indiana State they made it to the NCAA tournament. Cunningham is in his third year coaching this program that is in its third year of existence.

Game #2
Gateway Legacy Christian Academy
Gateway Legacy Christian Academy (54) – O. Kovacevic 5 2 0-0 16, Moultrie 3 0 0-0 6, Otasevic 1 0 0-0 2, Thomas 0 0 2-2 2, Simon 1 0 0-0 2, V. Kovacevic 4 0 0-0 8, Kirksey 5 2 0-0 16, Rozenstein 0 0 2-2 2.
2FG-19, 3FG-4, FT-4-4, PF-17.

Thompsonville (66) – Kessler 5 0 2-2 12, Roberts 0 1 2-2 5, Furlow 3 6 1-1 25, Fitch 5 0 4-8 14, Darge 3 0 4-6 10, Jones 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-16, 3FG-7, FT-13-19, PF-7.

Fouled Out – Simon - Gateway Legacy Christian Academy.
Technical Fouls – None.