Steeleville's defensive effort earns win
Warriors shut down Valmeyer, improve to 1-0 in Kaskaskia Division

- On nights when the offense doesn't produce enough made shots, good teams get the job done in other ways.

On Monday night against visiting Valmeyer in the Cahokia Conference Kaskaskia Division opener for both teams, Steeleville got the victory with a dominating defense and rebounding effort in the 51-39 win at home.

Coach Aaron Fiene saw his club struggle shooting the ball at times during the physical game against the Pirates but they didn't give up many open looks on the other end of the floor.

Forcing Valmeyer into some early turnovers, Steeleville got an early advantage and the defensive effort never took a break as the Warriors improved to 3-3 overall and 1-0 in the division.

Six-foot-one junior guard Owen Gross was the top offensive weapon for the Warriors as he netted 23-points to pace all scorers.

Bradley Mevert, a 6-foot junior, added 10-points for the Warriors.

Steeleville got Valmeyer into foul trouble and in the fourth quarter they put away the Pirates by making 15-of-20 free throws in the final 4:36.

“We buckled down on defense tonight. We really wanted to put pressure on the ball and deny. Valmeyer has a couple of really nice players and we wanted our guards to get after the basketball and tonight we did,” said Coach Fiene. “We have talented offensive players but we really defend well, too.”

Valmeyer got 13-points from senior guard Cole Juelfs and nine-points from sophomore Philip Reinhardt.

But that was about it for the Pirates, who fell to 0-1 in the league and 3-3 overall.

Coach Rick Crossin saw his team struggle with turnovers along with missed shots and opportunities.

Valmeyer battled the whole game, but they squandered chances in the first half and then they paraded the Warriors to the foul line in the fourth quarter.

Steeleville hit 22-of-32 free throws in the game while Valmeyer couldn't get to the stripe often enough.

The Pirates were 4-of-6 from the foul line.

The hosts opened up the game like they were going to have an easy night.

Behind three consecutive scores from Gross, including a score off of the opening tip as he drove to the basket for basket, Steeleville led 6-0 with just two minutes gone.

Gross scored 13 of the Warriors' 17-points in the first frame as he added another bucket on a mid-range shot from the right wing, a 3-point bomb from the top of the arc and a pair of free throws for a 15-5 advantage.

Valmeyer's Owen Miller scored eight-points for his team, including five in the first quarter.

He and Juelfs each hit 3-pointers in the quarter, which closed at 17-8 Steeleville.

The Pirates made a game of it in the second quarter, in their best stretch of the contest.

Juelfs and Miller each added 3-pointers and Juelfs scored on a baseline drive to get Valmery to within 19-16.

In the quarter, Steeleville committed three turnovers and hit just 2-of-8 shots from the floor.

After a free throw by Mevert and a steal and fast break lay in by Gross, the Warriors were back up 22-16.

But a pair of bad possessions led to three easy scores by the Pirates to get the game tied at intermission.

Valmeyer senior forward Michael Chism scored seven-points in the game, including two consecutive scores on nice assists by Miller.

Leading 22-20, Steeleville held the ball for a final shot with under a minute left in the half.

But they ended up taking an ill advised shot with some time left on the clock.

Chism grabbed the rebound and found senior Andrew Whipple on the fly heading toward the Valmeyer basket.

Whipple beat Gross to the goal and his lay in beat the horn to even the score at halftime.

After being in control in the first quarter, Steeleville let the Pirates off hook.

But the momentum that Valmeyer had going into the break didn't last.

The Pirates only had one turnover in the third quarter but they couldn't seem find the basket.

Coach Crossin saw his club hit just 2-of-11 attempts in the frame.

Steeleville used a pair of scoring runs, fueled by their solid defense and rebounding, to get back to a comfortable advantage.

A 7-2 sprint to begin the half gave the Warriors a 29-24 lead.

But Gross picked up his third foul trying to take a charge and went to the pine with 4:43 left.

In his absence, his teammates stepped up.

Reserve junior guard Gavin Conway scored on a drive to the basket and sophomore guard Jacob Sutton hit the glass for an offensive rebound in the middle of the lane with the clock winding down.

His turnaround jumper in the paint found the mark before the buzzer as the Warriors led 34-27 heading to the fourth.

One free throw by Chism and a bucket by Juelfs got Valmeyer back to within four before the Coach Fiene decide that it was time to run some clock by spreading the floor.

Valmeyer began to pick up fouls and eventually Steeleville ended up in the bonus and then the double-bonus.

The Warriors then hit five-consecutive free throws.

On the fifth free throw, in a 1-and-1 situation by junior Mel Mulholland, as the ball was going in Valmeyer's Whipple was whistled for a technical foul while lined up for a rebound.

The free throw counted and Mulholland then missed the second of the 1-and-1.

Mulholland then hit 1-of-2 of the technical foul attempts with the ball going back to Steeleville as they were now up 41-32 with 2:46 to go.

Mevert hit four-straight free throws (5-of-6 total) as he combined with Mulholland and sophomore Austin Hagel to hit 8-of-10 to close out the win.

Steeleville won the contest, despite hitting just 1-of-9 from the 3-point arc and 14-of-32 overall (43.7 percent).

The Warriors committed 10-turnovers, but four of them came in the final moments when they weren't shooting free throws.

They held a 23-18 rebounding edge, with 15 of those coming in the second half.

Valmeyer ended up 15-of-38 overall (39 percent) with just 5-of-18 from the arc.

When they need the 3-pointers the most, in the fourth quarter, they were 0-of-6.

“Defending the basketball and keeping them from getting to the rim is important. Our number one stat is opponents field goal percentage. We want to hold them short. We want them to work for what they get,” said Coach Fiene.

Both teams get right back into action on Tuesday night with the Warriors set to host new division rival Red Bud while Valmeyer will get back on the bus for a trip to Lebanon.

Red Bud switched divisions in the Cahokia Conference after Salem joined the league for the 2017-18 season.

The Musketeers and Warriors met last Friday at the Trico Tournament with Steeleville winning 32-25.

“After the Trico Tournament our big focus is limiting our turnovers and doing a better job rebounding,” said Coach Fiene. “I think those two factors were a big part of why we won the game tonight."

Valmeyer (39) – Crossin 0 0 0-0 0, Julfs 3 2 1-2 13, B. Miller 0 0 0-0 0, Whipple 1 0 0-0 2, O. Miller 1 2 0-0 8, Rowold 0 0 0-0 0, Reinhardt 3 1 0-0 9, Chism 2 0 3-4 7, McCarthy 0 0 0-0 0, Ford 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-10, 3FG-5, FT-4-6, PF-24.

Steeleville (51) – Valleroy 2 0 1-2 3, Wittenborn 1 0 2-4 4, Gross 8 1 4-4 23, Mulholland 0 0 5-9, Mevert 1 0 8-12 10, Eberts 0 0 0-0 0, Foutch 0 0 0-0 0, Conway 1 0 0-0 2, Stearns 0 0 0-0 0, Hagel 0 0 2-2 2, Wilson 0 0 0-0 0, Sutton 1 0 0-0 2, Gerlach 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-13, 3FG-1, FT-22-32, PF-12.

Fouled Out – Juelfs, McCarthy - Valmeyer.
Technical Fouls – Whipple - Valmeyer.