Tigers shoot down Woodlawn
Nessler nails eight 3-pointers, Spell adds double-double, Herrin wins 66-51
HERRIN – With a decided height advantage, the Herrin Tigers had intended on pounding the ball inside against the smaller Woodlawn Cardinals in their annual Saturday night January contest.

But when they struggled to breech the Woodlawn 1-3-1 defense, Coach Mike Mooneyham saw his club go to an outside attack.

Six-foot-one junior guard Bronson Nesler made the Cardinals miserable from the 3-point arc.

Nesler had broken the school's record for made 3-pointers in a game back during the Eldorado Holiday Tournament by making seven in a game.

He did himself one better on Saturday night, canning eight treys in the Tigers decisive 66-51 victory over Woodlawn.

“When he (Nesler) gets hot, he makes them and never touches the net. Tonight he was hot. I wish we could have hit some last night,” said Coach Mooneyham. “We had better ball movement tonight and it opened some things up for us.”

For Herrin, it was the first ever win over the Cardinals since the two teams began playing back in 2011.

Nesler finished with 27-points while 6-foot-4 senior DJ Spell “spellbound” Woodlawn on the inside, leading the Tigers with 11-rebounds to go with his 15-points.

Senior guard Dalton Bush came off the bench and nailed a couple of 3-pointers and totaled 10-points for Herrin while classmate and backcourt player Jacob Hartline also hit one from the arc and ended up with seven-points.

The Tigers hit 11 3-pointers in the game as they improved to 10-5 on the season with the win, the first against Woodlawn in seven tries.

Coach Brian Gamber saw his club fall to 7-10 on the season with senior leader Blake Wollerman leading the troops with a game-high 29-points.

The 5-foot-11 guard also dialed it up from the outside as well, hitting six 3-point bombs while also scoring points driving to the basket.

However he proved to be the only starter to shine on the night as Herrin held the other four to a combined 11-points.

Freshman Blake McKay stepped off the pine in the second half and provided a spark, hitting three 3-pointers while finishing with 11-points.

The two teams combined for 20 long distance made buckets.

“We talked about we have two choices; play 1-3-1 and try to challenge 3-point shots or play man-to-man and worry about getting in foul trouble,” said Coach Gamber. “I know those guys (Herrin) can make lay ups. So we were trying to force them to make some shots. Unfortunately for us the Nesler kid is a good shooter and he was the guy that we were trying to find. But their size, anytime you can pound it inside and we have to help, then they kick it out and bury 11 3's.”

The difference in the game came on a run by the Tigers at the close of the second quarter and the beginning of the second half by finally getting the ball inside.

With Woodlawn trailing just 24-22, Herrin got a pair of inside baskets by Spell with the second one coming on an offensive rebound as the half closed with the Tigers up by six.

Spell scored twice in the opening minutes of the third quarter and Nesler added two more 3-pointers.

Counting the close of the first half, Herrin's run was 14-0 which put them up 38-22 with 5:54 left in the third.

“They (the players) got a little talking to at halftime and they came out with a different point of view,” said Coach Mooneyham. “We did get on the glass, which we are capable of doing. We tried to transition the ball, we have got to get easier points, some easy baskets.”

Following a Wollerman trey, Nesler struck again with a baseline drive and then another long-range bucket to give the Tigers an 43-25 spread.

Wollerman and McKay each scored in the fourth quarter but so did Nesler, who added yet another 3-pointer as did Hartline.

When Spell grabbed yet another offensive rebound for a stick back on a missed free throw by Hartline, the Tigers led 58-38.

A rebound bucket by senior Jake Downen and a coast-to-coast fast break dunk by Spell sealed the win with Herrin up 62-40.

Wollerman, McKay and Zach Ashby closed the scoring for the Cardinals before both coaches emptied the benches in the final minute.

“They have a couple of kids that can really shoot (Wollerman, McKay) and one of them is a freshman. The senior (Wollerman) really played well tonight. He kept them in the game,” said Coach Mooneyham.

Herrin never trailed and took control in the first quarter by breaking the game's only tie (5-5) with an 11-4 run that produced the first three of the Nesler trifectas.

Bush closed the quarter with a 3-pointer for a 16-9 advantage.

Nesler hit his fourth 3-pointer in the second quarter before Woodlawn clawed to within two-points with 2:48 to go before intermission.

The Herrin avalanche of a run closed the half, began the third and doomed the visitors.

The Tigers, behind Spell, took care of the glass by out rebounding Woodlawn 32-16 and out-shining them offensively.

Coach Mooneyham saw his club hit 23-of-41 from the floor including half of the 3-point tries (11-of-22) for 56 percent total.

Herrin could have made the margin larger had they been more accurate from the foul line (9-of-19) as they didn't take care of the opportunities that the Cards' foul trouble produced.

Woodlawn ended up 18-of-46 overall, as they were better from the arc (9-of-22) than they were from the rest of the floor (9-of-26).

“I thought our kids hung in there. We battled and scrapped. And obviously we aren't going to see that kind of length the rest of the season,” said Coach Gamber. “We knew that this was going to be our toughest game of the year, them and Pinckneyville. I like the effort tonight.”

Both teams are in tournament action, beginning next week as Herrin is at the West Frankfort Mid-Winter Classic and Woodlawn is participating in the Midland Trail Conference Tournament.

“It was the opposite of last night, we had the inside game going against Harrisburg (52-47 loss) but we couldn't hit from the perimeter. Tonight we got our perimeter going and we never established inside,” said Coach Mooneyham. “I'm waiting for us to put together four good quarters of basketball together. When we do we are capable. We have a good inside-outside game.”

Woodlawn (51) – Isaac 0 0 0-0 0, Wollerman 5 6 1-3 29, Bennett 1 0 1-2 3, Hoppa 1 0 4-4 6, Ashby 1 0 0-0 2, McKay 1 3 0-0 11, Rynski 0 0 0-0 0, Hollenkamp 0 0 0-0 0, DeVore 0 0 0-0 0, Fewkes 0 0 0-0 0, Smith 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-9, 3FG-9, FT-6-9, PF-19.

Herrin (66) – Hartline 0 1 1-2 4, Holloway 0 0 0-0 0, Nesler 1 8 1-2 27, Spell 7 0 1-2 15, Cagle 0 0 0-0 0, McCormick 0 0 0-0 0, J. Downen 3 0 1-5 7, Johnson 0 0 0-0 0, Ringel 0 0 0-2 0, T. Downen 1 0 1-2 3, Bush 0 2 4-4 10, Vaughn 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-12, 3FG-11, FT-9-24, PF-11.

Fouled Out – Isaac - Woodlawn.
Technical Fouls – None.