Falcons fly past Z-R
Elverado improves to 9-8; win 58-44 at home

ELKVILLE – The Elverado Falcons were in desperate need of a win as they began the second half of their season at home on Thursday night.

After an 8-4 beginning to the season, the Falcons dropped four consecutive games at the Pinckneyville “Duster Thomas Hoops' Classic” last weekend.

Coach Jacob Emling had his team ready as they jumped out to an early lead against long-time rival Zeigler-Royalton and held off the Tornadoes, 58-44, to improve to 9-8 on the season.

Aquntez Penn and Dawson White each netted 17-points while Sam Alstat tossed in 16 as the three underclassmen guards delivered the points in the victory.

Penn, a junior point guard, and sophomores White and Alstat scored all of Elverado's points in a 20-8 first quarter.

The trio did most of their scoring on drives to the basket with White adding a pair of first quarter 3-pointers that got the Falcons an early lead that they never surrendered.

“It seemed like every time they (Z-R) scored we responded. And we got enough stops on defense to put it away finally,” said Coach Emling. “They used some of their size against us tonight and the inside game is where we struggle at times.”

Zeigler-Royalton played well at times during the contest but they couldn't overcome some early mistakes as they remained win-less on the season at 0-10.

There were some bright spots for the Tornadoes as senior forward Cole Sanders led all scorers with 18-points while 6-foot-5 freshman center Gannon Dollins added 12-points on the inside.

Defensively Z-R wasn't too bad on the night as they also forced 13 turnovers by the Falcons.

Unfortunately the Tornadoes didn't get a lot out of the takeaways because they struggled shooting the ball.

“It just goes back to putting it in the hole. Sometimes we adjust our shots because we are scared of getting blocked and sometimes we are drifting away from the basket. Overall it is just going to take repetition,” said Z-R head coach Matt Morgan.

In the opening minutes, the previously mentioned trio of Falcons got their team a 12-2 lead.

White nailed his first two attempts on the night, both from beyond the 3-point arc from the right wing and later the right corner.

After a made shot from Sanders for Z-R, both Penn and Alstat hit shots from mid-range.

Another score from White, this time on a drive in the lane, gave Elverado its first double-digit advantage.

Sanders hit three more shots in the quarter, accounting for all eight of the Tornadoes' points in the opening frame.

His basket on a spin move in the lane cut the deficit to just 14-8 with 2:14 left in the quarter.

But six consecutive points, by, you guessed it, Penn, White and Alstat, made it a 12-point lead.

Coach Morgan saw his club get into a better offensive flow in the second quarter, as they had just one turnover and someone else other than Sanders scored points.

Dollins grabbed an offensive rebound for a stick back to open the scoring.

The Tornadoes also got a pair of 3-point bombs by two freshman; Landen Bate and Trevor Mills, in a run that closed the gap to just 26-20.

But two baskets by Elverado's Trey Bernardini and Penn, both on fast breaks, followed by a bucket from Z-R's senior Noah Leeper, ended the half at 30-22 Falcons.

“Dawson (White) has been our best outside shooter all year long and I asked him 'how many shots have you taken since you hit those two 3's?' and he told me 'none'. I told him 'you need to keep shooting the ball,'” said Coach Emling. “We need to keep shooting the ball from the outside.”

Zeigler-Royalton ran their offense well at times, and they managed to produce some key points in the third quarter.

Getting the ball to Dollins near the basket resulted in a couple of nice lobs for scores.

In fact it happened four times in the quarter which netted the Tornadoes nine-points.

Dollins converted all four times he got the ball in the paint and his fourth made field goal in the stretch turned into a conventional three-point play.

But defensively the Tornadoes also gave up nine-points to Penn in the same time frame.

The 5-foot-10 guard nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing and then converted on a pair of cuts to the basket while also making a big steal for a driving lay in.

His drive in the paint for a short jumper with :04 remaining closed the quarter at 47-35 Falcons.

“We talked at halftime about just running our offense. Moving the ball. One of our biggest issues offensively is that we will get two or three passes and then the ball will get stuck on one side of the floor. We need to do a better job of reversing the ball and making the defense shift,” said Coach Morgan. “When you do that, Dollins is going to be able to get touches. We started out the third quarter and he was able to get a couple of easy touches. That's what we are looking for.”

Zeigler-Royalton got to within eight-points three different times in the final stanza but they never got past that point.

Scoring back-to-back baskets, both by Sanders, got the Tornadoes within 47-39.

However Elverado ran some spread offense and got a pair of back door cuts to the basket for points from Alstat.

After that, the Falcons were sent to the line by Z-R.

Although it wasn't as effective as Coach Emling would have preferred, Elverado finally put the game away.

Penn and reserve Michael Shearer missed consecutive front ends of one-and-one chances, but the Tornadoes couldn't produce points.

In one of the possessions by Coach Morgan's team, they had three missed shots with two offensive rebounds.

Unfortunately for the Tornadoes, the third shot didn't fall either and was grabbed by Elverado.

Two final free throws, this time by White, sealed the ninth win of the season for the Falcons.

Zeigler-Royalton hit just 19-of-46 shots from the floor (41.3 percent) and just 4-of-15 in the final quarter when they needed the points.

Coach Morgan's club did hit the glass on the night, earning a 25-17 edge for the game.

But just 2-of-11 shooting from the 3-point line and three key turnovers in the fourth quarter stopped the potential rally.

The Falcons hit a red hot 26-of-41 (63.4 percent) from the floor overall, mostly on drives to the basket by the scoring trio.

They ended up 3-of-7 from the arc while committing 13-turnovers.

Neither team shot many free throws in a very clean officiated contest.

The Tornadoes were 4-of-7 from the line while the Falcons ended up just 3-of-8, with all three made by White in the fourth quarter (3-of-4).

“That is the thing with our guard play. We can handle the pressure, traps and things like that,” said Coach Emling. “We do a nice job of moving without the ball and we talk about free throw shooting. We even talk about games from last year. We talk about the Meridian game where we made our free throws and won and the Cobden game when we didn't make our free throws and we lost. We practice them and talk about how important they are all the time.”

Elverado gets back into action next week in the South Egyptian Conference as they go on the road to face Agape Christian January 9 while Zeigler-Royalton will host county rival Christopher, also on January 9.

Of the 10 losses this season for Z-R, seven of the teams have winning records and the Tornadoes have been very competitive in the more recent efforts, including Thursday night's loss on the road.

“We didn't shoot the ball well tonight and that has been our Achilles heel all year. We have struggled offensively. Defensively I thought they broke us down some and got us out of it and into man. But 58-points, I'll take that but we have to score more points,” said Coach Morgan. “Especially with the opportunities that we were given tonight.”

Zeigler-Royalton (44) – Bate 0 1 0-0 3, Mills 0 1 0-0 3, Chekevida 0 0 0-0 0, Meadows 0 0 0-0 0, Eldridge 0 0 0-0 0, Imhoff 0 0 0-0 0, Bisaillon 0 0 0-0 0, Leaper 2 0 0-0 4, Sanders 8 0 2-2 18, Humphrey 2 0 0-0 4, Dollins 5 0 2-5 12.
2FG-17, 3FG-2, FT-4-7, PF-10.

Elverado (58) – Alstat 8 0 0-1 16, Penn 7 1 0-1 17, White 4 2 3-4 17, Bernardini 2 0 0-1 4, Caraker 0 0 0-0 0, Floyd 2 0 0-0 4, Shearer 0 0 0-1 0.
2FG-23, 3FG-3, FT-3-8, PF-9.

Fouled Out – None.
Technical Fouls – None.