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Daily Journal
     February 26, 2020      #70-57 KDJ

BOYS BASKETBALL: Manteno, Herscher survive in

By Cody Smith

Manteno — After getting blown out by 20-plus points in its three previous games against Manteno this season, Peotone’s boys basketball team knew it had to try a different strategy when the two teams faced off in the opening round of the IHSA Class 2A Manteno Regional.

The Blue Devils surprised the entire Manteno coaching staff, as well as the crowd, by going against everything they did all season and slowing the game down as much as possible.

Try as they might, the Blue Devils kept things close with the Panthers but ultimately succumbed to the Illinois Central Eight Conference co-champions by a 40-37 final.

“I’m probably going to be told I’m an idiot because we did not play slow like this all year because I can’t stand watching it,” Peotone coach Mike Curta said. “But it gave us a good opportunity tonight; I think it just caught them off guard.”

Although the Blue Devils were able to throw off the Panthers, Manteno scored the game’s last seven points during the final 90 seconds when a traveling call handed the Panthers the ball, a mistake the they immediately made hurt when Robbie Wesselhoff’s 3-pointer made it a one-point game.

From there, it was a free-throw contest, with Manteno ultimately being the team able to execute.

The Panthers intentionally fouled Peotone’s Brock Krska, who ended up going 0-2 from the line with 33 seconds left. After that, Peotone fouled Darien Bechard as he went up to attempt a shot under the basket. This set the Panthers up for a chance to take its first lead since the opening moments of the fourth quarter.

“I just knew I did not want to let my team down,” Bechard said. “I knew this was a big game and was going to be a hard-fought regional for us, and I just didn’t want to let my team down.”

The Panthers proved to not only themselves but to everyone else they can win big-time games without the help of their star players. Both Wesselhoff and Trevor Moisant were limited to just eight points each for the game.

“We keep harping on them that teams are going to do things to take away Robbie and Trevor,” Manteno coach Zack Myers said. “And we’ve got to be prepared for that as a team to figure out what we need to do to still win the game.

“So, it was good to see AJ [Gilliam], Alex [Hupe], Carsen [Monk], Darien and everybody step up and do their role.”

The Blue Devils, who ended their season 2-25, led for much of the fourth and went back-and-forth with the 19-12 Panthers before Bechard and Manteno found a way to win in front of their home crowd.

“It was a great atmosphere here,” Myers said. “And, obviously, being a home game for us was nice but two great crowds.

“It was good to see us battle through some bad moments there for us and be able to finish in the end. Hopefully, that can kind of springboard us into [Wednesday] and, hopefully, get to Friday.”

Stat Book

Bechard paced Manteno with 13 points and five rebounds. Mason Kibelkis scored a game-high 17 points for Peotone, which also got 13 points from Nick Scroppo.

Herscher 46, Momence 39

Tuesday’s second game in Manteno also saw a lot of back-and-forth action between nonconference rivals Momence and Herscher. The classic battle featured 10 lead changes and four ties during the first three quarters.

The intensity only got higher as the game progressed to the fourth quarter, when Herscher’s star forward, Jack Holohan, took over the game.

After being held to just five points in the first three quarters, Holohan erupted for nine of the Tigers’ 17 points in the final quarter to lift the Tigers to a 46-39 win.

His biggest bucket came with less than three minutes left in a one-possession game. Holohan drove and scored in the paint right after Jhett Anderson buried a 3-pointer to cut the Momence deficit to a bucket.

“I started moving more, and my teammates started getting shots opened, which opened me up,” Holohan said.

Holohan finished the game with 14 points and 17 rebounds, team-highs for the night.

“Jack is relentless out there,” Herscher head coach Ron Oloffson said. “He just had a few shots that didn’t go down that normally go down, but he just keeps coming at you. He just keeps coming at you, and sooner or later, he makes you pay, and that is what he has done all year.”

Not only were the Tigers able to get the most out of its star player, but they were also able to get big contributions by some unexpected players. Trey Schwarzkopf gave the Tigers a huge lift in the first half by playing some tough minutes to help keep the Tigers in it.

Additionally, he also hit a huge 3-pointer in the final quarter to help Herscher keep some distance from Momence down the stretch.

“We talked about it after the game, [Schwarzkopf] gave us some huge minutes,” coach Oloffson said. “He did a great job, and I’m really proud of him.”

Although the Redskins were unable to ever take a fourth-quarter lead, they did manage to cut it within one possession two times. They never were able to capitalize on the opportunities that presented themselves down the stretch.

“I can’t fault our execution at all; the shots just didn’t fall,” said Momence head coach Kevin Ecker. “I don’t know what percentage we shot, but it couldn’t have been good. You know, we had opportunities, but we just couldn’t get that last basket to get us over the hump.”

Stat Book

After Holohan’s double-double, Logan Lunsford added 10 points and two rebounds as the next man up for Herscher.

Jaden Walls led the Redskins in scoring, totaling nine points. Jasper Jones added six points and 14 boards.

Up Next

The Tigers and Panthers will square tonight at 7 in semifinal action in Manteno. The winner advances to Friday’s championship.

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