WEST FRANKFORT — Eldorado needed free throws to withstand a furious comeback by Cairo in the last part of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, finally holding off the Pilots, 72-56, to win its first tournament title since 2008 at the 32nd Annual West Frankfort Boys’ Mid-Winter Classic Saturday night.
"We knew it was going to be a fast-paced game and we hoped we wouldn’t get caught up in it," said Eldorado coach Josh Bradley. "We did a little bit, but we were able to slow down in the fourth quarter to separate. It was a heck of a game between two good teams playing physical ball. It was the kind of game it should be for a championship. We’re still undefeated, 21-0, and three tournaments. It’s kind of hard to believe."
The Eagles (21-0) held a 13-point lead with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter, but the Pilots went on a 16-4 run to cut the lead to one 28 seconds into the fourth quarter. Eventual tournament MVP Damarius Taylor led the charge on both ends of the court, making steals and converting them into baskets.
At that point the Eagles began to draw fouls, and made 8-of-12 from the line — with Braden Attebury making 5-of-8 during the streak — and converting 19-of-28 overall in the game.
The first half was non-stop action from one end of the court to the other. Cairo took the early lead when Damarius Taylor canned a 3-pointer from the right corner to open the game.
The Eagles reversed that margin when Kale Oglesby stole the ball and fed Jacob Traxler for a fast break layup. Oglesby did it again, feeding Ray May for another layup. Traxler followed with a putback, and the Eagles led 6-3.
Cairo returned the favor with Terrell Jones sinking a basket and Taylor swishing a 3-pointer to take a four-point lead with 2:46 remaining in the first quarter.
Eldorado closed out the first quarter with John Meredith sinking two free throwsm followed by Braden Attebury splitting a pair and May picking off a pass and feeding Attebury for a layup with 16 seconds left to give Eldorado an 11-10 lead heading into the second quarter.
The Eagles jumped out to a five-point lead in the first 3:24 of the second quarter, but the Pilots rallied to take the lead, 25-24, with 1:40 remaining. The Eagles scored on a May layup with 61 seconds left to take a 26-25 lead into the intermission.