SESSER — Nothing came easily for the Goreville Blackcats in their 65-63 win over Sesser-Valier in the championship game of the 37th Sesser-Valier Holiday tournament.
The Blackcats had to battle back from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter – they did that. They had to survive the final three minutes without point guard Braden Webb. They did that.
In the final minute, they had to survive a turnover on an inbounds play after an inadvertent whistle. They did that too.
The situation looked bleak for the Blackcats when Webb picked up his fifth foul on a charging call with just under three minutes remaining. Goreville was trailing 61-58 at the time.
“When one of the best players in the South is not on the floor for you, you’re just hoping the rest of your players sustain that and overcome that issue,” said Goreville coach Todd Tripp. “That’s something we dealt with early in the season. He was hurt early in the year. We practiced about two-and-a-half weeks without him. I think that showed up tonight for us.”
“Hats off to them for digging a little deeper,” said Sesser-Valier coach Shane Garner. “We thought that was, that was definitely to our advantage, but we didn’t take advantage of it. They came out on top.”
However, after having just six turnovers in the first 30 minutes, Sesser-Valier turned the ball over twice. Those miscues resulted in a Peyton Geyman runout and a Peyton Massey driving layup.
“We had the travel, then we had the throw out of bounds,” Garner said. “That’s just two possessions we gave away without even an attempt to score, an attempt to do anything. That’s just empty possessions at the end of the game, and that can’t happen inside two minutes.”
Massey’s bucket gave the Blackcats their first lead since the opening minutes of the second quarter.
An exchange of free throws left the game tied at 63 with about 20 seconds remaining. Goreville had the ball in the frontcourt when an official stopped the game on an inadvertent whistle. The Blackcats turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play.
The Red Devils got the ball to senior point guard Lukas Gunter found a path to the bucket. Gunter’s layup rolled across the back of the iron, but refused to fall.
Geyman ripped down the rebound and fired an outlet pass to Tanner Dunn. Dunn’s layup with just over 14 seconds left accounted for the winning margin.
“Peyton Geyman will tell you, he made a big turnover there (on the inbounds play),” Tripp said. “They came down and missed and he got the biggest rebound of the game. You could just see it on his face. I’m happy for him because that turnover could have been costly.”
Sesser-Valier had a final opportunity to win the game, but Tyler Winchester’s long 3-point attempt fell short at the buzzer.
Tripp admitted the game was a struggle, particularly in the first half.
“We felt like we didn’t play well,” he said. “You want to say that when you’re behind. They hit a lot of shots and we couldn’t get anything to go, but we continued to stay in the ballgame. We got stops when we needed it and we hit the big shots when we needed it.”
The Blackcats placed four players in double figures. Webb and Massey led the way with 16 while Cole Tosh had 13 and Dunn scored 11.
Gunter and Preston Launius had 13 apiece for Sesser-Valier while Winchester had a dozen and Addison Page added 10.