ELDORADO — The last time Eldorado and Harrisburg faced each other in the Eldorado Holiday Tournament championship game was 1987. The two teams have made 19 appearances in the title game since that time, but never against each other.
The 30-year break was worth the wait for Saline County basketball fans as Eldorado defeated Harrisburg, 56-49. For the record, Harrisburg won the 1987 meeting between the Bulldogs and Eagles. And, Eldorado came into Saturday's final as defending tournament champion.
Eldorado’s John Meredith rose to the occasion, scoring 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. He had a personal 8-0 run midway through the quarter.
Despite Meredith’s heroics, the Bulldogs pulled to within a point when Dalton Lambert hit a pair of free throws. Jacob Traxler, an SIU football recruit, gave the Eagles a bit of breathing room, hitting a jumper from the top of the key.
When Harrisburg turned the ball over on the other end, Meredith was fouled. He made both free throws, giving the Eagles a 52-47 lead.
The Bulldogs managed to slice the lead back to three points, but the Eagles made four of six free throws down the stretch to nail down the win.
The first half certainly lived up to the pre-game hype for the standing room only crowd at Duff-Kingston Gym.
With the game tied at six late in the first quarter, Harrisburg scored the final six points on a Lambert conventional three-point play and Isaiah Saulsberry’s buzzer-beating trey.
The Bulldogs stretched the lead to nine in the opening minutes of the second quarter when Carson Burtis canned a long baseline trey.
However, Harrisburg couldn’t build on that lead. The Bulldogs hit just one of their first six shots in the quarter.
Eldorado closed the halftime gap to 28-25 on a personal 6-0 run by Kale Oglesby.
The Eagles’ point guard put together a conventional three-point play before hitting a 3-pointer at the head of the key.
Harrisburg’s Saulsberry led all scorers with 22 points. However, he was the only Bulldog to reach double figures.
Meredith’s 15 points led Eldorado, but the Eagles got 14 from Traxler and 13 from Braden Attebury.
This is the first time in the 53-year history of the tournament Eldorado has won back-to-back championships.
Wildcats take third place: Jake Parr poured in 28 points, 21 in the first half, as Anna-Jonesboro defeated West Frankfort in the third place game of the Eldorado Holiday Tournament.
Parr was unstoppable inside in the first half as the Wildcats built a 42-33 lead. Anna-Jonesboro gradually pulled away in the third quarter. He was the only Wildcat player to reach double figures.
C.J. Hammers led West Frankfort with 12 and Keagan Trash had 10.