CARTERVILLE — Pinckneyville scored the first eight points of the game and never looked back beating Carterville, 84-37, to finish a sweep of the River-to-River Conference Mississippi Division for the second year in a row in a boys basketball game Friday night.
"We had a great week of practice," said Pinckneyville assistant coach Nolan Kellerman. "We really stressed defense, getting into passing lanes and really getting off the ball closing out on shooters with high hands. The kids were focused all week and it showed."
Pinckneyville also won its third title in a row and improved to 26-3 on the season and 10-0 in the conference while Carterville dropped to 3-26 and 1-9 in the Mississippi.
"We’ve been telling the kids sweeping this conference is an incredible feat," Kellerman said. "We tell the kids to go undefeated in our conference is unheard of much less two years in a row. Our conference is one of the toughest in the state and we get great matchups every game."
The Panthers were led Grant Jausel with 16 points and J.C. Moll with 14 with Kyle Luke finishing with 10.
Pinckneyville came out blazing after Carterville won the opening tip-off sinking six of their first seven shots including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc to jump out to a 15-3 lead in the first four minutes.
"We also want to gear up for the postseason as well," Kellerman said. "We’re starting to get healthy. Dawson Yates coming back from injury and everybody stepping in doing their job. Each week we’ve been getting better in our half-court offense and that translates into getting high percentage shots."
After missing three consecutive shots, the Panthers finished the first quarter sinking four of its last five shots, including three more from outside to finish the quarter with 10-of-15 from the field and a perfect 6-of-6 from beyond the arc to take a 28-10 lead into the second quarter.
Carterville had a tough time shooting in the first quarter making only 4-of-11 shots total, but was more accurate from long distance sinking 2-of-3 with Justin Johnson making the first one to snap the Panthers 8-0 run and Luke Stritzel sinking the second one.
"Pinckneyville shot it well," said Carterville coach Shane Hawkins. "I asked our guys at halftime, ‘what did they do that was special’. The thing is they don’t reinvent the game. They ran as hard as they could down the floor and they got up and guarded. It’s very simple."
In the second quarter, the Panthers remained hot hitting 7-of-12 shots overall, but missed two shots from beyond the arc while the Lions continued to have trouble from the field making only 1-of-9 shots, including 0-for-2 from long distance.
The Lions were held to just two points in the second quarter as the Panthers extended their lead to 31 at the half.
The Lions trailed 65-21 heading into the fourth quarter, but finished strong scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter. Johnson led the Lions with eight points with Austin Garbe adding seven and Stritzel coming off the bench to also finish with seven.