JOHNSTON CITY — As befits a team replacing nearly every key player that’s also adjusting to a new coach, Johnston City’s boys have struggled to respond to opponents’ big runs and to finish out games.
The Indians made progress in both areas on Friday night, answering Galatia’s 14-0 spurt in the third quarter with a 12-2 burst of their own that allowed them to regain control of a 69-57 non-conference decision at Starrick Gym.
Junior guard Chase Selby fired in a game-high 27 points for Johnston City, including nine straight in a two-minute span bridging the third and fourth quarters. Matt Campbell added 17, sinking a 3-pointer with 4:28 left for a 58-48 advantage, and Houston Hall contributed 15 points to go along with six assists.
For long-time Carterville coach Scott Burzynski, who’s in his first season at the Indians’ helm, it was a sequence he’s wanted to see.
“We’ve had some situations where a team has made a run at us and we didn’t respond,” Burzynski said. “Tonight, we did. When we needed a play, we made the play. We didn’t shoot free throws well, but we made a couple when we needed to.”
Leading 34-20 after Selby canned one of his four 3-pointers to start the third quarter, the Indians (3-7) let the margin slip away in less than four minutes. The Bearcats (4-7) evened the score at 34 at the 3:41 mark with a baseline jumper from Will Pulliam.
Instead of fading, Johnston City fought back. Tyler Yotkewich stuck back a missed Selby 3 for a 36-34 edge, starting the run that put the Indians back on firm footing. Selby finished the burst with a transition layup, forcing Galatia coach Rod Wallace to burn a timeout with 1:04 left in the period.
“We played four minutes where we made the right decisions with the ball and did smart things,” Wallace said, “and then we went right back to what we did the first 16 minutes.”
Senior guard Austin Stevens tallied 22 points to lead the Bearcats, while 6-3 center Ben Mitchell scored all 14 of his points in the second half before fouling out. Pulliam finished with 10.
Luca Gualdoni hauled in a game-high 11 rebounds for the Indians, which overcame 12-of-27 foul shooting with solid rebounding. They won the board battle 40-31, grabbing 22 of their missed shots.
Next up for both teams: Dates in Sesser-Valier’s tournament next week. Burzynski has a simple goal for his team.
“We want to play four games there,” he said.
If Johnston City can meet adversity head-on next week like it did on Friday night, it might be able to do that.