SESSER — Goreville and Sesser-Valier played two weeks ago in the championship game of the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament.
The Red Devils had a chance to nail down a win late in that game, but let Goreville off the hook. That didn’t happen on Tuesday night. Sesser-Valier took a 40-37 lead into the fourth quarter and controlled the final eight minutes, winning by a 64-48 margin.
That defeat two weeks ago was in the back of the Red Devils’ psyche.
“A little bit,” said Sesser-Valier coach Shane Garner. “Our guys were up for them. These two classes have always battled against each other growing up. They were ready for this game. They knew it had some big conference implications. And, it was at home. We want to protect our home.
“We converted on the free throws. We protected the ball a little better. We worked on some things. That game was a good learning experience for us. Our kids put in work the week after that, protecting the ball, reversing the ball, taking care of the ball and doing the things we need to do at the end of the game. That showed tonight.”
It didn’t take long for the Red Devils to give themselves some fourth-quarter breathing room.
Preston Launius hit a tough jumper in traffic on Sesser-Valier’s first possession. Then after a stop on the defensive end, Lukas Gunter put together a conventional three-point play, giving the Red Devils a 45-37 advantage.
The Blackcats didn’t go down easily.
Braden Webb hit a 3-pointer with 4:33 left to close the gap to five points, but the Red Devils went on a 7-2 run to put the game on ice.
The Blackcats struggled on the offensive end throughout the game, turning the ball over 21 times.
“Really overall, it was an ugly game by both of us, the first half for sure,” said Goreville coach Todd Tripp. “We had way too many turnovers. They cleaned it up the second half, we didn’t. I think that was the biggest difference.
Garner readily agreed the game wasn’t an artistic success.
“You know shots weren’t falling, missing layups, the ball going all over the place, but I think maybe that was two teams wound a little tight coming into this game,” he said. “I’m very proud of our kids for answering the second half. I thought we were more relaxed, we started finishing at the rim a little bit and hit some free throws.”
The Blackcats were without starting forward Tanner Dunn, who missed the game due to the flu.
“We had a kid out,” Tripp said. “We had some kids battling the flu. I really thought we got tired there at the end. You could see it. That’s due to their pressure. They kept it up all night. They just had a better second half than we did.”
Webb led Goreville with 14 points while sophomore Landon Albright chipped in 10 off the bench.
Lukas Gunter led the Red Devils with 18. Tyler Winchester scored 13 and Launius and Josh Gunter each had 10.
Sesser-Valier is now 5-0 in Black Diamond Conference play. Goreville is 2-2.