ZEIGLER — Sesser-Valier jumped out to 12-point lead at the end of the first quarter and matched Thompsonville the rest of the way to eliminate the Tigers, 60-44, and advance to the finals of the Zeigler-Royalton Class 1A boys basketball regional on Wednesday.
"Hats off to Thompsonville and Coach (Pete) Gordon they played us to the brink," said Sesser-Valier coach Shane Garner. "We wanted to get a quick start and that way we could contain the post and we were able to do that. I wish we would have executed a little bit better, but we’ll work on that. We’re now looking at Friday night."
The Red Devils finished with three players in double digit scoring led by Tyler Winchester with 19 points, including five 3-pointers. Lukas Gunter added 15 and Peyton Rock 10.
"We’re usually pretty consistent out there when we play together," Winchester said. "Just like any team we have our struggles, but we usually come through. Friday should be an evenly matched game and I think if we play our usual game we can win it."
Sesser-Valier’s offensive production was evenly spread out amongst the four quarters with the Red Devils making six baskets in each quarter for a total of 18-of-32 from the field, including 6-of-11 from beyond the arc.
Ironically, it was the first quarter that the Red Devils had their worst shooting, making only 6-of-14 shots, but it was also the quarter in which Sesser-Valier took a 15-3 lead.
Thompsonville’s only bad quarter shooting also came in the first, hitting only one of eight from the field, including missing all three of its 3-point attempts. The score was 6-0 on Winchester’s first two 3-pointers before the Tigers scored their first point when Tyson Kessler went to the line for a shooting foul and missed his first free throw, but made his second.
Peyton Roberts followed with a layup, to cut the lead to 6-3, but that was the last time the Tigers would score missing their final three shots, including two 3-pointers as the Red Devils finished the quarter on a 9-0 run that included another 3-pointer by Winchester with 39 seconds left.
"It was a bad game plan for us to start out in a zone," said Thompsonville coach Pete Gordon. "Chester had played them a zone and we thought we could probably replicate that, but we lost Winchester a couple times early and they shot really well and that cost us. When we gave up on the zone it was kind of an even game."
The second quarter was totally different with the Tigers sinking 8-of-14 shots, but the Red Devils almost matched them basket for basket shooting 6-of-10, including 3-of-4 from the outside.
When the dust settled, the Tigers could only shave two points of the first quarter lead hitting the locker room down 30-20.
"We relied a lot on our length when it came to rebounding instead of putting our bodies on their bodies and relying on our fundamentals and it didn’t work," Gordon said. "They were able to screen us out and killed us on the glass. We had them out-rebounding us by 14 and that was probably the first time all year that we’ve lost the rebounding battle by that large of a margin."
The third quarter was more of the same with the Tigers shooting 7-of-11 and the Red Devils 6-of-9 and the margin remained at 10 heading into the fourth quarter.
Anthony Darge opened the fourth quarter with a layup to cut the lead to eight, but Winchester matched him 20 seconds later. The Tigers trailed by nine with 1:47 remaining, but missed their final four shots, including three from beyond the arc in a last ditch effort to close the margin.
Darge led the Tigers with 14 points with Corbin Fitch adding 12 and Reed Raubach nine.
Sesser-Valier (19-11) will play Woodlawn (20-8) Friday at 7 p.m. The Cardinals eliminated Steeleville, 66-58, in the second semifinal. Woodlawn was led by Blake McKay with 26 points followed by Jackson Bennett with 16 and Blake Fewkes with 15. Steeleville was led by Austin Hagel with 16, including four 3-pointers and Owen Gross with 15 with three coming from beyond the arc.