WEST FRANKFORT — There was an old basketball coach one time who told his players, “If it feels like leather, let it fly.”
Eldorado’s Braden Attebury clearly subscribed to that philosophy when he rose up from the left wing for a 3-point shot early in the fourth quarter, his team clinging to a three-point lead over Carterville at the West Frankfort Midwinter Classic.
One swish later, Attebury had the last of his game-high 22 points and the Eagles had the momentum shift they needed to hold off the Lions 60-53 at Max Morris Gym.
The 6-4 Attebury, a junior who canned 8-of-15 attempts, mirrored his teammates. Even in late-game situations where most teams look to milk clock and not shoot unless it’s a layup or dunk, Eldorado (19-1) was still popping jumpers or attacking the goal as though the game had just tipped off.
“He wants to take that shot,” Eagles coach Josh Bradley said of Attebury’s fourth quarter 3. “He found a way to get open and take that shot. He’s done it a couple of times this year and he did it last year. He’s got a knack in that moment.”
The 22-footer from the left wing initiated a 9-2 run that reserve forward Raymond May capped with a short jumper in the lane for a 52-42 advantage. Carterville (10-7) edged within four in the final minutes, but was too error-prone to finish the comeback.
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In a performance that did not enthrall coach Shane Hawkins, the Lions canceled out 48.7 percent field goal shooting with 19 turnovers, mostly occurring off careless passes or walking violations.
“We were chipping paint off the walls in all four corners of the building,” Hawkins said. “A lot of them were unforced turnovers. We’d panic and throw it all over the gym. We make the extra pass in practice, but we can’t transfer it over to the game.”
Of course, Eldorado’s defense makes a lot of teams look sloppy. When the Eagles bring the 6-3 May off the bench to team with Attebury, 6-6 Ethan Partridge, 6-3 John Meredith and 6-4 Jacob Traxler, passing lanes have a way of disappearing.
Few teams in southern Illinois boast that kind of height or versatility on the defensive end. Eldorado plays both man and zone, and many of its players can guard multiple positions on the floor.
“We’ve got big guys and we’ve got strong guys,” Bradley said. “We feel like that lineup is a mismatch. We have long guys.”
May and Partridge finished with 12 for the Eagles. Taylor Heil and Luke Ford scored 14 points for Carterville, while Blake Jackson netted 12.