NORRIS CITY — Goreville did what it took to sneak past Okawville in the semifinal round of the Class 1A NCOE Sectional with a 60-55 victory on Wednesday night.
It was a back-and-forth game for both sides, but a big second quarter surge put on by Goreville proved to be the difference in the end. Okawville didn’t lead the entire game and found itself trying to claw back after losing the second quarter battle 20-14.
Nick Compton got the run started for Goreville in the second quarter when the senior converted on an and-one layup that put his team ahead 21-14 after the made free throw. Then it was Kanon Webb’s turn with a 5-0 run of his own that pushed the Blackcats lead to 10 after drilling a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Goreville earned its largest lead of the game a couple possessions later when senior Luke Brown hit Landon Albright on an outlet pass for a routine layup to move ahead 28-16 before Caleb Uhverfeht countered with a 3-pointer for Okawville.
The Blackcats took all the momentum into the locker rooms with a 32-21 lead, and missed on a chance to extend that lead even further after Briley Dunn got a good shot off from beyond the 3-point arc, but it wouldn’t go.
“We beat a really good team tonight and we’ve watched a lot of film on Okawville,” said Goreville coach Todd Tripp. “They’re a very well-coached team and we all know what coach Jon Kraus brings to the table.”
Goreville forced 10 turnovers on Okawville with five coming in each half. Defending the 6-foot-8 senior Jackson Heckert down low was the Blackcats main priority, which led to some of their shooters getting clean looks from 3-point land.
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Despite losing the 3-point battle 6-2, Goreville hit its free throws down the final stretch to hold off Okawville.
Albright led the way for Goreville with eight points in each half to tally a team-high 16 points. Cam Hines played good minutes off the bench with 10 points, while Trent Glidewell and Compton each finished with nine points.
It had seemed Goreville sealed the win when Albright launched a downcourt pass to a wide open Glidewell standing underneath the basket after busting Okawville’s full-court press. Glidewell took his time before slamming down the two-handed dunk to give the Blackcats a 56-47 lead with 45 seconds remaining.
Okawville would hit a couple 3-pointers down the stretch, but Goreville ultimately won the fourth quarter battle 16-15 after leading by nine at the conclusion of the third quarter.
“We had to play the game on our terms and our goal was to keep it in the 40’s,” said Kraus. “We thought that if we kept it in the 40’s that we’d win, but we told our guys that if it got in the 60’s we’d probably get beat.”
Okawville (22-9) finished with three players in double-digits. Lucas Frederking rang home a couple 3-pointers to lead the Rockets with 13 points. Heckert would finish his evening with 11 points.
Goreville (33-2) will get a second crack at Woodlawn in Friday’s sectional championship game after the Blackcats lost to the Cardinals by five points back on Feb. 1. Tripp liked the defensive effort put on against Okawville after his team drew three charges and hopes to carry that momentum into Friday.
“We know who Blake McKay is and we knew about him before they beat us the first time this season,” said Tripp. “He lit us up, but we’ll be ready and these kids have had a bad taste in their mouths since then.”
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