The Herrin Tigers took care of business against the Columbia Eagles at the Freeburg Class 3A Regional semifinals winning 61-45.
Herrin was led by guard Brandon Anthony who dropped a team-high 25 points. The junior got into a bit of foul trouble after drawing two early whistles in the first quarter, but only ended up drawing one more the rest of the game. Fellow senior Drew Ringel added 17 points for the Tigers, as they set their sights on Belleville Althoff in the regional finals.
When asked about the preparation for their next opponent Herrin coach Sayler Shurtz said, “We’ll go and watch some more tape on them (Althoff Catholic) … they’re a very good team and we’ve seen them against South Seven teams this year.”
Herrin led 20-11 after the first quarter thanks to the full-court pressure they put on Columbia. It was clear that the game plan for the Tigers was to force turnovers and they executed it perfectly, leading them to easy buckets.
“They’re a big team with a talented front court,” said Shurtz. “We knew that for us we didn’t really match up against them both height wise and physically.”
“We wanted to make this a track meet and play fast because we have the athletes to put our opponents in pressure situations and it led to some turnovers for us.”
Herrin went into the half with a 33-18 lead, as the Tigers didn’t let their foot off the pedal. Senior Hayden Holloway and Drew Ringel were the only two Tigers to sink a three-pointer. Holloway finished the game with seven points and six rebounds, while junior Luke LeQuatte led the team with seven rebounds.
The second-half was all about getting to the free throw line and controlling the clock for Herrin. Anthony finished the game with 13 free throws.
“Brandon Anthony is a two-year starter for us as a junior but he plays like a senior,” Shurtz added.
Columbia was able to keep up with Herrin in the third quarter, as both teams scored 15 points. That took the game into the fourth quarter with a score of 48-33. The height of the Eagles between 6’8” Cole Khoury and 6’7” Jon Pederson really came into play during the third quarter. Khoury was able to get the crowd back into the game following a third-quarter alley-oop, as he finished the night with 13 points and six rebounds. Pederson had a dunk of his own finishing with the same stat line as his teammate Khoury. The quickness and speed of Herrin seemed to be too much for Columbia to catch up to.
“The offense did a great job of driving the paint and creating plays for us tonight,” said Shurtz. “Doing that allows us not to get into our half-court offense all that much, and we’ve been doing it all year and executed tonight.”
The Eagles seemed fatigued after the first half and a lot of that has to do with the full-court man-to-man press by Herrin. The Eagles did a much better job in the second-half feeding the ball to their big guys in the post. Anytime Columbia started gaining some ground on the Herrin the Tigers would just slow the tempo.
“In the second-half we discussed that if we didn’t have an open path to the basket then we should put the ball in the hands of our seniors,” said Shurtz. “It was important for my guys to know when to put on the pressure and when to pull it back.”
Junior Nic Horner finished the night with eight points, as he was able to convert two of Columbia’s four made three-point shots. Fellow junior Jacob O’Connor was able to snag six rebounds alongside Khoury and Peterson and ended the night with four points.