PINCKNEYVILLE — What’s next?
That’s the mantra coach Jim Miller tries to instill in his Carbondale basketball team, and it never came in more handy than this weekend.
Coming off their second double-figure loss of the season Friday night to a Centralia team that's suffering through a rare losing season, the Terriers authored quite a bounceback Saturday night at the Panther Basketball Showcase.
Leading nearly wire-to-wire, Carbondale established a 13-point third quarter lead, then protected it with 15 of 18 foul shooting in the last 77 seconds to hold off Pinckneyville 56-51 in Duster Thomas Gym.
Jakeba Burleigh scored a game-high 22 points and came up with four steals to earn the game’s Most Valuable Player honors for the Terriers (18-4). They handed the Panthers (22-3), ranked seventh in Class 2A this week, just their second loss in 24 games.
“How about the character these guys showed? They showed a lot of maturity and trust in each other,” Miller said. “I thought their energy level was as good as it’s been all year and their poise was outstanding.”
Davaris Macklin added 18 points and six rebounds for Carbondale, which made 10 of 18 field goal tries in the second half and also outrebounded Pinckneyville 21-18. The Terriers came up with 10 second chance points off eight offensive boards and won most of the 50-50 balls against a team known for its all-out effort.
It was billed as a matchup of two of the best defensive teams in Southern Illinois, and the first half lived up to that description – and then some. Neither offense gained any kind of traction as the defenses contested every inch of floor.
The Panthers’ motion offense is usually one of the most efficient in the area, but Carbondale’s lateral quickness completely gummed them up. On 21 first half possessions, Pinckneyville scored on four of them, which explains why the Terriers took a 14-8 lead to the locker room despite connecting on just 5 of 17 shots.
“Their speed and quickness on the ball caused us a lot of problems early,” Panthers coach Bob Waggoner said.
Pinckneyville’s problems in the second half occurred when it didn’t have the ball. Carbondale gained the separation that helped it win the game in a stretch of less than two minutes during the third quarter when it suddenly started whipping the Panthers off the dribble.
The Terriers scored on five straight possessions, all ending with layups. Burleigh had four of them, capping the stretch with a steal and a score for a 25-13 lead.
“Their attack was continuous,” Waggoner said. “I thought we got broke down a few times with some different guys in poor matchups.”
But the Panthers still found a rhythm offensively, scoring on seven consecutive trips down the floor and bringing their large crowd into the game. When Dawson Yates converted a 3-point play with 5:48 left in the game, Pinckneyville drew within 34-29.
However, Carbondale wasn’t interested in ceding control, not on this night. Macklin canned a tough, hanging baseline jumper, followed by a bold drive and score from Fairleigh Ward for a 38-29 lead with 4:48 left.
At that point, the Terriers went into delay mode. The Panthers chased for about two minutes but eventually had to play a fouling game. Even though Burleigh sank 9 of 12 in the last 2:27, Pinckneyville still extended the game with four 3-pointers in the final 3:07.
Dylan Houghland’s 3-ball made it 52-48 with 17.5 seconds remaining, but Carbondale made four more free throws to seal a well-deserved win.
“I thought our kids did a great job of getting baseline penetration and playing through contact,” Miller said. “You can’t bounce off people in this game. You have to finish plays through contact. They finished plays or they got to the line and finished there.”
Yates, who scored his 1,000th career point in Friday night’s 46-34 victory over Sparta, paced the Panthers with 14 points. Hunter Riggins added 12 and Houghland came off the bench to score 11.