CARTERVILLE — Eli Downen scored all of his game-high 14 points in the second half after sitting all but three minutes in the first half because of foul trouble to lead Carterville to a 45-38 upset win over unbeaten Pinckneyville in a SIRR-Mississippi Division battle Saturday night at the Lions Den.
“I thought being able to survive the first half with Eli not playing showed the character of this team,” said Carterville coach Shane Hawkins. “The guys really competed and played hard and kept us in the game. It was a one-point game at halftime and he hadn’t played, so I think our guys felt comfortable going into the second half. You have to match Pinckneyville’s intensity for each possession in 32 minutes for the first time in seven years. This was a great win for our program.”
Carterville won its second in a row and improved to 2-1 in the conference and 4-1 overall, while Pinckneyville dropped to 2-1 in the Mississippi and 5-1 overall.
“I’m not disappointed,” said Pinckneyville coach Bob Waggoner. “I just thought we just let one get away. There were a couple big plays on a rebound putback where we have had the ball. We had the lead for three straight possessions where we had a missed rebound putback for a three and a turnover for another three that took the lead. People don’t realize how much that matters in games like this.”
Carterville trailed 6-3 after the first quarter and pulled within one at the half. The Lions trailed by the same one point heading into the fourth quarter, but Downen gave the Lions a lead on a layup 38 seconds into the final eight minutes and the Lions never looked back.
“We kept coming back to make the next point when we needed it the most, and that’s all you can ask of your team,” said Carterville coach Shane Hawkins. “I told my guys the level of expectation just raised a little bit more because now the games get a little bigger. Hopefully we get to play on Tuesday when we are playing for the lead in the conference.”
Forty-eight seconds later Downen upped the lead to three on another drive, but Ben Restoff cut the lead back to one 13 seconds later.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Carterville guard Peyton Bittle and Pinckneyville guard Duke Riggins in a 17-second span left the margin at one until Bryce Anderson made it back-to-back-to-back from the right edge of the key to give the Lions a four-point lead with 3:40 remaining.
Pinckneyville cut the lead back to one at the free throw line with Dre Scott making a pair with 2:15 left and after Restoff stole the ball and got fouled, the senior guard made his first but missed his second with 2:02 remaining.
With 1:54 left Caden Hawkins was sent to the line and missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Downen muscled the rebound and scored to up the lead to three with 1:53 remaining.
Carterville was sent to the line two more times over the next 42 seconds, but missed another front end and both of a two-shot foul leaving the lead at three with a minute remaining. Pinckneyville had a chance to cut the lead to one, but Kellen Scott got caught up in the foul line troubles missing another front end of the one-and-one.
Downen grabbed the rebound and was fouled. The senior forward snapped that streak with two free throws and the Lions led by five with 56.7 remaining. Carterville went to the line three straight possessions and made 4-of-6 to ice the game.
Downen pulled down five rebounds, including four in the fourth quarter and also had a blocked shot. Anderson, Bittle, Hawkins and Kade Lustenberger finished with seven points each with Ben Haake adding three on a 3-pointer for the Lions only points in the first quarter with 3:22 remaining.
The game got off to slow start, with neither team having a good night in the field. The Panthers made just 3-of-11 shots and the Lions 1-of-8. Pinckneyville had a chance to take the early lead when Scott was fouled on a shot 40 seconds into the game, but the senior forward missed both his free throw attempts.
However, 21 seconds later Scott made up for his time at the line by stealing the ball and scoring with a slam. The Panthers missed their next four shots before Scott teamed up with Vaden Szczepanski for a picture perfect backdoor layup with four minutes left in the opening quarter.
After missing its first five shots, including three from beyond the arc, Carterville finally got on the board on Haake’s 3-pointer from the right side with 3:22 remaining.
The Panthers missed three more shots before Duke Riggins scored with six seconds left on a layup to give Pinckneyville a 6-3 lead going into the second quarter. Szczepanski led the Panthers with 10 points and Restoff added nine.