CHESTER — Nashville, Pinckneyville and Fairfield are generally considered the top Class 2A boys basketball teams in Southern Illinois, with Chester atop the second tier.
Many more performances like Tuesday night and the Yellow Jackets can lay claim to being just as good as those three teams.
With four players scoring in double figures, led by Keith Kiner’s game-high 21 points, Chester stayed atop the Black Diamond Conference West with a 72-48 win over Goreville at Colbert Gym.
Colin Wingerter added three 3-pointers and 19 points for the Yellow Jackets, which canned 62.5 percent of their field goal attempts as they upped their overall record to 20-5 and improved to 7-0 in the conference.
“Colin came out ready to shoot tonight,” Chester coach Brad Norman said. “He hit a couple early and he was in attack mode from the start. He got in a groove and he kind of carried us in the first half.”
The Jackets cooked offensively from the jump. It took less than 10 seconds for Kiner to convert a warmup layup off a Wingerter feed. Then Kiner stole a pass on the Blackcats’ second possession and threw down a two-handed dunk that fired up a small crowd.
The only real concern came moments later. Kiner turned the ball over trying to go end-to-end with a rebound and came up hurting. He was helped off the floor with a knee injury, and Goreville capitalized by drawing within 17-16 after a quarter as Landon Albright went 6 of 6 at the foul line.
Kiner returned late in the first period, and Norman made a defensive switch that shaped the game’s texture. He switched from a zone which the Blackcats riddled into a man-to-man that worked to funnel the ball inside, where the 6-6 Kiner used his wingspan to block or alter shots.
The result: A 23-8 second quarter in which Goreville went just 2 of 9 from the field with three turnovers. The lead grew to as large as 18 before Chester settled for a 40-24 advantage at intermission.
To start the third quarter, the Jackets went on another 12-2 spurt. Kiner spun into the lane and jammed with the right hand, while he and 6-6 Ian Reith took turns finishing off perfectly-executed high-low sequences for layups.
At one point late in the third quarter, Chester was shooting nearly 70 percent from the field. In terms of effective field goal percentage, which gives extra credit to made 3s, it was closer to 80 percent.
“They have some weapons out there, and when they’re moving the ball and hitting shots, they are really good,” Blackcats coach Todd Tripp said. “They had to have a bunch of assists. And we have matchup problems with them.
“They have big kids who move better than you think. They’re going to be someone that these 2A teams are going to have to watch for in the postseason.”
Reith and Drake Bollman each scored 10 points for the Yellow Jackets, who will get to host a 2A regional in late February, although they’ll have to go through either Nashville or Pinckneyville to win it.
Albright tallied 16 points to pace Goreville (12-12, 4-2), which has lost five in a row since upsetting Graves County, Ky. on Jan. 16 in the Superman Classic at Massac County.
“We’ve got to worry about ourselves,” Tripp said. “We’ve got to get better, but we’re going to be fine. We went through this last year and you hope you can play your best ball at the end.”