CARBONDALE — Goreville withstood a late second quarter run and didn’t let Central A&M get any closer than nine points in the second half to win the Carbondale 1A Super-Sectional, 74-61, and advance to the Final Four for the first time in boys basketball program history.
"Our guys did a great job," said Goreville coach Todd Tripp. "They did the little things like blocking out and playing defense. We were keeping the lead in the second half at nine points or better and that was important."
Goreville (23-11) will play Okawville on Friday at 1 p.m. in the second semifinal at the Peoria Civic Center, after Newman Central Catholic plays Annawan at 11:15 a.m. to tip off the state semifinals.
"This feels so good right now and we can’t wait to travel to Peoria," Tripp said. "The Arena was half-full when we started, but when the crowd for Pinckneyville and Mount Carmel showed up in the second half, the kids got to experience playing in front of a packed crowd. I’m so proud of my guys right now."
Peyton Massey led the Blackcats with 19 points, including two 3-pointers and 7-of-9 from the free throw line. Tanner Dunn scored 16 points and was perfect from the line, making all eight of his attempts, while Braden Webb finished with 14 points.
"One of those threes I wasn’t supposed to take, but I was feeling it and stepped into it," Massey said.
Offensively, Goreville shot 44.7 percent from the field (21-of-47) and 70.7 percent from the line (29-of-41). The Blackcats dominated the boards, holding a 44-35 edge in rebounds, including 31-21 on the defensive end with Webb finishing with 10 defensive rebounds and 11 total for the game.
"I don’t care what anybody says, Webb is a first-team All-Stater," Tripp said. "He’s done this since his freshman year. When he’s on the floor they have to watch him."
Defensively, the Blackcats held the Raiders to 33.9 percent from the field (20-of-59) and just 2-of-15 from beyond the arc.
"We knew that they like to take long shots, so there was going to be long rebounds, and our guys were disciplined enough to get the rebounds even 25 feet from the bucket to keep them from having second chances, even in the last two minutes," Tripp said.
The Blackcats got off to a slow start, falling behind 7-2 in the first two and a half minutes, but came storming back with a 25-6 run to take a 14-point lead with 4:50 remaining in the second quarter.
During the run, Webb scored three baskets, including one off a steal and made one of three from the free throw line. Massey had four points on a basket and 2-of-2 from the line and Dunn added two baskets. In addition, Morgan Bishop canned a three and Landon Albright also had three points.
After starting the second quarter by missing seven shots, Central A&M got hot, cutting the lead back to five in a span of 2:45 with an 11-2 run, led by Jacob Paradee with two offensive rebound baskets and a steal that led to a basket, as well as a 3-pointer by Jameson Smith.
After Smith’s 3-pointer, Dunn was fouled on a rebound and made both his free throws to stop the run and give the momentum back to the Blackcats. After Dunn was called for a charge, Massey canned a long 3-pointer from the left side with 25 seconds remaining to extend the lead back to 10.
"Coach didn’t want me to take that one, but I’m pretty confident in my shot, so I fired away," Massey said.
Connor Heaton scored for the Raiders with 3.4 seconds remaining, but Webb was fouled on a rebound with 0.5 seconds left and made both free throws to give the Blackcats a 10-point lead at the half. Heaton finished with 19 points.
"We played nine guys in the first half and I think that was the difference in the second half," Tripp said. "When Massey shot that one and made it he looked at me like saying, "What?" It was a little deep, but he’s got the green light. That was a big shot. He’s my nephew and I’m proud of him."
Dunn extended the Blackcats lead to 12 points with a putback to open the third quarter. The Raiders chipped away, with Heaton splitting a pair of free throws 12 seconds later, and Jacob Paradee followed with a layup to cut the lead to nine with 6:09 remaining in the third quarter, but that was as close as the Raiders would get. Paradee led all scorers for the game with 23 points.
The Raiders would cut the lead to nine four more times, with a 3-pointer by Tate Paradee to open the fourth quarter and three times in the final five minutes, but each time, the Blackcats responded.
The Blackcats were sent to the line six times in the final 3:49, making 11-of-12 to hold off the Raiders.