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CHRISTOPHER — Zeigler-Royalton gave Thompsonville all it wanted for the first 23 minutes, but the Tigers’ constant pressure proved too much for the young Tornadoes as Thompsonville won going away, 61-36, on the second day of the 44th Annual Christopher Boys Basketball Turkey Tournament on Tuesday night.

“We had hoped to not necessarily pull all our tricks out of our hat, but this team is so much better if we’re going fast whether it’s defensively or offensively, so it was much better for us to ramp up some of that second half pressure” said Thompsonville coach Pete Gordon.

Thompsonville takes two days off before resuming the tournament Friday against NCOE, which came from behind to beat New Athens, 59-43. Zeigler-Royalton will play the first game Friday at 6:15 against New Athens.

“First game jitters a little bit,” Gordon said. “We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to at times. Missed some shots and missed some free throws (10-of-18) and all those things can come back and haunt you in a closer game.”

Guard Tyson Kessler led the Tigers with 24 points. The senior also had a game-high six steals and one rebound. Senior forward Reed Raubach added 17 points, including two 3-point baskets.

“I saw my team getting down a little bit and not playing (defense) very hard, so I figured I needed to pick them up and go do what I do,” Kessler said. 

Ziegler-Royalton (0-1) trailed by three points with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter, but wilted under the Tigers' relentless pressure as Thompsonville closed out the game on a 25-3 run.

“We’ve got the ability to play with teams, but in the end our inexperience and lack of composure gets the best of us and that’s what happened tonight,” said Zeigler-Royalton coach Matt Morgan. 

The Tornadoes started strong, when Gannon Dollins stole the ball and passed to David Eldridge, who was fouled at the 12-second mark. The junior guard made his first free throw, but missed his second. Dollins led the Tornadoes with nine points.

Thompsonville came right back, scoring the next eight points on two jumpers by Kessler, a steal and a layup by Peyton Roberts and a basket by Raubach.

The Tornadoes rallied with a 10-0 run to take the lead 11-8 with 1:57 remaining in the first quarter. Raubach scored on the Tigers' next possession to cut the lead to 11-10 heading into the second quarter.

Kessler took over the game at the start of the second quarter, scoring the first eight points on a steal and a layup, a fast break layup, a steal that led to a free throw and a three-point play on a putback and a free throw.

Kessler then stole the ball and fed Corbin Fisch for another fast break basket to complete a 10-0 run. The Tornadoes cut the lead to five on a jumper and two free throws by Dalton Humphrey and two free throws by Bryce Leaper to head into intermission down 22-17.

The second half started with Thompsonville being assessed a technical foul for an illegal substitution during the first half. Trevor Mills took to the line and made both free throws to cut the lead back to three.

Kessler rallied the Tigers again. After Anthony Darge was fouled and made his two free throws, Kessler hit another jumper before pulling off another steal that led to a free throw by Raubauch.

The Tigers maintained that lead until Rick Chekevia sank a 3-pointer with 2:08 remaining and Eldridge scored on a fast break layup with 58.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter to cut lead back to three.

However, the Tigers pulled off two more steals that led to baskets to close out the third quarter on a 5-0 run. Thompsonville kept the pressure on, forcing nine turnovers and outscoring the Tornadoes 20-3 in the fourth quarter.

In the first game, New Athens led 20-9 early in the second quarter, but NCOE rallied to close the gap to 20-19 at the half and then continued its momentum to take a 40-37 lead into the fourth quarter before extending it to 59-43 win.

The tournament continues Wednesday at 6:15 with Waltonville playing Webber Township followed by Christopher and Wayne City.

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