HERRIN — After a 10-day layoff, Herrin coach Sayler Shurtz wasn’t quite sure what kind of performance he’d see from his team Tuesday night.
He shouldn’t have worried.
The Tigers never trailed and blew away a good Cairo team with a 22-0 run that bridged the halves in a 71-48 win at Memorial Gym.
Drew Ringel scored 17 points and Luke LeQuatte added 16 for Herrin (3-3), which forced 21 turnovers from the Pilots and then made them pay with a spate of transition buckets.
“I thought we really brought the energy and set the tempo tonight,” Shurtz said. “We worked on getting under control in practice. Sometimes we get a little quick, but we focused on the fundamentals and it made us a very good basketball team.”
The Pilots (4-3) knocked off Herrin last year in overtime and came into town with solid wins over Massac County and Du Quoin in the Indians’ tournament last week, sharing the title with Massac County. But aside from a six-minute stretch to start the second quarter where they cut a 12-point deficit to two, they simply got beat at their game.
“We just lacked focus,” Cairo coach Larry Wood said. “We let our guard, and against a good team like them which has experience, you have to stay focused to compete.”
Terrell Jones drew the Pilots within 24-22 with 1:40 left in the first half with two buckets in about five seconds. He converted a high-arcing layup off the top of the backboard, then stole an inbounds pass and laid it in.
Shurtz called a 30-second timeout. Whatever message he imparted to the Tigers, it worked. LeQuatte and Ringel scored, and after a Cairo turnover, Brandon Anthony canned a runner with 1.3 seconds left for a 30-22 halftime lead.
The intermission interrupted absolutely nothing. Anthony dished out one of his eight assists to Garrett Venegoni for a layup as Herrin followed the last six points of the first half with the first 16 points of the second half.
Wood tried a full timeout to stanch the bleeding, but it did no good. Hayden Holloway and Ringel took turns stroking 3-pointers to close the run, making it 46-22 before the midway point of the third quarter.
The final 12 minutes were merely a race to the final buzzer, the Tigers pushing the lead as high as 28 points in the fourth quarter as both teams emptied their bench.
“Unselfish is another thing we’ve stressed,” Shurtz said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can really score, but when we move the ball, we’re a really exciting team to watch.”
Herrin drew assists on 17 of its 29 field goals. Anthony had a highlight-video dish, a no-look special from midcourt that LeQuatte converted into a first quarter layup. The 6-foot-4 LeQuatte also dunked in transition and off a missed shot as part of perhaps his best performance of the year, which included nine rebounds and three steals.
With LeQuatte setting the pace underneath, the Tigers earned a 40-29 advantage on the boards. It didn’t hurt them that 6-4 Cairo sophomore Alton Hervey might have played 12 minutes after running into foul trouble. Hervey drew three first quarter fouls and then picked up his fourth as Herrin broke the game open in the third quarter.
“He’s a big factor for us,” Wood said of Hervey. “But he’ll work on it and get better from this.”
Jones scored a game-high 21 points for the Pilots, while Isaiah Brown hit for 11.