WEST FRANKFORT — No matter how good you are, someone always has your number.
For Sesser-Valier-Waltonville girls basketball coach Rick Metcalf, that someone is Herrin coach Chris Roberts. The Tigers boast wins in three straight years over the Red Devils, including last year when they entered the game with a record far south of .500.
“Chris is one of my close friends, but he’s been my Kryptonite,” Metcalf says.
On Saturday, Metcalf finally identified an antidote for Roberts. Carlie Page scored 10 first quarter points during an 18-0 spurt and nearly matched Herrin’s output for the day in S-V-W’s 35-20 decision that started the 33rd West Frankfort Mid-Winter Classic in Max Morris Gym.
Page finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and a pair of steals as the Red Devils improved to 16-3, canning 9 of 10 shots from the field. All of them were at point-blank range as S-V-W featured her extensively in its early offense, lobbing over the top of defenders from a variety of sets.
“We’ve been waiting for Carlie to get us out of the gate early,” Metcalf said. “We like to be an inside-out team offensively, and when she’s hitting shots early, it frees up our shooters for 3-pointers. Today, she was catching and finishing.
“We were getting the ball to her whether they were three-quartering, fronting or playing behind her. We got it to her from a variety of angles.”
The Tigers’ recent success against the Red Devils has been fueled by their height inside. Page’s performance turned the tables, as did pressure defense that completely took Herrin out of its attack. The Tigers started the game with a turnover, which for most coaches raises a red flag, and things went downhill from there.
They ate a first quarter goose egg, attempting only five shots and two free throws while six players combined for seven turnovers. A scoreless first half appeared to be a real possibility until Presli Karnes converted a layup with 1:44 left in the second quarter.
It was the continuation of a season-long problem for Herrin (9-12). It entered the game averaging just 35.5 points per game, unable to hit enough 3-pointers or produce enough points in the lane to make most defenses respect one or the other.
“We wanted to get after their guards a little bit earlier than we normally do,” Metcalf said. “We usually don’t start pressing until later in the game, but I thought it’s a Saturday afternoon game, we’ve been laying around the house all day, let’s get the blood flowing a little bit.”
To their credit, the Tigers kept working on the defensive end, limiting S-V-W to 17 points over the last three quarters. The Red Devils weren’t able to connect on the long ball, hitting just 2 of 13 from the 3-point line, but Herrin’s inability to hit shots rendered S-V-W’s struggles meaningless.
Karnes tallied seven points to lead the Tigers, which canned only 7 of 29 field goals on the day while committing 22 turnovers. It was the fourth loss in five games for Herrin, which was at one point 5-3, including a victory over SIRR Mississippi co-leader Nashville.
In the day’s second girls game, Pinckneyville established a 36-15 halftime lead and coasted to a 62-31 win over rebuilding West Frankfort.
The Panthers play Herrin on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., with the Red Devils and Redbirds meeting at 7 p.m.