Effingham Daily News
Homecoming banners painted by Neoga students portrayed a dominant Indians victory — on one banner, a scoreboard read “Home: 113, Guests: 31” — but the result on the court on Tuesday couldn't have been more different.
The Indians entered the game against St. Anthony worried about the Bulldogs' inside game, which turned out to be the area of least concern in Neoga's 59-21 loss.
St. Anthony head coach Cody Rincker said Neil Williams was slumping recently, but not Tuesday. The senior guard scored 25 points to lead all scorers.
Williams, who made five 3-pointers in the game, said his first gave him confidence to keep shooting. He made three 3-pointers in the first quarter and accounted for 19 of the Bulldogs' 39 points by halftime.
You might say he was in a zone.
“Sometimes I didn't even know I was shooting,” Williams said.
Everybody else knew. Neoga never caught up to Williams, let alone the rest of the team. His nine first-quarter points matched Neoga's team total in the same amount of time. He scored 10 points in the second quarter to Neoga's four.
Williams tacked on six more in the third quarter before Neoga could match his 19 halftime points. There would be no stopping him on this night.
“Neil came out like a man on a mission,” Rincker said. “You can tell he's been putting in some extra time after practice, before practice or whenever he can.”
Williams scored four more points that Neoga's entire team and 10 more than the Indians' leading scorer, Jake Baker, who had 15 points.
His three 3-pointers in the first quarter helped the Bulldogs to an early 11-3 lead, though Neoga came back to end the quarter 16-9. The Bulldogs scored the first six points of the second quarter and lead 39-13 at halftime, behind Williams' 19 points.
“They had all spokes of the wheel playing well,” Neoga head coach Bob Lockart said. “They're on quite a roll right now. I give (Rincker) a lot of credit. He has those kids playing real well.”
Williams gave Rincker credit, too.
“He got us mentally and physically prepared for this game,” he said.
Seven other Bulldogs, excluding Williams, scored and Rincker said Williams' hot start might have helped loosen up the rest of the team to shoot with confidence.
Alex Hoelscher's eight points was second on the team, while John Goeckner finished with seven.
Rincker took his starters out of the game with a 50-15 lead with 2:26 left in the third quarter. Kyle Hartke scored five points off the bench.
“If one guy can do that and get us off to a great start – the other night it was somebody else – it makes it a lot easier for the rest of the guys to jump on his back and carry the weight,” Rincker said.
Baker was the only Indians player to score in the second half, after getting some assistance from Wyatt Krikie (four points) and Luke Baker (two points) in the first half.
“We took a step back tonight,” Lockart said. “It's that simple.”
Neoga returns to action against South Central on Tuesday, while St. Anthony (12-4) is back up against Breese Mater Dei on Friday.
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. Anthony 16 23 15 5 59
Neoga 9 4 6 2 21
St. Anthony: Williams 25, Gibson 6, A Gardewine 4, Hoelscher 8, Z Gardewine 2, Goeckner 7, Rios 2, Hartke 5
Neoga: L. Baker 2, Krikie 4, J. Baker 15