VANDALIA — Playing three games in 21 hours is never ideal. But its something Altamont coach John Niebrugge's team had to do Thursday and Friday at the 41st Annual Vandalia Holiday Tournament, and fortunately, it's something his team was prepared to do after going through a rigorous conditioning program in the summer.
The Indians' reward for their hard work? How bout something Altamont hasnÕt done in 17 years?
Just hours after an excruciating loss to Vandalia late Thursday night, Altamont battled back to win Friday's opener against Shelbyville 48-45 with a game-closing 9-0 run capped by Cole Borders' buzzer-beating 3-pointer. The Indians then topped St. Anthony for the first time since 1995 with a 66-57 win in its second game of the day.
"This win was for all those Altamont Indians who didn't get that victory," said Niebrugge, a former Teutopolis standout who is very familiar with the Bulldogs' proud tradition.
The victory gave Altamont (10-2) a fighting chance to advance to today's championship with a 3-1 tournament record. But the host Vandals relegated the Indians to the third-place game with a 62-57 win against Maroa-Forsyth in the game immediately following the Altamont/St. Anthony contest. Vandalia and Altamont both finished with 3-1 record in Pool B, but the Vandals' aforementioned three-point win against the Indians proved to be the tie-breaker. The seventh-seeded Indians will face top-seeded Flora at 6:30 tonight.
Niebrugge's team could have been crushed after its loss to Vandalia -- as they nearly came back from a 15-point second-half deficit before falling short -- but the Indians responded with a gritty effort on Friday, finishing off the day with a rare win against the Bulldogs (2-10).
"It was a very good win," Niebrugge said. "They are a perennial NTC powerhouse, and we knew coming into the year they were gonna be one of our top rivals for the NTC (regular season) championship and tournament. They were kinda one of those we circled on the calendar at he beginning of the year."