Effingham Daily News
It looked like the game was slipping through their fingers, but nobody panicked.
Neil Williams and John Goeckner traveled on back-to-back possessions and Goeckner was called for a five-second inbounds violation, all while holding a six-point lead with one minute left.
St. Anthony held on for a 49-45 win at the National Trail Conference tournament on Thursday, but it took much longer than one minute to wrap it up.
“Definitely not pretty,” St. Anthony head coach Cody Rincker said. “We had some guts on our end to handle the pressure just enough to get the win.”
Neoga' Wyatt Krikie made two free throws with 45 seconds remaining, to draw the Indians within four.
The Bulldogs missed a handful of free throws in the final minute, beginning with Alex Hoelscher. The first miss led to Luke Baker's 3-point attempt that came up short for the Indians.
Zach Gardewine converted 1-of-2 at the free throw line, but Jake Baker raised him one more after getting fouled on a layup and making both free throws.
Andrew Gardewine made two free throws to put St. Anthony ahead by five points, but the Bulldogs fouled another Neoga shooter. This time, Krikie sank two free throws at the line and made it a three-point game.
Williams went to the line with 15.7 seconds left on the clock and missed the first of two free throws. Rincker called a timeout.
“I told him he was going to make it,” Rincker said.
Williams did, putting the Bulldogs ahead by four points.
Neoga needed four points in 15 seconds and had two shots. Krikie missed a 3-point shot, Jake Baker came up with a long rebound and had his 3-pointer blocked.
The Bulldogs held on, advancing to Saturday night's NTC tournament championship game. They will play the winner of Friday's Altamont vs. Dieterich game.
A far cry from his team's 38-point home loss to the Bulldogs almost three weeks ago, Neoga head coach Bob Lockart was proud of the way his team responded.
“You could see how much energy and passion both teams put in to getting to the next game,” Lockart said. “We started a little slow, we hung (around), could've folded because of bad memories, but we didn't.”
Neoga never went away. The Indians trailed by eight points in the second quarter, but went on a 6-0 run to close the gap. They went on a 9-0 run to take a third-quarter lead, 24-23.
Then, when St. Anthony took a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Indians responded with a 5-0 run.
“Both teams, man, that's what you're in it for,” Lockart said. “I had a lot of fun, I think my kids had a lot of fun and that's the way you expect basketball to be played every night.”
Rincker said he expected a Neoga rally after the Bulldogs took a 10-point lead, because of players like Krikie and Jake Baker.
The pair met expectations. Krikie scored six points in the fourth quarter – all from the free throw line. Baker added five more.
“Krikie and Baker can make up points in a hurry,” Rincker said. “It was a matter of time before they hit a few (shots).”
The Indians' loss drops them into the third-place game on Saturday night, where they'll play the loser of Friday's Altamont vs. Dieterich game.
The Bulldogs survived the tough test to play in the title game and Rincker said his player can learn from it, even though he wished it hadn't been so close.
“I would've liked to see a few more outside shots go in, but maybe we're just due for Saturday,” Rincker said. “We'll see.”
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or email@example.com.
St. Anthony 7 12 15 15 49
Neoga 9 6 16 14 45
St. Anthony: Williams 8, Gibson 1, A. Gardewine 13, Hoelscher 11, Z. Gardewine 2, Goeckner 14
Neoga: L. Baker 3, C. Kersey 8, Krikie 11, Aleshire 2, J. Baker 16, Atwell 5