Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

March 5, 2014

St. Anthony edges Oblong 72-69

Alex McNamee
Effingham Daily News

BRIDGEPORT — BRIDGEPORT — A rare miss by Oblong’s Koert Mehler made the most noise.

Mehler heaved a 75-foot, full-court shot that barely rimmed out to send the game to overtime; instead, St. Anthony (22-10) survived 72-69 to advance to Friday’s Class 1A Red Hill Sectional championship.

In a game when Mehler couldn’t miss, scoring a career-high 37 points, St. Anthony head coach Cody Rincker figured, “Why not? Everything else went in for him.”

“That was,” Rincker began, at a loss for words. “Man, I’m glad he missed that shot. I don’t know if you can top the (game) from Friday, but we sure tried again tonight.”

The Bulldogs were four days removed from a buzzer-beating win against Altamont, during which Neil Williams sprinted the length of the court and made a layup in the final seconds.

Williams found himself in a game-winning situation again on Tuesday, making two free throws to give the Bulldogs a three-point lead with 1.7 seconds remaining.

Williams made two consecutive 3-pointers to help St. Anthony take a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter, but Mehler and the Panthers didn’t go away.

Mehler converted a four-point play to bring the Panthers within three points, scoring his first points of the second half. He accounted for 21 of Oblong’s 26 first half points.

“Did we shut him out the whole quarter?” Rincker asked. “I guess it tells you what kind of night he had if he didn’t even score for eight minutes.”

The Bulldogs capitalized in the third quarter. An 11-2 run, in the middle of the quarter, gave St. Anthony a 42-33 lead.

Oblong’s 6-2 run to start the fourth brought the game within three points, capped by Mehler’s four-point possession.

But Williams quickly gave the Bulldogs their seven-point lead back, finishing a layup, grabbing a steal and sinking another layup in only a few seconds.

“Neil Williams played a heck of a ball game,” Rincker said. “He really stepped up huge in that fourth quarter.”

St. Anthony took a five-point lead with 1:38 remaining, but Mehler converted a three-point play at the free throw line to bring the Panthers within two points.

The Bulldogs retook a 67-62 lead with 37 seconds remaining, but Oblong answered with 3-pointers by Alec Jacobs and Dawson Maus.

Kyler Fear went to the free throw line with an opportunity to tie the game for Oblong, trailing 70-68, but made 1-of-2. He missed two with 53 seconds left, trailing by three.

Still, Oblong was no more than inches from overtime. The ball’s momentum bounced it out of the inside part of the front of the rim after Mehler banked it off the backboard.

Rincker didn’t want any part of Mehler and the Panthers in an overtime period.

“I had enough of him,” Rincker said. “Big players step up in big moments and that’s exactly what he did. We’re fortunate again to get by and make enough free throws down the stretch.”

A full box score was not made available as of press time.

The Bulldogs play the winner of Wedneday’s Dieterich vs. Patoka game in the Red Hill Sectional final at 7 p.m. Friday in Bridgeport.

Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or alex.mcnamee@effinghamdailynews.com.

St. Anthony     10 19 16 27     72

Oblong          15 11 12 34     69