St. Anthony coach Mark Tovey has said from the start he would like his team to utilize the post better this season.
The Bulldogs did that in their big win against Mount Zion to open play in their own Thanksgiving tournament. St. Anthony got to the rim and finished strong against the Braves but couldn’t duplicate that in losses to Breese Central and crosstown rivals Effingham.
Revitalized play in the post Saturday afternoon, however, helped the Bulldogs (2-2) to a 45-26 victory against Mattoon (1-3) in the fifth-place game of the St. Anthony Thanksgiving Tournament.
“We tried to stress post play last year and never really got it done — those guys just weren’t used to it,” Tovey said. “I think we’ve taken over this year where we left off. We finished a lot better.”
Reed Willenborg led the Bulldogs with 19 points and 12 rebounds (only knocking down one 3-pointer), Mitchell Dust chipped in 11 points in the paint and five more rebounds and John Goeckner provided five points and five rebounds off the bench.
“He’s more comfortable in the post,” Tovey said of Goeckner. The Bulldogs are trying to use the sophomore forward in more of a dual role in the post and on the perimeter but haven’t worked out all the kinks yet.
“I guess that’s what we’ll try to do as coaches and put a guy in a position he’s more comfortable with,” Tovey added.
St. Anthony used its edge on points in the paint and two 3s from Willenborg and Scott Deters to take a 20-15 halftime lead. A 6-0 run from the Bulldogs to start the second half pretty much put the Green Wave away.
Willenborg hit a runner in the lane with 4:12 to play in the third to push St. Anthony’s leads to double digits at 26-16 and force a Mattoon timeout.
The Green Wave were 0-of-8 from the field at that point and their only offense came on a free throw from Kris Heller. Mattoon didn’t make its first field goal in the second half until sophomore Ryan Hutchinson hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:07 left in the third.
Mattoon made a few more free throws after Hutchinson’s 3-pointer but made just one more shot from the field on a 3-pointer from Skyler Hartbank early in the fourth quarter. The Green Wave were 2-of-20 from the field in the second half and scored just 11 points after the break.
“That’s too easy of a crutch to use to say why we didn’t play well,” Mattoon coach Bryan Smith said of his team’s poor shooting. “(St. Anthony) won the battle in the post. I thought they were more physical and controlled the sweet spots on the block.”
Sophomore guard Jared Pilson led the Green Wave with six points off the bench, and sixth man Grant Speer had five points and five rebounds. Mattoon’s reserves — although Speer will likely start after a full recovery from a knee injury — ultimately outscored the Green Wave starters 15-11.
“That’s probably one of the brighter spots with Jared Pilson and Ryan Hutchinson and Grant,” Smith said. “We’re going to be a little deeper than we’ve been in the past, but we’ve got to find a more consistent scoring bunch.”
Mattoon will be back in action Friday at home against Danville for a Big 12 Conference game. St. Anthony has an extra day of practice this week and will play Mount Vernon at home Saturday afternoon.
“(In a tournament) you’ve got to try and fix things on the run the best you can,” Tovey said. “I’m looking forward to this next week of practice. We’ll enjoy this win and get back to work (today).”