Before the third quarter of Wednesday night’s Class 1A St. Elmo Regional semifinal began, St. Elmo coach Greg Feezel knew his team was lucky to be tied at 18 with rivals Altamont.
“We hung around in the first half and we didn’t shoot well,” Feezel said.
The Eagles had stayed close with the top-seeded Indians through two quarters thanks to making a few shots at key junctures and letting the Indians miss some key shots of their own.
Whoever was going to control the game would need a push to start the second half. St. Elmo answered the call. The Eagles went on a 10-0 run in the first four minutes of the second half and used that padding to upset their neighbors to the east, 47-42, and advance to Friday’s regional championship game. They’ll play North Clay, which defeated South Central 43-40 in the other regional semifinal game Wednesday.
“That propelled us,” Feezel said of St. Elmo’s 10-0 run. “We wanted to make sure we hit them well in the first three, four minutes.”
St. Elmo sophomore Connor Beasley, who led all scorers with 21 points on four 3-pointers and going 8-of-9 shooting from the foul line, was confident that if the Eagles (12-15) could get a lead they wouldn’t let it go.
“Whenever we get up, we stay up,” he said. “We’ve just had some trouble getting leads this season.”
Beasley advanced to Friday’s 3-point Showdown finals, along with teammate Garrett Buzzard, Altamont’s Brock Ledbetter and Johnnie Clift of Patoka.
Although Beasley only scored three points in the third quarter — on a 3-pointer late in the period — his teammates stepped up. Buzzard knocked down two 3s in those first four minutes — his only six points of the game — while Ben Sperry and Jake Mansker each added a basket to give St. Elmo a 28-18 lead. The Indians (18-11) didn’t score in the quarter until Jordan McGinnis made two foul shots with 4:05 remaining.
Altamont head coach Doug Hill acknowledged that his team’s offense wasn’t there.
“Defensively, we did a good job and did a decent job rebounding,” he said. “We just a little bit off edge offensively. I thought the looks were there but we were looking sometimes to be a little too unselfish tonight.”
Altamont managed to rally from their cold spell in the fourth quarter. Although St. Elmo led 36-27 going into the fourth, the Indians rallied with a 7-1 run in the first four minutes of the final frame. After Ryan Heiden made two foul shots with 4:02 left, it was 37-34.
“I knew they were going to come back,” Feezel said. “Coach Hill is too good of a coach to let that go on, and they came back at us.”
But the Indians could capitalize on that, as Beasley scored a layup and two foul shots in 20 seconds to give St. Elmo another comfortable lead.
“We had it down to three, with the ball with three, four minutes left and had a couple empty trips in a row,” Hill said. “I thought we were starting to turn the game around, since they were having a little trouble handling the ball. I thought a couple scores, a couple rebounds and we’d get the lead there, but we couldn’t get the shots to fall.”
The Indians would cut the lead to one, 43-42, with 1:14 left after a few more St. Elmo turnovers and a very long Heiden 3-pointer. But Jake Mansker answered on cue for St. Elmo, driving the length of the floor and scoring on a layup to make it
Brandon Duckwitz had an open 3 on the other end, but it fell short, and Ben Sperry collected the rebound. The Eagles made two more foul shots and that was that.
“St. Elmo played us hard three times,” said Hill, whose team won a pair of close regular-season games over St. Elmo. “For us to advance we would have had to beat them for a third time on their home floor in a rivalry game... it’s a friendly rivalry game, but they’re still a rival. They always play us hard and vice versa. We knew it was going to be hard coming in.”
Jordan McGinnis led the way for Altamont, scoring a team-high 13 — also the only player on his team in double figures. Colin Miller added seven. They are two of Hill’s departing five senior starters.
“I appreciate all the work my seniors have done for four years,” Hill said. “They’re feeling a little hurt, but once that goes away they can look back on an 18-win season and have a lot to be proud of.”
As for the Eagles, they’ll face a North Clay team they haven’t played yet — the only team they hadn’t faced in the regional.
“I told they kids to cherish this, because this is a rival we haven’t beaten in a while,” Feezel said. “But we’ve got to play this next ballgame now. I think we’re sitting where we want, we just have to see if we can get something done now.”
St. Elmo 47, Altamont 42
St. Elmo 10 8 16 13—47
Altamont 13 5 9 15—42
St. Elmo — Stolte 0 1-2 1; Beasley 5 8-9 21; Sperry2 2-2 6; Pruett 2 0-1 4; Buzzard 2 0-2 6; Mansker 3 2-4 8. Totals 14 13-20 47.
Altamont — Duckwitz 1 1-2 3; Heiden 1 3-4 6; Ledbetter 2 0-0 6l Jahraus 1 3-3 5; Drone 0 2-2 2; McGinnis 4 5-8 13; Miller 3 1-1 7. Totals 12 15-20 42.
3-point goals: St. Elmo 6 (Beasley 4, Buzzard 2); Altamont 3 (Ledbetter 2, Heiden 1.
N. Clay edges South Central
In the other semifinal game, Dalton Zimmerman’s 16 points and Andrew Grahn’s 13 propelled the North Clay Cardinals to a 43-40 win over South Central.
The game was even the whole way, with the teams tied at 8-all at the end of one. North Clay (15-9) lead 20-16 after one half, but the Cougars outscored the Cardinals 11-6 in the third quarter to lead 27-26 going into the final frame.
But in the fourth, it was a 17-13 Cardinal advantage for a three-point victory.
Fischer Tharp scored 16 points for the Cougars (13-17) in the loss while Taylor Cain added 11.
South Central’s Andrew Snow and North Clay’s Justin Warfel advanced to the 3-point Showdown finals on Friday, along with Harley Steed and John Rickman of Mulberry Grove.
North Clay 43, South Central 40
South Central 8 8 11 13—40
North Clay 8 12 6 17—43
South Central — Snow 1 0-0 2; Bushue 4 0-0 8; Tharp 4 8-12 16; Harmier 1 0-0 3; Cain 5 0-3 11. Totals 15 8-15 40.
North Clay — Zink 2 2-5 6; Zimmerman 5 2-2 16; Grahn 4 5-5 13; Harrington 2 0-2 4; Pearson 2 0-0 4. Totals 15 9-14 43.
3-point goals: South Central 2 (Harmier 1, Cain 1); North Clay 4 (Zimmerman 4).