T-town comes on strong to down Mount Zion

Teutopolis High School’s Craig Westendorf goes up for a layup past a Mount Zion defender Saturday night at J.H. Griffin Gym. Westedorf led the Wooden Shoes with 20 points in their 73-58 win over the Braves. Eric Williams photo

TEUTOPOLIS — Coach Ken Crawford has always been a teacher and when it comes to the game of basketball, there's not much he doesn't know.

Take for example Saturday evening's non-conference contest at J.H. Griffin Gym. Mount Zion came calling with a group of young men who are among the cream of the crop in talent in Class AA and among the better teams in the tough Apollo Conference.

"We were concerned about this game," said Crawford. "The last time we beat Mount Zion was in 2003. I give my kids credit, they executed the game plan and did a great job defensively. We also won the battle of the boards."

But it wasn't easy. The Wooden Shoes marched out to a 22-12 first period lead and eventually took a 73-58 victory. But the score doesn't indicate exactly how tough a contest it really was nor how Coach Crawford sat back and let his team "learn" a valuable lesson.

In that opening period run, Craig Westendorf, a 6-foot-4 senior, muscled his way to 12 of his team's 22 points while Jason Runde connected for eight. Westendorf nailed a three-pointer and hit four of six regular baskets along with a free throw. Runde connected on two trifectas.

Although the Braves were hitting a mere 35.2 percent from the field, they started to adjust to the Wooden Shoe defense.

In the second period, the Braves forced the Shoes into an uncharacteristic six turnovers, eight for the half. Mount Zion, meanwhile, had coughed up the ball only twice in the opening half. The Braves were also starting to find the range, this time hitting 57 percent of their shots as Colby Long, a sophomore, went to work.

Long hit four baskets and the Braves pulled within three at 24-21. T-town continued to maintain control but Mount Zion finished with a 17-12 run to pull within 34-29 at halftime.

The opening half was a fast-paced race and that continued through the second half.

T-town came out to sink its first two shots of the third period as Westendorf and Andy Tipton connected and the Shoes pushed ahead by nine. But Mount Zion came on strong tying the score at 40-40 on a steal and layup by Jordan Grinestaff.

The Braves tied again at the 3:40 mark when Mark Yelovich hit a basket. Mount Zion stayed close the rest of the quarter until the final minute and a half when Jason Runde nailed a three-pointer and Tipton put in two free throws and the Shoes went ahead 53-45 going into the final period.

Mount Zion pulled within four at 55-51 as Colby Long connected on back-to-back baskets. Then it was time for the run-and-gun show by the Shoes.

T-town went on a tear pulling into high gear. Westendorf started the run with a free throw before Jason Runde hit Rich Borries with a pass for the layup. Borries again connected and the Shoes went into a nine point lead. Although Yelovich put in a basket to stop the run, T-town continued on its tear putting in the next nine points and pushed the game out of danger.

"We got up by 10 points in the game and they made a run," said Crawford. "I suppose people wanted me to call a time out but I think the kids need to learn in a situation like this what they need to do. They don't need me to call time outs.

"Jason was strong all night long. Wade turned on the defense tonight and played a good game. Craig was just good at everything tonight, scoring, rebounding, defense. Borries got in foul trouble and had to sit for a while in the first quarter but he came back in the second half to really play good ball. Andy had a very good night."

Four of the five T-town starters finished in double figures. Westendorf led the way with 20 and pulled down 13 rebounds. Jason Runde added 17 points while Borries had 15 points and 10 boards. Koester added 11 points and Tipton had seven points and eight rebounds.

Mount Zion was led by Scales and Yelovich with 12 each and Colby Long with 10. Grinestaff had six rebounds.

"They're a very tough team," said Mount Zion Coach Jay Driscoll. "They have one of the best coaches in the state and they've got five tough seniors. I have a lot of respect for T-town."

The Braves fall to 9-4 on the season while T-town improves to 14-0.

"Mount Zion's not big and they're young but they are very athletic and they shoot the ball well," said Crawford. "They have great scorers and the Long brothers are tough. They put five guys on the floor who can score. Give my kids credit, they played an excellent game tonight."

Millie Lange can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 124 or millie.lange@effinghamdailynews.com

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