PLANO – During the rich and storied tradition of the Leland Lions Club All-Star Shootout, there have been many memorable basketball games between the senior boys and girls from both the Interstate Eight and the Little Ten Conferences.
This year's versions of the long-held event probably topped many games of the past after the Interstate Eight came away with two scintillating victories.
The I-8 girls rallied from a three-point deficit very late in the third quarter to forge out an extremely hard-fought 50-44 triumph, while the I-8 boys needed a buzzer-beating game-winning layup in order to overcome the LTC 83-81 Saturday evening here at Plano High School's Reaper Gymnasium.
Interstate Eight 83, Little Ten 81
For most of the early parts of the 36th annual LLC boys contest, the I-8 owned a strong advantage gaining a 15-point lead at 65-50 with four minutes to play in the third quarter.
However, the LTC took flight from there, embarking on a 15-2 run to close out the period down only 67-65, then eventually going ahead 79-75. There, I-8 and Streator senior post player Wes Jolly (12 points, game-high 13 rebounds) put in consecutive buckets in the low post to tie the game at 79 with under two minutes left.
The LTC eventually owned the ball with 6.4 seconds left and the game tied at 81 when LTC and Serena coach Dane Twait called a timeout to set up a final shot. However, the inbound pass on an attempted back-door alley-oop didn't connect and a mad scramble ensued. It resulted in Peotone's Jack Halverson scooping up the ball near midcourt and laying in the game-winning bucket as the horn sounded to give the I-8 the heart-pounding victory.
"It was a wild six seconds and we thought they were going to run something at the rim, but luckily we got the ball and Jack did a great job in transition to score the game winner at the buzzer," said I-8 and Streator coach Beau Doty. "This event is so great and a lot of fun and I've been fortunate now to coach in it two times. Give credit to the Little Ten because they battled so hard. We just were fortunate to have the ball bounce our way in the end."
In addition to Jolly's heroics, Streator teammate Mitch Vickers added six points and seven rebounds, while Seneca senior Hunter Greve chipped in two points and 10 boards for The Times area I-8 trio. Reed-Custer's Russell Page was the game's high scorer with 19 points as the I-8 lofted a whopping 101 shots connecting on 33 (33 percent) and hitting on 10-of-32 (31 percent) from 3-point land.
Conversely, the LTC was red-hot from beyond the circle nailing 16-of-40 triples (40 percent) and 30-of-85 shots (35 percent) overall.
Hinckley-Big Rock senior Seth Misukanis led the Little Ten with 16 points, while Indian Creek's Jake Beavers added 11 and Nolan Govig 10, along with an LTC-best 12 rebounds.
The Times area group of Newark's Dylan Patrick (10 points), Somonauk's Brady Kreiter (10 points) and Serena's Branden Franzen (nine points) contributed, as did the Huskers' Dawson Fuller (five points) playing in his first game after suffering a basketball season-ending knee injury back in September. Earlville-Leland senior Grant Campbell and Paw Paw's Brandon Heiman both played but did not score.
The I-8 led 22-20 after one quarter and 47-36 through two periods before the LTC cut the gap to only two entering the exciting final frame.
"The last few minutes tonight were so crazy and this group of Little Ten All-Stars were so much fun because they were asking to practice together," Twait said. "Within that little split of bouncing the ball the way, it did in the final seconds is tough, but we rallied back and made it a game against a very good I-8 team. I couldn't be prouder of this group."
Interstate Eight 50, Little Ten 44
Throughout the LLC's 33rd annual girls hoop meeting, the I-8 raced out to a nine-point lead at halftime, but the LTC closed to within two at 39-37 entering the final quarter.
There, the I-8 outscored the LTC 11-7 down the stretch behind game-highs of 14 points and 14 rebounds from Westmont senior Sydney Pardy and 11 tallies and nine boards from Peotone's Josie Graffeo. Lisle's Natalie Takahashi also added 13 markers.
The only two Times area girls participating for the I-8 were Sandwich seniors Ezbeydy Rivera (four points) and Nicole Shipman (two points) and with their help, the I-8 managed to hold off a late Little Ten rally in order to secure the victory with only seven girls on the roster.
"What was funny with only seven girls, they all got talking before the game that they wanted to win this," said I-8 and Sandwich coach Chris Johnson. "We said go out there and have fun and that's what they were doing. We were able to hold them off in the end and it was a pretty exciting game for all of us."
The Little Ten got a game-high 12 points from LaMoille-Ohio senior Lexi Loftus, who is the league's all-time leading scorer with 2,029 points. Times area contributors were Newark seniors Riane Tomsa (six points), Alyssa Schofield (three points), Paw Paw's Joslyn Hopkins (six points), as well as three points each from Earlville-Leland's Emily Cook and Serena's Mackenzie Harris.
The I-8 shot 19-of-62 (31 percent) from the field while the LTC managed a mere 17-of-62 (27 percent) off the floor.
"It was super fun and we started to shoot the ball in the third quarter which got us back into the game," said LTC and Newark coach Barb Scott. "We just weren't shooting much in the first half, but the I-8 was tough in the end and I couldn't be happier to have coached this group of girls in such a great game."
Interstate Eight boys 83, Little Ten boys 81
LITTLE TEN (81) – Patrick 3 2-2 10, Kreiter 4 0-0 10, Hill 1 0-0 2, Fuller 2 0-0 5, Faivre 3 0-0 8, Campbell 0 0-0 0, Beavers 4 0-0 11, Misukanis 6 1-4 16, Heiman 0 0-0 0, Franzen 3 0-0 9, Govig 4 2-3 10. Totals 30-85 5-9 81.
INTERSTATE EIGHT (83) – Grace 4 2-3 10, Vickers 2 1-1 6, Micetich 2 0-0 6, Greve 0 2-2 2, Flannery 4 0-0 8, Halverson 3 0-0 6, Shettles 2 0-0 6, Crawford 2 0-0 6, Jolly 5 2-4 12, Tincu 1 0-0 2, Page 8 0-0 19. Totals 33-101 7-10 83.
Little Ten 20 16 29 16 – 81
Interstate Eight 22 25 20 16 – 83
3-point goals – LTC 16-40 (Franzen 3, Beavers 3, Misukanis 3, Patrick 2, Kreiter 2, Faivre 2, Fuller); I-8 10-32 (Page 3, Crawford 2, Micetich 2, Shettles 2, Vickers). Rebounds – LTC 52 (Govig 12, Hill 8, Misukanis 7, Fuller 5, Kreiter 5, Faivre 5); I-8 59 (Jolly 13, Flannery 10, Greve 10, Vickers 7, Crawford 5, Halverson 5). Turnovers – LTC 16; I-8 13. Total fouls (none fouled out) – LTC 9; I-8 9.
Interstate Eight girls 50, Little Ten girls 44
LITTLE TEN (44) – Schofield 1 0-0 3, Turner 1 1-2 3, Tomsa 2 0-0 5, Diehl 3 0-0 6, Loftus 4 2-5 12, Johnson 1 1-2 3, Cook 1 0-0 3, Hopkins 3 0-2 6, Harris 1 0-0 3. Totals 17-62 4-11 44.
INTERSTATE EIGHT (50) – Takahashi 4 2-2 13, Rivera 2 0-0 4, Pardy 6 1-2 14, Graffeo 4 1-2 11, Shipman 1 0-0 2, Kauzlaric 2 1-2 6, Kraft 0 0-0 0. Totals 19-62 5-8 50.
Little Ten 12 5 20 7 – 44
Interstate Eight 12 14 13 11 – 50
3-point goals – LTC 6-28 (Loftus 2, Schofield, Tomsa, Cook, Harris); I-8 7-28 (Takahashi 3, Graffeo 2, Pardy, Kauzlaric). Rebounds – LTC 39 (Diehl 10, Johnson 9, Schofield 5, Loftus); I-8 37 (Pardy 14, Graffeo 9, Kraft 5). Turnovers – LTC 17; I-8 12. Total fouls (none fouled out) – LTC 8; I-8 12.