FLANAGAN — Flanagan-Cornell had two chances to tie its Heart of Illinois Conference game with unbeaten El Paso-Gridley, but both times the Falcons were unable to get a shot off as the Titans escaped with a 42-39 win here at Flanagan-Cornell High School in Flanagan on Tuesday night.
“I told the kids after the game to give El Paso a lot of credit,” said FC coach Brian Yoder. "It was a defensive battle, and they have been holding teams into the 20s. They earned everything they got, and we earned everything we got.”
With 2 minutes, 20 seconds left in the game and EPG (8-0 overall, 3-0 Heart of Illinois) leading 39-37, the Falcons started sending the Titans to the free-throw line. Titans junior guard Jack Weber (13 points, five-for-10 shooting) missed the front end of a one-and-bonus, and senior Noah Smith made 1 of 2 from the charity stripe to give EPG a 40-37 lead.
F-C (5-4 overall, 1-3 conference) cut the lead to one at 40-39 with 53 seconds left as Issac Weber slashed through the Titan defense and hit a layup. Jack Weber then went back to the line for EPG with 14.3 seconds left and hit both free throws to make it a 42-39 game.
That gave the Falcons their first chance to tie the game, but they turned the ball over on their next possession. Teron Fairchild gave F-C new life with 3.9 seconds lef,t as the EPG senior guard missed a pair of free tosses, but the Falcons were unable to get a shot off, and the Titans stayed undefeated with the three-point win.
Earlier in the game, it looked as though the game would be a high-scoring affair with EPG running away. In the second half, the Falcons outpointed the Titans 18-16. Trailing 11-8 after one quarter of play, the Titans outscored FC 18-10 to take a 26-21 led into the half.
In the second quarter, the Titans scored six points in the final minute of the quarter, punctuated by an alley-oop layup by Jack Weber to beat the halftime buzzer.
“I think back to that alley-oop at the end of the half, and that was pretty important,” Yoder said. “Weber was able to get the tip and change the momentum of the game at halftime. It was a big shot.”
EPG quickly extended the lead to eight at 29-21 when Jack Weber hit his only 3 of the game with 7:09 left in the third quarter. Isaac Weber got the Falcons three points closer at 29-24 when he drained a trey at the 6:48 mark. A Smith free throw pushed the Titans lead to 30-24 with 4:26 showing on the clock. F-C got right back into the game, and it was senior guard Jeremy Durdan (20 points) leading the way.
Durdan, who was honored before the game with a game ball from the Falcons' 61-20 win over Lowpoint-Washburn at the Route 17 Classic on Nov. 20th, the game where Durdan scored his 1,000th point in a Falcons uniform.
The 6-foot-3 Durdan added to that total in a matter of 27 seconds, as he hit a pair of 3s to tie the game at 30-30.
“Those guys (Issac Weber and Durdan) hit some big shots for us.” Yoder said, “Drew (Eckhoff) and Braden (Wallace) did a great job on Fairchild, defensively. Jeremy did a great job on Weber. He earned everything he got.”
A 3 by Dilynn Gray gave the visitors a 33-30 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Titans ended the night shooting 16 of 29 from the floor (41 percent), while the Falcons were 15 of 44 (34 percent). Each team turned the ball over 11 times.
Flanagan-Cornell returns to Heart of Illinois Conference action when it hosts Deer Creek-Mackinaw in a 7:00 p.m. tipoff on Friday night.
El Paso-Gridley 42, Flanagan-Cornell 39
(Key: FG-FGA FT-FTA TP)
EL PASO-GRIDLEY (42) — N. Smith 2-6 2-6 6, Fairchild 3-9 2-4 9, Steiner 3-4 0-0 6, Weber 5-10 2-3 13, Faulk 0-2 0-0 0, Gray 3-7 0-0 8, A. Smith 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-39 6-13 42.
FLANAGAN-C. (39) — Weber 3-7 0-0 8, Durdan 8-18 2-2 20, Wallace 0-4 0-0 0, Kimpling 1-7 3-4 5, Harms 3-7 0-0 6, Eckhoff 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 15-44 5-6 39
EPG (8-0, 3-0) 8 18 7 9 — 42
Flanagan-C. (5-4, 1-3) 11 10 9 9 — 39
3-point goals – El Paso-Gridley 4-11 (Gray 2-3, Fairchild 1-4, Weber 1-1, Faulk 0-2, A. Smith 0-1); Flanagan-Cornell 4-12 (Weber 2-5, Durdan 2-3, Wallace 0-2, Kimpling 0-1, Eckhoff 0-1); Turnovers — El Paso-Gridley 11; Flanagan-Cornell 11; Total fouls (none fouled out) – El Paso-Gridley 9; Flanagan-Cornell 14.