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Vickers, Jolly lead 'Dogs to 3rd at Plano

PLANO — When a basketball game comes down to clutch moments, most fans will call it “crunch time.”
In Streator, they should call it “Jolly time,” and it couldn’t have been more appropriate that the most recent example came in a Christmas tournament.
While teammate Mitch Vickers poured in a game-high 26 points to put Streator in position to beat former NCIC and NIB 12 rival La Salle-Peru here in the Plano Christmas Classic’s third-place contest, it was Jolly who also shined at critical moments in the Bulldogs’ 67-63 victory on Saturday night.
The 6-foot-4 senior post netted a bucket with less than 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter to put his team up one, then caught and dropped in a Vickers missed trey with 6.1 seconds showing to send the game to overtime. There, Jolly scored the first three points and grabbed four of his team-best seven rebounds to assure fifth-seeded SHS its highest place in a holiday tourney since finishing second at the second Marseilles Holiday Tournament back in 2010.
It took those Bulldog performances and several more to overcome both a rough night at the line (5-of-14, including 2-of-8 in OT) and a fiesty effort of the No. 11-seeded Cavaliers, who led by seven early in the fourth period. However, L-P needed a critical catch-and-shoot trey from Joel Pantoja to get ahead by two to set up Jolly’s regulation heroics. Pantoja, along with teammate Tyler Martyn an all-tournament selection, finished with 23 points in the loss.
“If Mitch Vickers and Wes Jolly don’t make the all-tournament team, it’s a crime,” Streator coach Beau Doty said of his two seniors, both of whom were later tabbed for the 20-player squad after the title game, as well as the two Cavs and locals in Newark’s Dylan Patrick and Sandwich’s Jimmy Braddish. “We defended well, though we lost Pantoja a few times and we know he can fill it up, but we have a kid that can fill it up, too, in Mitch. He and Wes stepped up as far as taking over our scoring load, but Joey (Byers, 6 assists) did a great job handling the ball and Johnny (Benckendorf, 6 rebounds) and Noah (Mascal, 13 points, 5 rebounds) really played like men tonight, and that’s what we needed.
“We have to make our free throws, but this was a shot-makers’ game. We both made runs and it had to be an entertaining game to watch. Fortunately, we got out of here with a win and the highest finish we’ve ever had here.”
The battle appeared it would be a defensive struggle early as L-P grabbed an 8-6 edge, but Vickers heated up in the second and third periods, scoring 10 points in each with four 3-pointers, and the rest followed suit. In the third quarter alone, Streator canned 7-of-11 shots to grab a 42-34 lead. However, L-P answered with a sizzling 10-of-13 stanza — including a 3-for-3 eight-point posting by Pantoja — that fueled a 15-0 burst, erasing the Bulldogs' lead and giving the Cavs a 49-42 edge early in the fourth.
That’s when Jolly turned it up inside with eight points. His deuce at 2:58 gave SHS a 57-54 margin, his bucket off a Benckendorf pass at 49.8 put it on top 59-58 and, after Pantoja’s big trey returned the lead to the Cavs, Jolly's clutch putback of Vickers’ partially-blocked short trey try knotted the score at 61.
In OT, Jolly’s three points, a free throw by Vickers and a lay-in by Mascal gave the ‘Dogs an insurmountable 67-61 lead. That could have been larger had they not struggled from the stripe, but it helped that L-P went 0-for-8 from the field.
“We have things we do specifically for shooters, and (Pantoja) is one of the best,” said Cavaliers coach and Streator High graduate Jim Cherveny, whose club was outrebounded 28-23. “I haven’t seen the numbers yet, but Streator did have some big rebounds, some big putbacks, and we need to make sure that we’re taking better care of the basketball and controlling our turnovers (15), some of which were unnecessary or unforced.”
At Reaper Gymnasium, Plano
Streator 67, La Salle-Peru 63
L-P (63)
– Kupperschmid 2-4 0-0 4, Pantoja 8-15 2-4 23, Martyn 5-12 0-0 10, Senica 3-10 5-6 12, Lynch 3-7 0-0 9, Hocking 1-1 0-0 2, Skoog 1-3 2-2 5, Huber 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-52 9-13 63.
STREATOR (67) – Vickers 9-15 3-4 26, Byers 1-4 1-4 3, Benckendorf 1-5 0-0 3, Mascal 6-10 0-2 13, Jolly 6-9 1-2 13, Telford 2-5 0-2 6, Benning 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 26-50 5-14 67.
L-P (5-7)  8  14  25  14  2  –   63
Streator (9-4)  18  18  19  6  –   67

3-point goals – L-P 8-22 (Pantoja 5-10, Senica 1-3, Lynch 1-3, Skoog 1-3, Kupperschmid 0-1, Martyn 0-2), Streator 10-24 (Vickers 5-10, Telford 2-5, Mascal 1-2, Benning 1-2, Benckendorf 1-4, Byers 0-1). Rebounds – L-P 23 (11 offensive, Lynch 9, Senica 7), Streator 28 (14 offensive, Jolly 7, Benckendorf 6, Byers 5, Mascal 5). Assists – L-P 8 (3 with 2), Streator 10 (Byers 6). Steals – L-P 5 (Pantoja 3), Streator 4 (4 with 1). Blocked shots – L-P 2 (Lynch 2), Streator 2 (Mascal, Jolly), Turnovers – L-P 12, Streator 12. Total fouls (fouled out) – L-P 14 (Senica), Streator 12.

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