HUME — Coming off of a second place finish in last week’s LOVC Boys’ Basketball Tournament, the Tri-County Titans lmoved back into regular season play Friday, Feb. 1, hosting the Hutsonville/Palestine Tigers in the LOVC Southeast Division opener in Hume.
These two teams faced off in Oakland in November during the Turkey Tournament. The Titans came out with a come from behind win.
The Titans, however, had to play without two of their key players. Starting point guard Mitch Pollock suffered a broken left wrist during practice Tuesday and will be out for the rest of the regular season and into the start of the post-season. They were also without junior forward Kenzal Lloyd, who is a key reserve off the bench and rebounding specialist, who was unavailable due to other circumstances.
Those key missing pieces proved to be big as the visiting Tigers used their size and length to wear down the Titans en route to a 66-55 win on Winterfest Night for Shiloh High School.
In the first quarter, the Titans took advantage of their speed driving and cutting against the Tigers man-to-man defense using the duo Blake Lee and Cole McClain to combine for 16 of Tri-County’s 18 points. Both Lee and McClain each scored 8 during that stretch. Hut/Pal also got some strong inside play to keep close using Zeke Nave on the block scoring six of the Tigers 12 points to make the score 18-12 in favor of the Titans.
The second quarter brought cold shooting for the Titans despite getting good looks at the basket as Lee hit their only field goal of the stanza with 2;45 left. Tri-County had their chances at the free throw line getting the Tigers into early foul trouble, but had problems seeing the ball go through hitting only going 4 of 10 as part of their 6 total points. The Tigers continued to power inside as Nave and Evan Newlin combined for 10 of Hut/Pal’s 20 points. The Tigers also got a boost from behind the arc as Trent Matthews hit two three pointers as part of the surge. Hut/Pal went into the locker room with a 32-24 lead.
Both teams exhibited fatigue in a low scoring third quarter. Lee tried his best to put the Titans on his back scoring 7 of Tri-County’s 9 points. Hut/Pal countered that, getting a spark off the bench as Ruger Berry scored four of the Tigers 10 points to keep a comfortable margin of 42-33 heading into the final eight minutes.
The Tigers put the pedal to the metal staying in the final quarter, going inside and wearing down the Titans defense even further putting an exclamation point on the contest with 24 points as Newlin and Jerry Gower combined for 18 of those points. The Titans made a mini run late as the trio of McClain, Lee and Caleb Ard combined for 19 of Tri-County’s 22 points. However, the deficit was just too much to overcome as the Tigers left with the eleven point win.
TCT went 19 of 59 overall for 32.2 percent and only 10 of 27 from the charity stripe for 37 percent. The Titans one bright spot was handling the basketball only committing ten turnovers. Blake Lee led all scorers with a game-high 25 points while Cole McClain added 15 in the loss.
Hut/Pal went 26 of 62 overall for 41.9 percent and 11 of 21 from the line for 52.4 percent. One hiccup was in turnover department coughing the ball up 16 times. Evan Newlin led the Tigers with 20 points while Zeke Nave had 12 and Jerry Gower added 11 in the victory.
The Titans (15-11, 0-1 LOVC Southeast) will travel to Broadlands on Tuesday night for a rematch of the LOVC Southeast Tournament final against the Villa Grove/Heritage Hawks. Tip time is set for 6 p.m. at Heritage High School. The Tri-County boys’ basketball season has been full of ups and downs this year.
Decatur LSA 72, Tri-County 64
The season started off strong with the team winning their own Thanksgiving tournament and racing out to a 9-4 record. The Titans then hit a bit of a rough patch, losing six of nine games near the end of the December and into January.
The Titans then got back on track with three straight wins in LOVC Southeast Division tournament, including the Friday, Jan. 25, win over Villa Grove/Heritage to win the title and advance to the Saturday, Jan. 26, LOVC Tournament Championship contest against the Northwest Division champion Decatur LSA Lions.
These two teams met earlier this season in Decatur with the Lions taking a 65-61 win.
With a huge Titan nation crowd on hand to support them, the Tri-County team members had their sights set on winning a conference championship with their fourth win in a row heading back into regular season play.
Tri-County was unable to pull off the victory however, falling 72-64 to Decatur.
In the first quarteer, the Titans went to the paint, using an even distribution of the basketball to put up 18 points as Blake Lee and Trenton Pinnell combined for 10 of those points. The Lions countered through a duo of their own, scoring 16 points as Grant Karsten and Michael Fiala scored 15 between them making the score 18-16 in favor of Tri-County.
The Lions found a spark in the second quarter en route to a 13-3 run through several three-pointers by Fiala to take a 29-21 lead.
Tri-County then opened up a run of their own, outscoring the Lions 14-5 through the rest of the frame. Caleb Ard hit two three-pointers. The Lions finished with 18 points as Braden Havener scored seven points, giving Decatur a 35-34 advantage heading into the half.
In the third quarter, the Titans get hot behind seven points from Mason Hutchinson. Lee scored five points as part of Tri-County’s 18-point frame. The Lions answered the call, keeping pace with 15 points as Karsten scored 11 points. The Titans entered the fourth quarter with a 53-49 lead.
The wheels came to a screeching halt in the final eight minutes. The Titans offense was unable to overcome the Lion’s defensive presence, hitting just four field goals and scoring 11 points. The Lions, however, took advantage and put up 23 points with 17 of them coming from Karsten and Fiala. LSA shot7 of 13 at the free throw line to pull away for the eight-point conference championship win.
TCT went 24 of 63 from the field for 38.1 percent overall and 13 of 18 from the charity stripe for 72.2 percent.
Blake Lee finished with 19 points while Mason Hutchinson added 18 points. Mitch Pollock scored 10 points in the loss.
LSA went 25 of 70 from the field for 35.7 percent, including eight three-pointers, and 14 of 22 from the line for 63.6 percent.
Grant Karsten finished with a game-high 30 points while Michael Fiala added 22 points in the win.