Bombers’ remarkable postseason run ends with super-sectional loss to Bullets


Macomb guard Malachi Conley drives between a pair of Williamsville defenders during Monday night's Class 2A super-sectional at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield, Ill. | Photo courtesy Andrea Ratermann

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Jeremy Anderson didn’t want the Macomb boys basketball players to mask their tears.

“We asked them to take a couple of minutes, to honestly take a couple of minutes, and feel disappointed and feel upset,” the Bombers coach said. “That’s OK. That’s a good thing to do. Let the emotions out.”

But he didn’t want it to linger.

“We told them to then start thinking about how much fun they had to get to this point and how great of a season we had,” Anderson said after Macomb’s season ended with a 36-32 loss to Williamsville in Monday night’s Class 2A super-sectional at the Bank of Springfield Center.

“We said, ‘When you walk out, that’s what you should be thinking about.’”

Falling just short of earning the first state trophy in any sport in school history made that tough to do.

The Bombers led 16-2 after the first quarter, but the Bullets’ ultra-aggressive 1-3-1 zone defense created havoc that made things uncomfortable the final three quarters. Macomb (28-6) managed just 16 points over the final 24 minutes, going 7 of 26 from the field in that stretch while committing eight turnovers.

Five of those turnovers came in the fourth quarter, which began with the Bombers leading 27-20.

“(Williamsville) did a really good job of making the reversal passes and the diagonal passes tough to see,” Anderson said, “It gives their backside defenders chances to recover.”

It negated the Bombers’ objective offensively.

“They kept us from getting the ball in the middle and forced us to be a perimeter-oriented team,” Anderson said. “That’s not necessarily what we want to do. We want to try to play inside and out. So I give them a lot of credit for doing that.”

It didn’t start out that way.

Despite turning the ball over on three of their first four possessions, the Bombers made four of their first five shots and surged to a 9-0 lead five minutes into the game. The Bullets didn’t score until Brecken Thomas’ layin off a steal with 2:49 remaining in the first quarter.

Macomb scored the next seven points with senior forward Ian Case sinking a scoop shot at the buzzer for a 16-2 advantage.

“I was thrilled with how we got started,” Anderson said. “I thought we played pretty good team defense the entire game, but we gave up too many points off turnovers and allowed them to outscore us way too much at the foul line.”

An auspicious start to the second quarter set the stage for everything to come. Thomas stole the ball at midcourt on Macomb’s opening possession and turned it into a layup in transition, something he did three times in the first half to trim the deficit to 19-13 by halftime.

Thomas led the Bullets with a game-high 16 points.

Back-to-back field goals by Macomb senior forward Dion Doyle, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, pushed the lead to 27-18 with three minutes to go in the third quarter, but the Bombers missed six consecutive shots after that. When Thomas buried a 3-pointer from the right win with 4:18 to go, the Bullets were within 27-25.

Williamsville tied the game on sophomore guard Garrett Timm’s two free throws with 3:58 to go, and the Bullets took their first lead on Thomas’ two free throws with 3:22 to play. Macomb answered as it turned an offensive rebound into a Braden Holthaus 3-pointer for a 30-29 advantage with 2:40 to go.

However, the Bullets’ Brayden Saling banked in a left-handed runner with 2:10 to go to regain the lead. Williamsville then made 5 of 6 free throws in the final 1:23 to seal the victory.

The Bullets went 15 of 19 from the line overall and 11 of 12 in the fourth quarter. They scored on their final seven possessions and 8 of 10 possessions in the fourth quarter. The Bombers scored on only 2 of 10 possessions in the final stanza.

But it didn’t diminish anything in Anderson’s eyes.

“I’m tremendously proud,” he said. “These guys have come a long, long way from where our seniors were  as freshmen. Their maturity has skyrocketed. They’ve handled themselves with a lot of pride and handled themselves with integrity. They’ve made the community proud of them also.”

Williamsville (26-9) will face Chicago Phillips (23-9) at 2 p.m. Thursday in the state semifinals at State Farm Center on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign.

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