Illini West gives third-seeded Eureka scare, but top seeds prevail in first day at Macomb


Illini West's Gannon Bergmann flips a shot toward the rim while defended by Eureka's Tyler Heffren during Tuesday's first-round game at the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament at Western Hall in Macomb. | David Adam

MACOMB, Ill. — The top seeds held serve in each of the eight first-round games Tuesday in the 76th annual Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament.

The Illini West boys basketball team had the best shot at pulling off an upset.

The Chargers led No. 3 seed Eureka 15-4 after one quarter and by as many as 14 points with four minutes left in the second quarter, but they couldn’t hold on in a 52-41 loss at Western Hall on the Western Illinois University campus.

Illini West (6-6) still led 29-18 after a layup by Gannon Bergmann with 4:31 left in the third quarter, but the Chargers didn’t score again in the quarter. Eureka scored the next 13 points, taking its first lead at 31-29 on a 3-pointer by Tyler Heffren with 30 seconds left in the quarter.

“Maybe they weren’t expecting us to run our 1-3-1 zone,” Chargers coach Justin Ellison said. “I think at first, (Eureka was) kind of stationary. We kind of gave them some trouble with that. But they made some adjustments. They started hitting some shots, and we lost (Heffren) a couple of times. He started making some threes. Then I think they all kind of started going. 

“They did a good job of taking the game back from us.”

The Chargers tied the game at 31 and 33 on baskets by Bergmann and Drake Mudd, but the Hornets went on a 13-2 run to take control. The run was fueled by 3-pointers from Heffren, Justin Bachman and Carson Gold. 

Eureka (7-3), the defending tournament champion, made 13 of 17 shots in the second half.

“It seems like we’re always putting together two and a half or three good quarters,” Ellison said. “We just haven’t been able to put together four good quarters yet. Sometimes I feel like when we’re hitting shots, our defense is up, and then when we’re not hitting shots, our defense kind of ducks down. We’ve just got to be a little bit more consistent on the defensive end.”

Mudd had 15 points and seven rebounds for the Chargers. Nolan Deitrich added 12 points. Heffren, the most valuable player in the 2021 tournament, had 23 points and nine rebounds.

West Hancock nearly lets 12-point lead slip away

Alec Hymes made two free throws for West Hancock with 21.6 seconds left, and Luke Jacquot blocked a potential game-tying 3-pointer by Canton’s Kaden Otto in the final seconds to preserve a 51-48 victory.

The Titans (12-2) scored the first 10 points of the third quarter, taking a 30-18 lead at the 5:32 mark on two free throws by Gage Scott. However, the Little Giants (2-9) didn’t fold, twice getting within three points early in the fourth quarter. Each time, West Hancock answered with a 3-pointer — one from Nolan Hurt and the other from Hymes — to push the lead back to six.

Canton got as close as 42-41 after a layup by Otto following a turnover, but again, West Hancock came right back with a 3-pointer, this time by Jacquot from the corner.

The Titans pushed the lead to 48-42 after Jacquot made one of two free throws, and they still led 49-44 with 46 seconds left after another Jacquot free throw. Canton gave West Hancock a scare when Otto made a 3-pointer from in front of the Little Giants’ bench, and he was fouled on the play by Hurt. Otto’s free throw got Canton within 49-48 with 26 seconds to play.

Otto led all scorers with 21. Scott had 13 for West Hancock, while Lewis Siegfried had 10, Jacquot had nine points and 10 rebounds and Hymes had nine points. Each team had 20 turnovers.

Central dominates from opening tip, cruises in first round

Central, seeded fourth in the field, used a 15-0 run in the first quarter to take a 22-5 lead over Lewistown. They were never challenged by the Indians in a 62-26 victory.

The Panthers (8-2) forced 17 turnovers in the first half, limited the Indians to 35 percent shooting and shot 58 percent in the first 16 minutes. The Panthers scored 12 straight points in the second quarter, blanking the Indians for 3 minutes, 44 seconds.

A 10-0 run in the third quarter helped Central extend its lead to 51-19, and the Panthers played the fourth quarter with a running clock.

Breyhar Wiskirchen had 14 points for the balanced Panthers, who also saw Carter Eyler (13 points), Isaac Genenbacher (12 points) and Nick Moore (10 points) reach double figures. Central had 16 steals and forced 24 turnovers. Cole Beekman had 16 points for Lewistown (9-5).

Box-and-one slows Stephens, but Suns get help from others

Many people in attendance for Tuesday afternoon’s first-round game between No. 2 seed Southeastern and Abingdon/Avon hoped for a highlight show from the Suns’ Danny Stephens, but it was Stephens’ supporting cast who came through in a 41-29 victory.

Southeastern made the 30-minute drive from Augusta to Macomb to win its debut in the tournament.

The Tornadoes used a box-and-one on Stephens, and he was limited to eight shots in the game. However, sophomore Griffin Tippey came through early for the Suns, making three 3-pointers — his only baskets of the game — to put Southeastern ahead 11-5 after one quarter.

Abingdon (0-11) never got closer than six points and trailed the Suns 21-11 at halftime. Junior Mason Fry made an old-fashioned three-point play and added a 3-point basket in the final moments of the third quarter as Southeastern led 35-20 with eight minutes to play. The lead grew to as many as 18 points before Suns coach Brett Ufkes cleared the bench.

Stephens finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. Tippey had nine points, Fry added eight and Aiden Akers chipped in with seven to account for the rest of the scoring for Southeastern (11-0), ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Class 1A state poll. Kellen Hook and Asa Stegall had eight points each for the Tornadoes.

Frigid first half too much for Pittsfield to overcome

Pittsfield made just 3 of 13 shots in the first half and missed their only two free throws to fall behind 21-6 at the intermission, and Macomb didn’t let the lead dip below 16 in the second half until the final minutes in a 46-33 victory.

The Bombers (11-3) forced the Saukees into 17 turnovers. Connor Watson led Macomb with 18 points, and Nolan Kerr added 11. Javan Petty came off the bench to lead Pittsfield with 10 points, and Brennan Tomhave scored eight for the Saukees (5-5), who shot 50 percent in the second half and outscored the Bombers 27-25.

Brown County shoots just 30 percent in loss to Farmington

An 11-1 run in the second quarter gave Farmington the lead for good, and a 12-2 run in the third quarter ended any thoughts for a comeback by Brown County as the Farmers claimed a 53-37 victory.

Brown County trailed 25-18 at halftime, and Sam Carr scored on the first possession of the third quarter to cut the deficit to five points. The Hornets then missed five of their next six shots while turning the ball over four times as the Farmers went ahead 37-22.

The Hornets never got closer than nine points thereafter.

Cole Behymer scored 15 points for the Hornets (8-4), who missed 31 out of 45 shots from the field. Carr added 11 points. Keauntrey Barnes had 17 points and eight rebounds for the Farmers (9-2), and Logan Morse also scored 17 points.

Liberty hangs close to top-seeded Rockridge … for a quarter

Liberty only trailed 12-7 after the first eight minutes, but Rockridge took over in the second quarter and had little trouble winning 54-22 in the first round.

Liberty (1-12) trailed 9-7 after Tanner Gimm’s 3-pointer with 1:48 left in the first quarter. The Rockets (8-2) outscored the Eagles 22-8 in the second quarter, and Liberty was limited to seven points in the second half. The Eagles turned the ball over 24 times and made just nine of 29 shots from the field.

Gimm had eight points to lead Liberty. Landon Bull and Caleb Cunico each scored 12 points to lead the Rockets.

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