VANDALIA – With three technical fouls between teams in the fourth quarter, the difference for Shelbyville was what it did with the extra possession.
Pana head coach Gary Bowker was whistled for arguing from the sideline with 7:03 to go in a tie game. Tyler Hendryx sank the two ensuing free throws, then Brett Peifer made a floater in the lane to kickstart a 9-0 run that gave the Rams the biggest lead held by either team.
“I think I said they're calling it like a junior high girls game, that's what got me,” Bowker said.
Devin Peterson made two free throws and Tristan Wade a 3-pointer as the Rams took a 50-41 lead en route to a 60-55 win in the Vandalia Holiday Tournament on Friday.
“We tried to give it back to them because we can't keep our emotions in check,” Shelbyville head coach Stu Hott said. “But I thought, when we had to do it, we handled the ball well.”
A technical was called with 3:36 left when a Shelbyville player argued a reach-in foul. Blake Kircher made four free throws to bring the Panthers within three points, but came up empty on their extra possession.
Less than a minute later, another Shelbyville player was dealt a technical for arguing a call once again. This time, Adam Miller drained four free throws to draw within one point, 52-51.
The Panthers missed a jump shot on the next possession that would've given them the lead.
“They were giving us opportunities, but we couldn't get that last basket to get over the hump,” Bowker said. “It felt like every time (the Rams) got a ball on the rim, it went in.”
Peifer muscled in a tough layup to give the Rams a three-point lead with two minutes left, and then the defense helped them close out the game.
Two missed free throws allowed Pana to hang around, but Rhett Zahradka missed a jumper and a deep 3-pointer that each could've tied the game.
Tice Robinson made a fastbreak layup to give the Rams a six-point lead to coast the rest of the way.
“We felt that we could win if we played well,” Hott said. “At times, we played really well. At times, we played poorly.”
Flora 67, Maroa-Forsyth 49
Bryce Pearce torched Maroa-Forsyth for 30 points, proving he's added a much more well-rounded skillset to his already lethal 3-point weapon.
“He was kind of a sharp shooter (last season), and he still is,” Flora head coach Phil Leib said. “He can catch and shoot, doesn't have to be set facing the basket. He's got that mid-range jumper, he's taking guys off the dribble and getting to the free throw line.”
The senior made 6 of 7 free throws, plus four 3-pointers and the rest from everywhere else inside the arc to give Maroa-Forsyth head coach Chad Cluver headaches.
The Trojans threw a number of different defenders in Pearce's direction, but couldn't contain him. He scored 10 points to lead the Wolves to a 17-8 lead in the first quarter, slowed down to only four in in the second but unloaded 10 more out of the halftime locker room.
“I knew, watching film on him before the game, that he's fun to watch,” Cluver said. “I don't know what else you do. He doesn't need much. I don't know sometimes if he's even facing the basket.”
The Wolves led 31-16 at half, then by as many as 19 four times and 21 once in the second half, but the Trojans brought the deficit within 10 late in the third quarter.
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Maroa scored four points in the paint right away in the third quarter, but later made three 3-pointers in a row – two by Blake Bryan and one by Connor Aeilts – to close in to a 45-35 game.
Then, Pearce took over again. He scored Flora's last five points of the quarter, an athletic layup to stop the Trojans' run and then three free throws after getting fouled from long range.
“He just gets dialed in,” Leib said. “He's like, 'OK, you've played enough. Now it's my turn.'”
After Hott pulled out two players for technical fouls, Wade was the most important player on the floor for Shelbyville in the fourth quarter.
He scored six of his 10 in the last eight minutes, while Hendryx also finished out his night well. Hendryx scored a team-high 18 points, including 11 in the second half.
“Hendryx and Wade, Hendryx and Wade,” Hott said smiling. “I told them they were sleep-walking through the first half. We hadn't played in five days and Christmas was yesterday, but I thought those guys hit big shots.”
Few free ones
Although the first half between Shelbyville and Pana was especially turnover-heavy, there wasn't much opportunity to score from the free throw line.
The two teams combined to take only five free throws in the first two quarters and didn't make one.
The pace of the game was slower in the fourth quarter, as the teams combined for 24 free throw attempts and made all but five.
Maroa was at a decisive disadvantage against Flora, in that the Trojans were playing their second game of the day – earlier, a loss to previously-winless Vandalia.
With three players inactive, Cluver subbed in 12 different players and eight scored at least once. Collyn Richards (4 points) and Josh Cliff (6 points) impressed off the bench.
But Cluver said Maroa took too many early 3-pointers for how tired the players' legs probably were.
“Our legs weren't into it,” Cluver said. “We wanted to pound it inside on them and we did a lot better in the second half.”
Blake Bryan and Jairon Ritter combined for four first-half points but finished the second half with 15 between them.