DECATUR -- It took about 40 seconds for Chase Strader to find his rhythm.
Catching a pass from Wyatt Fishel, Strader drew contact, made the shot, and finished off the free throw. And sure, the eight points in the first quarter was significant, but the defense the senior threw down on Argenta-Oreana's best player cut off hope of a Bombers comeback.
Strader and the Riders held Konnor Damery under wraps for much of the night, and Arcola went on to beat the Bombers 57-43 in the Little Okaw Valley Northwest tournament final.
"We just asked him to stay in front of him and avoid fouling him, and he did exactly that," Arcola coach Mike Shaffer said of Strader. "Teammates helped him out. That was our focus -- try to limit Damery. I know he still got some points, but I was really pleased with the way Chase guarded. That was the most important factor of the game."
Strader, who missed the first eight games of the season because of a suspension before tweaking his knee over the holidays, has steadily worked his way back. Shaffer couldn't have been happier with his play -- getting a wide smile and an 'Atta boy,' as he exited the game midway through the fourth.
Strader was impressive on both ends of the floor -- he scored 12 points and had four assists on the offensive end Friday night.
"Just getting back in the zone, finally," he said.
His first quarter powered an 18-7 lead before Kollin Seaman took over. Seaman scored the next eight points, eventually finishing with 20. Between his 3-point shooting and using his size and length to contort his way to the basket, Seaman is a matchup nightmare for opponents.
On Friday, so was the rest of Arcola (16-3). The Riders shot 23-for-48 from the floor, and that's with attempting 21 3-pointers.
"Yeah, basketball's pretty easy when the ball goes in," Shaffer said. "We made shots. We have good shooters, they all got the green light as long as they're open, I don't mind them shooting. If they go in, we look really good."
It sent Argenta reeling, and while the Bombers staged a fourth-quarter comeback, the 23-point gap was a little too wide.
"We use the boxing analogy a lot, but when you get knocked down, you gotta get back up," Argenta coach Tom Saunches said. "We got knocked down and it took us a long time, 2 and a half quarters to get back up."
Damery scored 15 points to lead the Bombers and Drevin Shafer added 10 more. Those two combined to score 10 points as Argenta went on a 14-2 rally late.
It's the latest win for an Arcola team that's now won 10 in a row and won eight of those by double digits. Four weeks away from regional play, the Riders look to have the tools for another deep postseason run.
"For sure. We've been playing really well these past few games," Strader said.
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When you're the focal point of a state championship team, it can be a little easy to let that get to your head.
But Wyatt Fishel, the linebacker/running back who demolished opponents on the football field, embraces a setup role in the winter. The senior may be a little bigger than the John Stockton mold, but his vision's up to snuff. He had eight assists on the night.
"Wyatt is such a good point guard," Shaffer said. "He sees the floor so well. He understands basketball and knows when to get the ball inside and when to create opportunites for our 3-point shooters.
"That's just his nature. He doesn't care if he scores, he just wants to win. He's the ultimate competitior and brings it every night. He was very, very sick Tuesday night, and he wanted to play. And he probably shouldn't have played, but I wasn't going to stop him."
Having Strader as the first line of the defense was key for the Riders. He's long enough to get stay with him on the perimeter, and Cole Hutton and company helped with the interior defense.
"That was what frustrated me," Saunches said. "People whose man would leave them to double and triple Konnor, it's hard to watch. You see it in the NBA too. I was disappointed that we didn't react sooner as a team. We had individuals who were doing it."
"He can do everything," Strader said of Damery. "He's a 6-4 point guard and probably their best post player, too. He's hard to guard, but my teammates helped out a lot, double-teaming him when he posted up."
Argenta's 6-foot-7 junior is finding his spot.
Derek Jones took one 3 to start the game -- and made it -- but Saunches was impressed with how he's developed in the paint.
"Derek Jones continues to grow inside," Saunches said. "If you watched him a month ago, he seldom shot the ball in the post."
Arcola won't have a chance to get for revenge for its latest loss -- Oblong. Instead, the Riders will take on Cumberland, who beat the Panthers 75-65 on Friday night.
It sets up a LOVC final at Arthur at 7 p.m.