McLean County tourney quarterfinals
There are quite a few reasons why Ridgeview is considered the team to beat in the Heart of Illinois Conference. Some of those were put on display Monday night as the Mustangs claimed a 59-44 victory over LeRoy in the first quarterfinal game of the McLean County Tournament.
The win moves the top-seeded Mustangs into the semifinal round against No. 4 Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, a 61-52 winner over Fisher in the second quarterfinal at the Shirk Center.
RHS head coach Rodney Kellar was able to rely on his senior leadership from Tyler McCormick and Noah Young, as well as having trust in a defensive change that was key as the Mustangs moved on.
First, it was Young and McCormick doing the scoring. The senior backcourt duo combined for 46 points.
McCormick came up with two big shots in the first half that provided Ridgeview with push it needed to hold an advantage on the upstart Panthers.
The first was a 3-pointer that gave RHS an 8-7 lead. It came with 3:44 left in the opening period and just eight seconds after Nick Perry buried a trey that provided LeRoy’s final lead of the game.
“That got us off the hump,” McCormick said. “That 3 gave us a good start.”
The basket started a 14-2 run for Ridgeview that closed out the first frame and gave the Mustangs a 19-9 lead.
LeRoy, however, an overtime winner in the opening round, fought back with a 12-3 surge in the first 4:30 of the second quarter to draw to within one, at 22-21. it was a 28-23 game when McCormick made a big shot at the end of the half.
He ran in a floater high off the board as time ran out on the half to give the Mustangs a 30-25 lead.
“Coming off for a 3 and Noah Young made a good pass and a pump fake and a floater,” McCormick said. “It was good momentum going into halftime.”
Ridgeview’s strength is defense. It has often been masked due to some tremendous offensive weapons, including the likes of McCormick and Young. In this game, it was the defense that closed out the win.
“I told the guys, it was foggy outside and we kind of played in the fog in the second quarter,” Kellar said. “I thought we had a good start and the fog kind of set in and it was my responsibility to find the light some how.
“They slashed us pretty good when we were man in the first half, but defensively we had the 1-2-2 to fall back on I thought those three guys on the perimeter did a nice job doing two things — covering the high post and still getting the shooters,” Kellar said.
“I thought defensively, Corey (Graham) and Tyler and Noah on the top of our 1-2-2 did a nice job of covering some very, very good shooters for LeRoy.”
The Panthers did not score in the second half until 1:26 left in third. Freshman Caleb Moore nailed a triple for LeRoy’s first points in almost a full quarter. Its last points came with 1:18 to go in the first half on a Perry deuce.
“On the board we had ‘relentless’ and coach really put it into us — gang rebound, gang defense and team auto,” McCormick said of the defensive effort.
Young converted a three-point play in the final second of the third quarter for a 45-28 RHS lead. LeRoy was not able to get any closer than a dozen points down the stretch.
McCormick finished with 25 points and Young added 19 as the top-ranked Mustangs aim at reaching the championship game for the fifth straight season. Jacob Donaldson added 8 points, Alex Tongate chipped in 5 and Devon Kelly scored 2 points.
Perry hit for 16 in leading LeRoy. Moore chipped in 9 points.
GCMS led Fisher by 10 points in the third quarter but the Bunnies rallied to trail 43-42 at the end of the period.
Fisher had a chance to take the lead at the end of the quarter, but the lost opportunity was enough for GCMS to regain momentum over the final eight minutes, outscoring the Bunnies 18-10 for the win.
The Falcons and Ridgeview played for the Monticello Holiday Tournament title. The rematch is Friday at 6:30 p.m. The second semifinal game will pit the winners of tonight’s last two quarterfinal contests.