RAMSEY – Bench players from both Mulberry Grove and Ramsey saw extended minutes during a 65-52 Aces win on Saturday.
Foul trouble caught up with both team’s starters early and often, forcing several underclassmen into extended roles. What those players did in those minutes was the biggest takeaway for both coaches.
“Our bench was forced into a lot more minutes than we’d like to see,” said Mulberry Grove coach Chris Johnson. “They played a huge role and really grew up tonight.”
Johnson was particularly impressed with reserve big man Kevin Boulier, a junior who will be starting in place of senior Allen Tompkins next season.
Boulier, who scored four points and grabbed four rebounds in the game, spelled Tompkins several times, often drawing the task of matching up with Ramsey’s center, senior Blake Hadley.
“He’s been getting a lot more minutes but he’s really stepped up, and with more experience and confidence, he can be big next year,” Johnson said.
Freshman Devonta Williamson, who started for the Aces and scored 10 points, is taking the “big step up” to the varsity very well, according to Johnson, and the coach was also pleased with sophomore Derek Phillips’ three points and one rebound.
On the other bench, Ramsey coach Bill Eddy said he was impressed with the minutes he got from sophomores Tyler Pryor and Ryan Black, and junior Jake Roberts. The trio combined for just one point in the game, but it was their hustle that counted.
“Whenever I ask them to go out there, they’re giving me what I want,” Eddy said.
That wasn’t always the case for his starters against Mulberry Grove (3-13), which earned its first Egyptian-Illini Conference win on Saturday.
Throughout the game, Eddy harped to his players that they stop trying to force passes and shots. During timeouts, he preached that they see the play develop by trying to make the easier pass that would lead to the good pass.
“They want to do so well that they try to do everything,” Eddy said. “They (think they) have to make that perfect pass instead of making the simple pass that leads to the good pass.
“They want to do well. I know they want to do well, but they’re not seeing the big picture.”
The errors came early for Ramsey (1-14, 0-5 EIC), as the Rams committed five turnovers in the first quarter. The miscues led to four Mulberry Grove points, but despite that, Ramsey held a five-point advantage after the first period.
The Aces, however, used an 11-1 run over a 2:53 span toward the beginning of the second quarter to take a 21-18 lead. Of the four players who scored in that run, junior John Rickman led the Aces with four points.
Mulberry Grove held a 26-23 lead at halftime, but it quickly evaporated, with the Rams tying the score at 26 just 46 seconds into the third period. The game would be tied again at 28, but after that, the Aces never trailed.
With 6:22 left in the game, Mulberry Grove stretched the lead to 10. Williamson and Phillips both scored in helping the Aces build that advantage.
A 3-pointer by Ramsey senior Jordan Johnson 1:06 later put the Rams within six and gave the home gym a moment of excitement it desperately needed.
Tompkins then took over, however, earning a second-chance bucket on the ensuing possession and gave the Aces another 10-point lead 34 seconds later. He finished with a game-high 21 points.
Senior Andrew Cunningham led the Rams with 17 points.
Mulberry Grove outscored Ramsey, 14-6, over the final 2:34 to seal the 13-point victory.
“It’s good to get a W,” Johnson said.
Saturday, Jan. 22
Mulberry Grove 65
Aces – Tompkins, 21; Harley Steed, 10; Williamson, 10; Jacob Rickman, 6; Zach Heilig, 5; Boulier, 4; John Rickman, 4; Phillips, 3.
Rams – Cunningham, 17; Asa Thomas, 11; Johnson, 10; Hadley, 7; Luke Webb, 6; Pryor, 1.
Aces – 3-13 (1-3 EIC)
Rams – 1-14 (0-5 EIC)
Aces – at CORL Tourney on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Rams – at CORL Tourney on Friday at 6 p.m.