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St. Elmo’s basketball future looks brighter everyday. The reason the next few seasons hold so much promise is because of Connor Beasley and Blake Pruett. Beasley, who is only a freshman, has had a sensational first half of the season and capped it off with a 17-point performance in the third-place game of the 50th annual St. Elmo Holiday Tournament on Saturday night. Beasley was named tournament MVP later in the evening and has all of St. Elmo buzzing.
Pruett is also turning heads. The sophomore has been a big contributor off the bench for the Eagles and had some great numbers in the tournament.
St. Elmo’s game against Beecher City started out badly for the host school, as Beasley and Zeke Asher were on the bench with two fouls only three minutes into the game.
“It was pretty critical. I was thinking they (Beecher City) were going to expand their lead or really bury us,” St. Elmo head coach Greg Feezel said.
The Eagles were able to stay in the game with the help of Jake Mansker and Ben Sperry, who each scored five points in the first quarter. Patrick Schaal was instrumental on defense and moving the ball around on offense.
With Asher and Beasley back in the second quarter, St. Elmo really turned up the pressure. It held Beecher City to six points in the quarter and held it without a basket for more than four minutes.
During Beecher’s drought, St. Elmo scored six points and took a 25-24 lead on an Asher two-pointer with five minutes remaining in the half. Pruett went coast-to-coast in the final seconds to give St. Elmo a 31-26 lead at the half.
In the third quarter, Beasley took over, scoring 11 of St. Elmo’s 15 points. Even with his big quarter, Beecher City was able to retake the lead, 38-27, with three minutes to go. Beasley scored seven points in the final minutes, including a half-court buzzer-beater that brought the home crowd to its feet as the Eagles led 46-39 going into the fourth.
“I though the whole third quarter, the guys we’re stale,” Feezel said. “I didn’t like the way the quarter was going. Sometimes I feel, as a coach, that you just want to get out of a quarter and hope it changes and it did.”
St. Elmo was in foul trouble again in the fourth, though. Asher got hit with his third and fourth. Chris Logue got his fourth and Beasley got his third. Beecher City took advantage of lesser defense on the court and scored 18 points in the period.
Despite playing with four fouls, Logue scored five points in the fourth quarter.
St. Elmo held a two-point lead with eight seconds to go. Garrett Buzzard knocked down a free throw to make it a three-point game, but with seven seconds to go, Beecher had an eternity to move the ball down court and get a good look. And that’s what it did. Beecher City put up a three as time expired but the shot was off and St. Elmo took third place in the tournament, 60-57.
“We played pretty well at times. We kept battling and battling, and I just thought it was a hard-fought win for us. But if that’s what we have to do, I guess that’s the way we’re going to have to play,” Feezel said. “We’re not going to blow you out. We’re going to have to fight for everything we get.”
Pruett scored 10 off the bench and Asher had nine. Asher was named second-team all-tournament.
“I tell you what, [Pruett] can play the game. As long as he can settle his nerves he’ll be alright and he did tonight,” Feezel said. “He took that ball to the rack a couple times and I told him, ‘Next year, that’s probably going to be a dunk.’”
St. Elmo 53
The Eagles nearly pulled an upset on Thursday night as they came up short in the fourth quarter, falling to Altamont 63-53.
St. Elmo, led by Connor Beasley’s eight first-quarter points, took a 16-12 lead in the first quarter. However, the Eagles could not sustain their offensive production in the second quarter, as they managed only four points. Altamont capitalized on the lull, going on a 13-0 run and scoring 22 points in the quarter.
“We just had one bad quarter and it killed us,” St. Elmo coach Greg Feezel said. “The second quarter just killed us. I can’t ask kids to play any better than what they did in the first, third and fourth quarters. Those kids played hard.”
The already-banged-up Eagles suffered a blow with a minute to go in the half when Zeke Asher went down with a knee injury after colliding with an Altamont defender. Asher laid on the court for several minutes before being helped into the locker room.
“I’ve got one point guard on the bench in street clothes and the other one goes down, and my sophomore point guard is still nursing an injury and can’t play,” Feezel said.
Asher's injury was minor, and he returned in the third quarter.
Altamont scored five points in the final minute to hold a 34-20 lead at the half. Beasley had 10 points in the first half.
The Eagles seamed to be revived after halftime, and held the Indians to just seven third-quarter points and scored 13 of their own. St. Elmo was able to go on a 6-0 run in the quarter, its longest run of the game.
St. Elmo scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, as Chris Logue and Beasley combined for 13, but the defense could not contain Altamont, as it scored 22. The Eagles got within two points of Altamont when Asher hit a three with four minutes to go, but the Indians began to pull away. Beasley hit a three to bring them within three with three minutes to go, but St. Elmo scored just two points in the final three minutes, losing by 10.
“The kids did what I thought they’d do. They’re not going to give up,” Feezel said. “I really thought, I honestly believed, that we were going to get it. I thought, ‘These kids have fought hard enough that we are going to get it,’ but things didn’t work out for us.”
Logue and Asher each finished with 12 points. Beasley had a team-high 19. Blake Mansker had seven.
The Eagles hit five three-pointers and shot 63 percent from the free-throw line.