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GREENVILLE – The Jr. Vandals faced a 14-point deficit with 4:30 left in last Thursday’s regional championship game, and though they cut that lead down to four over the next 3:25, there wasn’t enough time to complete the comeback.
A 10-0 run in the fourth quarter gave Vandalia a chance, but a balanced Roxana team took advantage of enough mistakes from the Jr. Vandals to pick up a 42-37 win at Greenville Junior High.
“We came back toward the end, but we shouldn’t have gotten into such a deep a hole,” said coach Nick Casey. “Our guys scrapped and gave us a chance.”
Curtis Gordon paced the Jr. Vandals (14-10) with 17 points, including six points in the fourth quarter, Kelly Jones added six points, and Richie Well had four steals and three assists.
Vandalia’s big run began after Casey called a timeout with 4:27 left in the game, with Gordon grabbing an offensive rebound and making a free throw on the next possession.
Roxana (14-8) would turn over the ball five times during the run, and Vandalia scored four points off of those miscues.
“Their energy picked up after that one timeout, and we started to be more aggressive,” Casey said. “We played a little timid early in the game.”
Gordon made a layup with 1:05 left in the game to make the score 38-34, but the Jr. Vikings made two free throws and a field goal after that, while Vandalia only got a 3-pointer from Dylan Brooks at the buzzer.
The game lacked a flow as 35 fouls were called in the game, including 15 in the fourth quarter, and the teams combined for 39 turnovers.
Vandalia scored 17 points off of Roxana’s 19 turnovers, and the Jr. Vikings got 19 points off of 20 Jr. Vandal mistakes.
In the first quarter, Vandalia held the early control, getting five points from Gordon in 14 seconds to take a 9-5 lead, but the Jr. Vikings responded with a 6-0 run.
A third-chance layup for Roxana came with 24 seconds left in the period, but Alec Schroeder knotted the game at 13 with a jumper 14 seconds later.
Roxana took a four-point lead at halftime, and took control of the game in the third period.
The Jr. Vikings got 10 points off of Vandalia turnovers and held the Jr. Vandals to four points in taking a 33-21 lead.
The loss ends the junior high careers of the eighth-graders, but Casey said that he believes the players will be good in high school if they continue working hard at improving their skills.
And fighting through some adversity this season is bound to help, too.
“We got progressively better,” Casey said. “We started off 2-6, so we definitely played better down the stretch.”
Thursday, Jan. 31
at Greenville Regional
Points: Gordon, 17; Jones, 6; Schroeder, 5; Preston Ruckman, 4; Brooks, 3; Austin Hebenstreit, 2.
Rebounds: Gordon, 7; Kain Dufaux, 4; Hebenstreit, 3; Ruckman, 3; Jones, 2; Brooks, 1; Schroeder, 1; Well, 1; Team, 1.
Assists: Well, 3; Jones, 2; Brooks, 1.
Steals: Well, 4; Brooks, 2; Jones, 2; Gordon, 1.