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VJHS 7th-grade boys win own tournament

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By Seth Whitehead

Stealing is only cool in a couple instances: George Clooney movies and on the basketball court. The Vandalia seventh-grade boys basketball team proved to be doubly cool Saturday, mastering the latter with Ocean's Eleven-like precision in the championship game of its own invitational tournament. The Junior Vandals came up with 18 steals against St. Elmo in a 38-20 win, with Tim Ritchey filled the role of Clooney's Danny Oceans. The Junior Vandals lynchpin came away with 10 of those takeaways, going on to post a rare points-steals double-double by scoring a game-high 14 points. The Junior Vandals' thievery allowed them to take 15 more field goal attempts than the Eagles, helping turn what appeared to be a potentially close game into a blowout. After the teams traded baskets throughout the opening five minutes, Vandalia took the lead for good when Ritchey came away with his third steal of the game and went in for a fast-break layup, giving Vandalia an 8-6 lead. Leyton Godoyo then scored six straight points for the Junior Vandals, helping them open up a six-point lead early in the second quarter. Vandalia maintained that six-point edge up until halftime before opening up a double-digit advantage with a 6-0 run to start the second half. Wade Cowger got things rolling with a jumper off a Ritchey feed, and Alex Rees put Vandalia up 22-12 with a basket at the four-minute mark of the third quarter. Ritchey capped the run with a steal and fast break that gave Vandalia a daunting 24-12 advantage with a little more than two minutes remaining in the quarter. Vandalia went on to score the first six points of the fourth quarter as well, as two of the baskets came off Ritchey steals. Ritchey opened the quarter with a basket off a Godoyo feed. Harter then found Cowger in transition for a bucket after Ritchey's ninth steal. Ritchey then capped his day with his 10th steal, taking the ball the length of the court for his 13th and 14th points. Godoyo and Cowger added six points apiece for Vandalia, while Logan Rogers grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, to go along with two points. Cowger and Rogers grabbed three steals apiece. Ritchey added five rebounds and an assist to his impressive stat line. Aaron Harter, Alex Rees, Matt Campbell, Zach Etcheson and Michael Wells scored two points apiece for the Junior Vandals, who registered nine players in the scoring column. Conner Beasley led St. Elmo with 10 points, four rebounds and three steals. Levi Maxey added four points and two rebounds, while Garrett Bartels had three points and four rebounds. Tanner Austin chipped in two points for the Eagles, while Damian Black rounded out St. Elmo's scoring with one point. Saturday's First Semifinal Vandalia 36, Greenville 28 Vandalia used a 10-5 fourth-quarter advantage to pull away from the Bluejays and advance to the championship. Harter led a balanced Vandalia scoring attack with 11 points, while Cowger added nine and Ritchey had eight. Michael Wells came off the bench to score four points, while Godoyo and Rogers rounded out Vandalia's scoring with two points apiece. Saturday's Second Semifinal St. Elmo 45, Pana 43 The Eagles advanced to the championship by holding off Pana in a shootout. Maxey and Beesley led the Eagles with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Maxey tallied 12 of his points in the second half, hitting 8 of 10 free throws. St. Elmo enjoyed a huge advantage at the charity stripe, hitting 17 of 26 attempts, compared to 1 for 5 for Pana. Bartels added five points for St. Elmo, while Wells had three. Pana Tournament Last Tuesday's Result Glenwood 29, Vandalia 26, OT The Junior Vandals suffered their second straight heartbreaking setback at the Pana Tournament, as Glenwood used a 4-1 advantage in overtime to pull out the victory. Vandalia finished the tournament with a 0-2 record, losing those two games by a combined seven points. Ritchey had a team-high 12 points for the Junior Vandals, scoring five points in the fourth quarter. Harter added six points.