The Mulberry Grove boys basketball team opened up the season with a second-place finish in its own Thanksgiving Tournament, finishing 4-1, with its only loss coming to tournament champion Patoka
The Aces opened up the tournament with a 66-41 win over Mt. Olive, behind a 29-point effort from senior Tydarious James.
In the second game of the tournament on Tuesday, the Aces suffered their only loss to Patoka, 64-57. Junior Jered Cain led the Warriors, finishing with a team-high 34 points. James led the Aces in the loss with a team-high 26 points and 13 rebounds.
Other contributors for the Aces in the loss were Michael Sloan, with nine; Austin Redfern, with nine; Shawn Iberg, with seven; Jack Criner, with four; and Alex Franklin, with two.
The Aces faced off against Sandoval in the third game of the tournament last Wednesday night, looking to rebound from the tough loss to Patoka.
Both teams came out firing, as Sandoval’s LaRon Anderson scored the first points of the game on a mid-range jumper. Anderson scored seven of his team’s first 10, giving the Blackhawks an early 10-4 lead.
Mulberry Grove battled back to a 15-15 tie following a put-back by Criner. But, Anderson would continue his dominant play, scoring on a last second layup to give Sandoval a 17-15 lead going into the second quarter.
The back-and-forth battle continued in the second, as a layup from Sandoval’s Brian Williams gave the Blackhawks a 27-20 lead. Iberg was able to answer for the Aces, as he scored on consecutive two three-pointers to cut the Sandoval lead to 29-26 going into halftime.
Mulberry Grove came out strong in the second half, as it took its first lead of the game at 37-35, thanks to a floater from Franklin, who was held scoreless in the first half.
Neither team could pull away as the third quarter came to a close, with a put-back from James giving the Aces the 47-45 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Franklin continued his strong second half, knocking down a jumper midway through the fourth to give Mulberry Grove a sizeable 57-49 lead. Franklin finished the game with 15 points, all coming in the second half.
“I know he can handle the ball; he’s a great ball handler,” Mulberry Grove head coach Mark Bollinger said. “His confidence was soaring tonight and that’s been the big thing, to make sure his confidence is up, and he is going to be a great player.”
Sandoval would not go down with a fight though, putting together an 8-0 run to tie the game up at 57 apiece with only 3:17 left to play. However, a layup from Criner and a pair of baskets inside the paint from James would give the Aces a 63-58 lead with less than two minutes to play.
Anderson would bring the lead to one possession following a layup, but Sandoval would come up just short as a pair of free throws from Franklin sealed the deal for Mulberry Grove who held on to win, 67-61.
“The first half, I think they (Sandoval) hit some key threes; they were dropping them from the three-point line,” Bollinger said. “Offensively, we definitely turned it up and got a little stronger with the ball in the second half. We gave it to the key people and that was big. “
Anderson finished with an impressive 40 points in the losing effort, with 24 coming in the second half.
“LaRon is really tough. You almost have to let him have his,” Bollinger said. “Just don’t let the other guys beat you, and he played a really good game, but I thought we played him well defensively. He was just hitting his threes. “
James was the leading scorer for the Aces with 19. He also added a team-high 15 rebounds, despite missing much of the second quarter due to early foul trouble. Bollinger commented on his senior forward’s ability to play smarter in the second half.
“If you keep him (Ty James) off their good people and have him helping out he’s much better,” Bollinger said. “He’s getting more disciplined and not reaching.”
Other contributors for the Aces were Franklin, with 15 points and five assists; Iberg, with 13 points on four three-pointers; Criner, with 12 points and six rebounds; and Redfern, with three points and four assists.
Mulberry Grove carried its momentum into a matchup with Ramsey on Friday night en route to a 75-43 victory.
James led the way with a team-high 26 points in three quarters of play, as the Aces entered the fourth quarter with a 69- 31 lead. James also finished with a team-high eight rebounds.
Other contributors for the Aces were Iberg, with 13 points; Redfern, with nine points; Criner, with seven points; Josh Huhn, with five points; Sloan, with four points; Kyle Jett, with six points; and Jake Linnabary, with three points, three assists and three steals.
Leading scorers for the Rams were Kolten Adermann and Brady Black with 11 and 10, respectively. Other scorers were Jalen Roberts, with nine; Brady Reiss, with nine; Alex Kessinger, with two; and Tommy Luttrell, with two.
Mulberry Grove closed out the tournament Saturday night, defeating Hutsonville, 57-51.
The Aces came out to a slow start, as Hutsonville’s Justin Lowrance scored eight of his 12 points in the first quarter to give the Tigers an 18-14 first quarter lead.
They maintained a four point lead throughout the second, going into the second half with a 29-25 lead. James, who was held to just six points in the first half, came out strong in the third quarter, scoring seven points to help cut the Tiger lead to 42-41 heading into the fourth.
Mulberry Grove stepped up its defense in the fourth quarter, holding Hutsonville to just nine points en route to a 57-51 victory, earning the Aces a second-place finish in the tournament.
James finished with a team-high 18 points and 13 rebounds. Other contributors were Criner, with 14 points and nine rebounds; Redfern, with nine points and four assists; Franklin, with three points and four assists; Huhn, with eight points; and Iberg, with five points.
Patoka finished first in the tournament, with Jered Cain being named the tournament’s most valuable player.
Other all-tournament team selections were Sandoval’s Anderson and Williams; Patoka’s Shane Cain and Garrett Belcher; Mt. Olive’s Jake Bennett and Roger Conlee; Ramsey’s Black; and Mulberry Grove’s James.