Yellow Jackets sting Indians in Regional semifinals, 53-52

Chester's Ian Reith sank this bucket to put Chester in front to stay late in Wednesday's Regional semifinal game at Johnston City. (Doug Daniels Photo)

By Doug Daniels
1351sports.com / duquoinsports.com

February 22, 2018

  (Johnston City, Ill.) - Du Quoin had a three-point lead with 3:30 to go in Wednesday night's Johnston City Regional semifinal against Chester, but couldn't score again and had to watch as the Yellow Jackets inched their way ahead and held on for a 53-52 victory, getting a bit of revenge on the Indians, who defeated them by a single point in last year's Regional tournament.
  As many postseason games do, Wednesday's battle came down to a handful of key possessions late in the ball game. The Indians took their first lead of the night on a three-pointer from Josh Heape with 4:03 to play, then got a layup from Lamontay Daughtery thirty seconds later to extend that lead to 52-49. But Du Quoin would not find the bottom of the net again.
  Chester's Keith Kiner III cut the lead to one with his bucket with 3:10 to go in the game, then two DHS turnovers sandwiched a miss by the Jackets, giving the ball back to Chester with 47.1 seconds remaining. After two timeouts, the Jackets inbounded with 16.6 to go.

  The ball found it's way to Chester's Ian Reith on the baseline, and Reith fired up a jumper with Braeden Pursell's hand in his face. The shot sank with about 8 seconds to go to put the Yellow Jackets in front, and Du Quoin called for time with 7.5 remaining.
  "We felt like Ian's probably got a little bit better touch around the rim, so we wanted to get Ian a double screen and try to make them switch and rotate off of it, try to get a smaller guy on him there in the post," said Chester head coach Brad Norman. "Our point guard did a good job of giving it right to him at the right time. He hesitated a little bit, but Ian's really good about facing up and then getting to the shooter side, then getting the ball above his head and being able to knock it down."
  DHS's Hank Stewart brought the ball up quickly, pulled up near the top of the key, but the ball came loose and wound up in the hands of Chester's Drake Bollman, who held onto it until time expired.
  "We had a lead with a minute to go in the game, we were spreading the floor, wanting them to come out and guard us, and then we had a turnover," said Du Quoin head coach Justin Barrington. "Then we got a stop, there was a loose ball and they got it, and credit their kid, he hit a shot. We contested it, he hit the shot."
  "The last true possession they handled the ball and made a shot, we didn't. That's how it goes in postseason basketball. We didn't do a good enough job of rebounding defensively tonight."

  Du Quoin fell behind early and trailed 18-13 through one quarter of play, but got 7 points from Heape and 6 from Stewart in the second quarter to claw their way back even at 30-30 heading into halftime. Chester came out of the break and took control of the game with a 13-4 run to start the second half and led 43-34 with a minute to go in the third period.
  "We showed them the zone, showed them the man, kept switching back and forth," said Norman. "The kids are really starting to figure out their rotation in that 2-3, and it's awesome. Being able to extend and have a guy like (Kiner) in the middle, it's been fun, they did a hell of a job there at the end of the game."
  That's when Pursell hit a shot that the Du Quoin bench believed to be a three-pointer, but was instead ruled a deep two. That questionable point loomed large given the one-point difference in the game's outcome.
  "There were some things that were questionable tonight during the game that I didn't understand," Barrington said. "Things going on on rulings and such, those are things that we can't help."
  Never the less, the comeback continued for the Indians with a baseline drive and layup by Daughtery, and a buzzer-beating bucket by Stewart that cut the lead down to 43-40 heading to the fourth. 

  Daughtery hit two free throws with 5:04 to play to cut it to two, setting up the dramatic conclusion that began with Heape's three with 4:03 on the game clock.
  "We needed one more stop to finish the game, and we didn't get it tonight," Barrington said. "Had we got that stop, we'd be playing Friday night. That's how postseason basketball goes. There's no do-overs."
  Daughtery finished off a stellar sophomore campaign with 20 points to lead Du Quoin, and Heape, a junior, joined him in double figures with 12. Those two, along with Pursell, Shamar Adams, and others, will be the key returning pieces for the Indians next season, when many will expect them to be a major player.
  "We've got pieces in place, we've got more coming, we understand that," Barrington said. "There's also a lot a lot of work ahead of us on what we're going to do and not do. We can't just rely on everybody telling us how good we're going to be, we've got to get to work and continue to work, and our guys will do that."
  "Our five seniors have been great leaders all year for us, they've shown the younger guys how to coe to work every single day. They've shown the guys what, as an older player, you do. We've got some big shoes to fill in the leadership category. Our younger guys, while we are talented, while we have promise, we have to make sure we make good on that and continue to work. We can't be the same player come November that we are right now in February. It's not really on our mind right now. The biggest takeaway (from tonight) is we won't be practicing tomorrow."
  Stewart finished with 8 points, Pursell had 6, and Will Woodside, Ashton Smith and Adams each finished with 2 for the Indians, who finished the season with an overall record of 13-16.
  Kiner led Chester with 20 points, Reith added 15. The Jackets (22-8), who tied a school record for boys basketball wins in a season with the victory, will play for a Regional championship on Friday night against Anna-Jonesboro.

Du Quoin's Lamontay Daughtery throws down a fast-break dunk during the third quarter of Wednesday night's Regional semifinal. (Doug Daniels Photos)

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