DMS falls short in two-point loss to Benton in Regional semifinal

Caden Hutchens led DMS in scoring against Benton with 16 points. (Doug Daniels Photos)

By Doug Daniels
1351sports.com / duquoinsports.com

January 24, 2018

  (Du Quoin, Ill.) - Du Quoin Middle School was literally inches away from forcing overtime in Wednesday night's Class L Boys Basketball Regional semifinal against Benton, but four shots in the final eight seconds of the game were all off the mark, and the Rangers escaped with a 54-52 victory and a trip to championship on Saturday.
  Benton led by seven with four minutes to play before Jaden Smith hit a three-pointer for Du Quoin, then Caden Hutchens got a steal and a layup, a foul, and as a result, a three-point play to trim the lead to one. But the Warriors could never get over the hump. Both teams left some points on the board at the free throw line, as DMS made just 7-of-20 at the charity stripe while the Rangers were 12-for-29.
  "You hate to get beat but this was a great game to be a part of," said DMS head coach Jason James. "It was a back and forth battle all game long. We just couldn't get the lead in the fourth. We had four shots at the rim with eight seconds to go but couldn't get one to fall. We did not shoot well from the free throw line but they didn't either. Tough game, but a highly competitive game."
  A 7-0 Ranger run in the second quarter broke a 14-14 tie and put Benton up 21-14. Xavier Baxter stopped the bleeding with a three, then Hutchens stole the inbounds pass and hit a layup to cut the lead to two. After a Benton bucket, Traijon Smith converted a three-point play for the Warriors with just over a minute to go in the half to bring DMS to within one, but the Rangers hit a layup and a free throw in the final minute to led 26-22 at the break.
  Benton outscored Du Quoin 15-14 in the third before opening up their seven-point lead in the fourth that set up the final sequence of events referenced above.
  Hutchens' 16 points led DMS in scoring, Baxter added 14, J. Smith and T. Smith each had 9, and Slayde Huntley finished with 4.
  "I am so proud of this eighth grade team," said James. "They came and competed every night. As a coach that is all you can ask for. This is a group that never gave us any trouble, they kept their grades up, and were a group of respectful kids. I am excited to watch them do great things in high school."
  The Warriors finished the season with a record of 10-13. J. Smith and T. Smith have one more game to go - both were selected to play in the 1st Eighth Grade All-Star Game held at Rend Lake College on February 25 at 7:00 p.m.

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