Pinckneyville pulls away in OT to beat
Mt. Carmel, advance to State Finals
Pinckneyville prepares to celebrate as the clock ticks down in overtime. (Doug Daniels Photos)
By Doug Daniels
1351sports.com / pinckneyvillesports.com
March 7, 2018
(Carbondale, Ill.) - Long-time Panther basketball fans no doubt remember Ryan Bruns' buzzer-beating shot to win the 1994 IHSA State Championship against Eureka. Most of them also likely remember Jason Houghland's late three-pointer to put away Cairo in the 2002 Sectional Championship on Pinckneyville's home court.
On Tuesday night, senior guard J.C. Moll created a historic memory for a new generation of Panther fans. Moll erased a four-point deficit with under a minute to play in regulation with a four-point play, then sent the game to overtime on a driving layup with 15 seconds remaining in regulation. In the overtime, Moll gave Pinckneyville the lead with his fourth three-pointer of the night, and the Panthers made 13-of-14 free throws to pull away for a 60-47 victory over the Golden Aces, a Super-Sectional championship, and a trip to this weekend's IHSA State Finals in Peoria.
"This game was competitive, and it came down to players making plays. J.C. Moll hit a big one," said PCHS head coach Bob Waggoner. "He's been through the wars. He's a four-year player. He might be little out there, but I'm telling you what, there's some college out there that's missing out on him. I've been saying it over and over, he is a big time player. They need to be taking a look at him because he makes big plays, and he did it again."
The Panthers were in big trouble after two free throws by Mt. Carmel's Brayden Stipp put the Aces up 40-36, what most would consider a "two-possession game," with 1:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. But Moll fired home a three from the top of the key and drew a whistle, sending him to the line where he tied it up with 59.6 seconds to go in regulation.
Mt. Carmel big man Jackson Marcotte sank a pair of free throws with 32.1 on the clock to put his team back up by two, the the Panthers dribbled the ball past half-court before calling for time with 30 seconds remaining. Moll found a hole in the defense, drove to the bucket, and sent the large collection of Panther fans in attendance at the SIU Arena into a frenzy as his layup tied the game at 42-42. The Aces couldn't get a shot off on their next possession, and an extra 4:00 went up on the clock.
"I knew we needed a bucket," said an ecstatic Moll after the game. "I saw the lane open up, I just went up hoping I would get fouled, and I didn't, but I made it. (Going to state) feels amazing. This is awesome."
Tyler Rice, one of two players used by Waggoner and his staff to try to slow down Marcotte, fouled out on the first possession of overtime and Marcotte put the Golden Aces ahead by hitting both foul shots. Mt. Carmel, however, would not find the bottom of the net again until they'd been buried on the scoreboard by an 18-0 Pinckneyville run that started with Moll's three-ball.
The rest of those 18 points came at the charity stripe. After Tanner Spihlmann, the other PCHS post player tasked with guarding Marcotte, fouled out with 3:21 to go, Marcotte missed both free throws and the Panthers headed the other way looking to extend the lead. Grant Jausel, who endured an uncharacteristic 1-for-13 performance from the field, came up big when he was needed by putting in the first two of thirteen consecutive free throw makes for Pinckneyville with 2:40 to go.
"Big tip out, got the ball to him, and he's dribbling around out here like he's (Harlem Globetrotter) "Curly" Neal," said Waggoner. "They were trying to trap him and they just couldn't catch him."
Jausel, Moll, Dawson Yates and Kyle Luke all contributed at the free throw line in the final three minutes as the Panthers secured a spot in the final four.
"We're a good free throw shooting team, we only had one bad game all year," said Waggoner. "We expect them to go in and our guys have a lot of confidence at the line."
Both teams made runs in the first half, threatening to pull away. With the game knotted at 10-10 late in the opening period, Luke hit a layup and Moll beat the buzzer with a three, then Rice scored on a driving one-hander for the first bucket of the second quarter to put PCHS up 17-10.
The Aces answered with a 12-0 run of their own, starting and ending it with three-point plays by Stipp - the first a conventional three-point play, the latter a three from beyond the arc that made it 22-17 Mt. Carmel with 4:07 to go in the first half.
Pinckneyville got a three-point play of their own moments later from Yates, and after over three minutes went by without either team putting in a bucket, Spihlmann beat the halftime buzzer with a layup to tie it at 22-22.
"Tanner Spihlmann probably had his best game of the year, huge minutes," Waggoner said. "We used two guys to try to wear on (6'7 Marcotte), really make him work, make him hit his free throws, try not to give him twos. (Stipp) is a load, what a competitor he is. He beat us off the bounce in the first half. I thought Dawson Yates did an unbelievable job in the second half of keeping him in front of him. That was the difference in the ball game."
The Panthers were fortunate to be in a tie ball game at the break, after committing six first-half turnovers to Mt. Carmel's three, and shooting just 37.5% (9-for-24) from the field in the opening sixteen minutes.
"We struggled because the big boy in the middle adjusted some shots," Waggoner said. "We missed a lot of shots we normally make. (Blake Golden) is a really good athlete, so is (Austin Rager), they jumped out on us, kept us in front a little bit better than what we're used to."
Defense was the story of the third period, as neither team could jump out by more than four points on the scoreboard, and the Aces were clinging to a 30-27 lead heading to the fourth. Spihlmann hit two big shots - one from the paint, another from beyond the arc - to put the Panthers back out in front 32-30 with 5:35 left in the quarter.
The lead changed hands three times before Mt. Carmel was able to go up four on Stipp's free throws with 1:15 left, setting up Moll's big four-point play and the overtime period.
PCHS wound up winning the turnover battle, forcing 14 and committing 11, and out-rebounded the Golden Aces 32-24, grabbing 15 boards on the offensive glass. Rice and Spihlmann combined to hold Marcotte to a dozen points, and together out-rebounded him 12-to-9, with Rice leading the Panthers with 7 rebounds.
"I thought we rebounded the ball extremely well, got on the glass on both ends and kind of controlled it," Waggoner said. "(Spihlmann and Rice) worked hard in there, they just battled. Tanner hit a big three. They really competed. (Mt. Carmel) is a competitive team, they got second (in Class 2A) last year, those kids don't accept losing. They had us on the ropes, it could have went either way. We were just lucky to make one more play. We knew when it got to overtime we had the momentum."
Moll led the Panthers in scoring with a game-high 22 points, Yates (11) and Spihlmann (10) were also in double figures for Pinckneyville. Yates also finished with a team-high 4 assists.
"It was intense," said Yates. "Coach Waggoner prepared us, we knew that this moment could be coming. We didn't expect anything else, we didn't expect to come out here and blow them out. It's a lot more fun to play when it's close like this. This is incredible, it's got to be one of the best feelings I've ever had."
Luke (9 points), Rice (4) and Jausel (4) also scored for the Panthers. Luke fought foul trouble in the second half, but still managed to finish with a team-best 3 steals.
Pinckneyville (31-3) now moves on to the Class 2A State Semifinals at Peoria Civic Center on Friday, when they'll meet Winnebago (30-2) at 5:30 p.m. In the other semifinal, Chicago Orr (28-4) takes on Bloomington Central Catholic (25-4).
"It means so much because we've been together for so long," Waggoner said of advancing to the State Finals. "Four years these guys have given to this program. It means a lot for me on a personal level, because so many guys have been close and couldn't get out of the Sectional. We've been right there. It's not easy. A lot of people go their whole career and don't get this done, for us to do it twice in the last ten years, and once when I was an assistant, it just means a lot to me. It means a lot to our community. As you can tell, it was blue over SIU today."
Photos by Doug Daniels / PinckneyvilleSports.com