Large halftime leads were in question in both of the consolation bracket finals Saturday at the 71st Salem Invitational Tournament.
The host Wildcats were ahead 20 points over Madison after two quarters and saw that margin cut down to six in the final period before Salem prevailed 53-44 in the consolation third place contest.
Not as fortunate was Effingham as the Hearts — who led Champaign Central by 18 at the break — went through a scoreless fourth quarter and eventually fell 59-55 to the Maroons in overtime.
On the championship side, close all the way was the third place game in which Thornton Fractional North edged Carbondale 46-44.
Consolation Third Place: With scoring contributions from nine players, the Wildcats owned a 36-16 lead after two quarters.
“We knew we’d need to have fresh legs and guys step up,” said Wildcats coach Pete Colclasure whose team was just two hours removed from a tough 48-47 loss to Effingham in a consolation semifinal. “We made shots, we were aggressive and did all the things we needed to do in the first half.”
While shooting just 30 percent from the field overall, the Trojans (10-11) managed to slice the deficit to 43-30 after three quarters, and five turnovers by the Wildcats helped Madison close within 43-37 on DeByron Boyd’s free throw with 4:28 to play.
Connor Tennyson’s basket for Salem was matched by one from Boyd and the Wildcats were up 45-39. After running some clock, Salem received two free throws from Noah Nix for a 47-39 lead with 2:40 to play, and two more each by Seth Bailey and Sam Greene kept the Trojans at bay.
Tennyson led a balanced attack for the Wildcats (6-16) with 12 points and he also gathered in eight rebounds. Boyd and Jamerrion Skinner had 11 points each for the Trojans.
“We knew they (the Trojans) weren’t going to quit and that that they’d were going to pressure us,” said Colclasure. “But we handled it and made free throws when we needed to.
“Our goal all year has been to be playing our best in February and right now we’re making strides to do that. But we can’t be complacent; we have to want to get better.”
In the consolation semifinal game versus Effingham earlier in the day, the Wildcats overcame a 15-4 first quarter deficit to take the lead late in the fourth before the Hearts held on after Salem had a final shot fall short.
Jairen Stroud led the Wildcats with 15 points including a trio of 3-pointers and Bailey added 11.
Logan Heil scored 18 points and harvested a dozen rebounds for Effingham, and Garrett Wolfe had 11 points.
Consolation Final: After doubling the score on Central at 36-18 at halftime, the Hearts (9-15) endured a scoreless string of nearly 13 minutes including a fourth quarter in which Effingham didn’t net a point.
The Maroons (7-14), who tallied 23 consecutive points to draw even and then take the lead for good on Landon Robinson’s basket to start the overtime, were up 52-51 with 0:55 left in the extra period after the Hearts’ Andrew Donaldson hit a 3-pointer.
Chris Bush finished with 28 for Central, and Robinson and David Riley scored 11 each. Wolfe led Effingham with 27 points.
In the other consolation semifinal that tipped off Saturday morning, Champaign topped Madison 49-38 as Bush scored 15 points and Skinner had 18 for the Trojans.
Third Place: The Meteors (15-3) capped their best showing ever in their six-year run at the SIT by edging out the Terriers (8-13) in a game in which neither team had a lead larger than four points.
Trailing by one with 15 seconds to play, Carbondale got possession on a turnover by T.F. North but the Terriers also lost the ball on a turnover, and with 0:02.8 showing, Chase Abraham’s free throw gave the Meteors a 46-44 lead.
After inbounding the ball, the Terriers got off a halfcourt shot that glanced off the backboard as time expired.
Abraham came off the bench to lead TFN with 17 points and Christopher Cook had 10.
DeCarl Payne scored 20 for the Terriers while Jaden Patterson had 10.
Championship: Mount Vernon whittled what had been a 19-point deficit to one with a minute to go but two turnovers by the Rams helped East St. Louis fend off the Rams 49-44.
Antwan Robinson scored 17 points and Demarion Brown 10 for the Flyers (14-4).
Navontae Nesbit, Jr. had 16 for the Rams (15-7) and Colin McClure added 13.
It was East St. Louis fourth straight SIT championship.
First Round: In opening round games of the SIT, Mount Vernon topped Champaign Central 51-41, Madison edged Carbondale 57-56, East St. Louis defeated the Wildcats 80-57 and Thornton Fractional North got past Effingham 61-50.
Navontae Nesbit, Jr. had 21 for the Rams in Mount Vernon’s win while Champaign was led by Torion Rhone and Chris Bush with 11 each.
DeCarl Payne had 22 points and Jaden Patterson 17 for Carbondale as the Terriers held off Madison, which received 26 points from Jamerrion Skinner and 14 from Derrion Enlow.
The Wildcats led the Flyers 16-15 after a quarter in a spirited effort before East Side’s size took hold. Macaleab Rich had 31 points, Arlandis Brown 11 and D’Necco Rucker 10 for the Flyers. Connor Tennyson had 14 points, Seth Bailey 10 and Brenan Lux 10 for Salem.
Jayden Small scored 17 for Thornton Fractional North which took an early lead in topping the Hearts. Garrett Wolfe had 19 for Effingham.
Championship Semifinals: Macaleab Rich scored 13 points before leaving the game with an ankle injury while Antwan Robinson had 16 and D’Necco Rucker 15 as East St. Louis pulled away late from T.F. North 70-58. Jevon Warren had 25 points, Chase Abraham 15 and Jayden Small 14 for the Meteors.
Mount Vernon won the 2,000th game in school history with its 50-40 victory over Carbondale. Nesbit, Jr. had 15 points, Rolen Adams 12, McClure 11 and R.J. King 10 for the Rams. Payne led the Terriers with 15.