Mac-to-Back: Panthers repeat as Macoupin County Tournament Champs
North Mac wins fifth county title
in nine years
By Jackson Wilson
2019 Macoupin County
Tournament Championship – North Mac 43, Southwestern 32
The clock has struck midnight.
After being denied back-to-back titles at the hands of the Panthers a season ago, the Southwestern Piasa Birds were determined to write a Cinderella story of their own and re-take the crown. Unfortunately, as it had done a season ago, a resilient North Mac sqaud proved to be too much on both ends of the court despite having an injured offensive weapon in Tanner Wilson. In triumph, the North Mac Panthers have sealed their program as the dynasty of the decade in Macoupin County. This is their fifth championship and second back-to-back since the Virden-Girard high school merge of 2010.
Sam Mount finished with a grand total of 39 points for the tournament in just two games – including 14 in the championship – to earn another all-tournament team honor for North Mac. Grant Thoroman chipped in nine points and was also recognized. Addis Moore (Southwestern), Quinton Kosowski (Mt. Olive) and Jarrett Easterday (Carlinville) rounded out the rest of the roster.
Despite major offensive struggles in the first quarter, the Panthers’ defense kept the Birds from building an early lead. Down 8-7 at the start of the second session, North Mac eventually settled in and built a 21-13 lead heading into halftime.
“We’ve been struggling offensively since Tanner hasn’t been playing. We’ve been preaching at practice that it doesn’t matter if you make a shot or not. You can’t do anything about it. But, you can go down, play defense, rebound and make a play at the other end. I thought we didn’t get our heads down too much,” said North Mac head coach T.J. Wilson.
E.J. Kahl scored 11 points for Southwestern, but Moore was held to just one field goal in nine attempts. With their best scorer put on mute, it was nearly impossible for the Birds to put up a second half rally. Yet, the defense kept the defecit at a reasonable margin.
“Defensively, our kids played as good as they can play. Sometimes the athleticism takes over on the offensive end and you just can’t shoot the ball in some situations. But, we did a lot of good things. I’m proud of our effort and the way we battled back,” praised Southwestern head coach Jason Darr.
Day 1 – January 15 – Quarterfinals
Staunton 52, Mt. Olive 43 – It didn’t take long for some early tournament drama to unfold. The Bulldogs built an early 18-5 lead behind a 10-point opening quarter from Ethan Booth, but the host Wildcats energized the home crowd with a stunning rally to tie the game at 40 in the fourth quarter. Staunton avoided the upset with a commanding 12-3 run in the closing stretch. Kosowski tallied 24 points for Mt. Olive to lead all scorers.
Southwestern 41, Bunker Hill 35 – The Piasa Birds came into this quarterfinal match-up on the heels of a four game losing streak, but they were out to prove that everybody starts with a clean slate in tournament play. The scrappy Minutemen managed to build a 21-20 halftime lead, but were unable to stop Moore. The 6’4” sophomore finished with 20 points on the evening to help rally Southwestern into the semifinals.
Carlinville 59, Gillespie 46 – Based on what these teams showed during the first matchup three weeks prior, this contest was expected to possibly be another evenly-matched thriller that came down to the last possession. However, the Cavaliers didn’t let the Miners stick around this time. Carlinville outscored Gillespie 19-11 in the fourth quarter en route to a 2-0 rivalry advantage. The Cavaliers also defeated the Miners 55-53 at the Carlinville Holiday Tournament on Dec. 29. All-tournament honoree Easterday put up 21 points in the Cavie conquest. Carlinville will face Gillespie a third time on Friday at the Big House on West Main. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Day 2 – January 17 – Semifinals
Bunker Hill 54, Mt. Olive 48 – Due to the unattractive records of these two squads, this was the rivalry that was hidden under a stone left unturned. The season series was dead even and both of the previous games had presented a major dose of drama. This elimination contest was no different. From the opening tip, a never-ending tug-of-war match was in session. Finally, after being tied at the end of first half and third quarter, the Minutemen busted a 48-48 draw in the final 90 seconds to win it 54-48, advancing them on to the fifth place game against Gillespie. Coy Sellers (19) and Jacob Weidner (16) collaborated for 35 points and played a major role in Bunker Hill’s 14-8 fourth quarter push.
Southwestern 33, Staunton 23 – Lucas Sievers scored eight points, but that was the only bright spot on this day for Troy Redfern’s offense. The Dogs were held to three massive scoring droughts that formed a “staircase of doom” – six minutes in the second, seven in the third and all eight minutes of the fourth. When all was said and done, Staunton was only shooting 20% from the field as a unit. Southwestern senior Ryne Hanslow buried back-to-back long range bombs in the fourth to break a 23-23 tie, sending the Birds back to the championship game.
North Mac 59, Carlinville 39 – The Cavaliers managed to hang around in the first quarter, but the Panthers built a 33-22 halftime lead and never looked back. Mount scored a tournament-high 25 points and Thoroman chalked up 13 to set up a Macoupin County Championship rematch against Southwestern.
Day 3 – January 18 –
3rd Place Game – Staunton 51, Carlinville 39 – Briley Roper put up 15 points for the Cavies, but the Bulldogs bounced back from yesterday’s ice cold performance to take third place. Cylis Cox (12), Sievers (12) and Booth (10) all gained double figures in the victory. Staunton improves to 3-0 against Carlinville this season. The Cavaliers are now 6-14 overall. They have lost three straight games, including a make-up contest against Nokomis at the Morrisonville Mohawk Classic last Wednesday. The Redskins won easily, 47-21, to clinch the tournament title.
5th Place Game – Bunker Hill 47, Gillespie 44 – The Minutemen used momentum from their last game to build an early lead and they barely made it stick. Weidner scored 16 to lead the way for Bunker Hill. Anthony Kravanya led all Miners with 15. Bunker Hill has now won back-to-back games after losing 10 of its first 11.
Carlinville’s Jarrett Easterday goes up for a layup during a Macoupin County Tournament Quarterfinal against Gillespie. Photo by Jan Dona.