Monday, December 01, 2014
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Mount Pulaski Hilltoppers finish third in the Topper Turkey Tournament

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[December 01, 2014]  MOUNT PULASKI -  Mount Pulaski lost a tough one to Decatur LSA on Friday night 58-53 but bounced back to stun Springfield Calvary in a 57-55 win Saturday night at the Topper Turkey Tourney. Mount Pulaski finished third overall in the tournament with Porta placing first and Decatur LSA coming in second.

In Friday night's contest against Decatur LSA, Mount Pulaski's Michael Lowery scored seven first quarter points to keep the Toppers close. At the end of one quarter LSA held a 12-11 advantage over the Toppers.

LSA would go on a 5-0 run in the second quarter until Blake Collier got the Toppers back on the scoreboard with a layup thru the lane on a nice pass from Lowery. Matt Amidon followed that up with a nice bucket thru the lane on a finger roll to pull the Toppers back to within two points, 15-17. Beau Collier also added his own move thru the lane dodging Lions left and right for a layup and a 17-18 score. With 3:52 remaining in the second quarter Lowery tied the score at 18-18 on a free throw. LSA jumped ahead a point again but freshman Peyton Taylor grabbed an offensive rebound for Mount Pulaski on the next possession and went back up strong for two, giving the Toppers a 20-19 lead. The two teams continued to trade free throw baskets and Lowery finally tied the game at 23-23 with a short jumper with less than 2:00 minutes remaining in the half. Once again LSA took the lead but it was Taylor with the bucket and one in the lane to give Mount Pulaski a 26-25 advantage with 30 seconds remaining until halftime. After LSA sank two free throws to again take the lead it would be Blake Collier at the line sinking two for Mount Pulaski and giving them back the lead at 28-27. After a travel violation on LSA, Mount Pulaski was in possession of the ball and quickly got it to Taylor for another two and the 30-27 lead at the half.

The two teams would pick up the battle where they left off at the start of the third quarter with LSA sinking two foul shots and pulling to within one point, 30-29. Lowery was able to drive the lane and despite traffic the basket was good as the Toppers extended the brief lead 32-29. The Lions battled back to tie the score at 32-32 but there was no stopping Amidon on the rebound as he put it back up for two points and the lead was once again in favor of Mount Pulaski, 34-32. Amidon would continue to be on a tear and go on to sink three free throws in the Toppers third quarter and keep Mount Pulaski in the lead 37-35.

Taylor also continued to play like the big man he is and his nice two points in the paint extended the Toppers lead to 39-35. The Lions continued to roar back with a three pointer, edging closer 39-38. Dalton Litterly entered the game and fired up the crowd with a huge three of his own and gave the home team a 42-38 lead. LSA would get another bucket but that would be all for the third quarter as Taylor stopped the Lions with a huge block with 5.4 seconds remaining. The freshman was coming up big in this game and allowing the Toppers to hold on to a 42-40 lead. LSA though is a very good team and with 8:00 remaining in the game the Toppers still had their work cut out for them. LSA quickly tied the score at 42-42 in the fourth but Brayden Curry pulled up and hit a short jumper to give the Toppers a 44-42 lead. At this point LSA went on a 11-0 run, which turned out to be a huge deficit the Toppers could not overcome. With LSA up 53-44, Blake Collier broke the scoreless streak with a layup. LSA would get the chance at the free throw line after a technical foul was called on the Mount Pulaski bench. After hitting two free throws LSA took a more commanding lead at 55-46. Lowery and Beau Collier would each sink free throws with less than 3:00 remaining in the game but the Toppers still trailed 55-48. Lowery would pull down an offensive rebound and be able to fight his way back to the basket for two points and pull the Toppers a little closer, 55-50. The Topper crowd was still not giving up and neither was the team. Curry cut through the lane and made a layup on a perfect pass by Amidon, but the Toppers continued to trail 56-52. With 26.6 seconds left and the score 57-53, Lowery rebounded the ball off of a missed LSA free throw and kept the Toppers hopes alive. It would be Lowery though who would miss the three at the other end of the court. With 11.7 seconds left LSA was once again at the free throw line sinking one and that would be all the scoring.

Mount Pulaski was unable to get a good shot off at the end and lost a tough one 58-53.

After the loss, Coach Ryan Deibert was still proud of his teams performance. "We played extremely hard against a much bigger, stronger, more physical team than us. We said going into it we don't want to get outworked. The first thing we said when we got into the locker room was, we definitely did not get outworked." Noting that his team missed some shots that they would normally hit he added, "As far as defense and effort, I couldn't be more proud of them."

Saturday: Toppers edge over Springfield Calvary 57-55

Moving on to Saturday night, the Toppers edged Springfield Calvary 57-55 in another fast-paced, hard-fought contest.

The Toppers trailed in this one 12-7 after one quarter of play. Peyton Taylor would come off the bench to camp under the basket and bank in a two to bring the Toppers closer in the second quarter, 12-9. Joseph Martin had the hot hand for Calvary and answered with a three to hush the Topper crowd and give the Saints a 15-9 lead.

Mount Pulaski would get hot at this point in the second quarter and go on a 9-0 run. Brett Huff was fouled while attempting a three for the Toppers and he would make two of the free throws to make the score 15-11, still in favor of Calvary. Brayden Curry would lead Mount Pulaski during this run with a three pointer and a bucket thru the lane on a nice pass from Lukas Aylesworth. This would finally put Mount Pulaski on top 16-15. Aylesworth would also score two points in the lane on an assist from Lowery and this would give Mount Pulaski an 18-15 lead. It would be Martin tying the game at 19-19 for Calvary and between Martin and Taylor Upshaw the Saints would take a 25-19 lead going into the locker room.

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Lowery would start the third quarter action with a smooth move of his own, a nice turnaround jumper and his teammate since third grade, Matt Amidon, followed with a put back off the offensive rebound and just like that the Toppers were back to within two, 25-23. Martin continued to dominate up and down the court for the Saints and once again the Saints extended the lead 30-23. Curry nailed a three from beyond the arc to inch the Toppers closer, 30-26. Meanwhile Huff dished it off to Lowery for two and the Toppers were just beginning to fight their way back, 30-28. With 4:29 remaining in the third quarter Lowery tied the score at 30-30 and a frustrated Martin was called for a technical foul. Lowery managed to make two free throws and give Mount Pulaski a 32-30 lead. Not giving up Calvary earned the lead back 36-35 and decided to put the full court press on the Toppers in hopes of getting them frustrated. The Toppers easily broke the press and Amidon spotted Taylor camping calmly under the basket and his bank shot gave Mount Pulaski the 37-36 lead. Martin would hit a two at the end of third quarter action and give Calvary the 38-37 edge.

Calvary began the fourth quarter with possession of the ball and of course it ended up in Martin's hands for a two point basket. Taylor would answer back with a two for Mount Pulaski off the press breaker. Blake Collier and Curry would sink six free throws between them in the next few seconds and it would be Curry putting the Toppers on top 45-43 with 5:43 remaining in the game. The crowd was just beginning to get fired up as Amidon drove thru the lane, made the bucket and made the foul shot to put Mount Pulaski up 48-43. Brett Huff followed on the next Topper possession with a fantastic fade-away jumper to give Mount Pulaski the 50-43 lead and the crowd went wild. Curry was fouled with 3:28 left and he made one shot for a 51-43 Topper lead. After the Saints answered back with a basket and put the press on the Toppers, again the Toppers broke the press and got the ball to Taylor for another two and the 53-45 lead. A few foul shots and a few minutes later the score sat at 54-50.

With 47.1 seconds left Amidon sank one free throw to put Mount Pulaski up 55-50. Calvary answered back with a three to make the game 55-53. After Mount Pulaski lost the ball Calvary took over and hence tied the game at 55-55 with less than 20 seconds to play. Lowery took the ball out of bounds for the Toppers and eventually the ball ended up in Curry's hands and as he tried to drive the lane he got cut off and quickly dished to Lowery, who was cutting to the lane, and right place, right time and Lowery had a nice shot off the backboard for a Toppers 57-55 lead. This time the gym really went wild.

Following a timeout the Saints had possession of the ball by their basket and it was Amidon at 6'0" who came up huge with a block out of bounds and hence another timeout by the Calvary bench. WIth 4.5 seconds remaining and Saints ball 6'5" Taylor blocked Calvary's only chance at getting a shot off as the buzzer sounded. Okay now this time the gym really and truly went WILD! Not only the Spirit Squad and the MPHS cheerleaders, but also the Topper fans and players.

The seniors gathered around the big freshman Taylor and offered their congratulations and good-natured shoves. It was truly a team effort.

After the game Coach Ryan Deibert commented how the Toppers played a completely different game in the second half. "We came out pretty weak and timid and afraid in the first half and got ourselves down in a hole. In the second half we actually toughened up and we rebounded better, we defended much better and we took the ball to the hole a lot better," said Deibert.

All of those things added up to a Topper victory and a third place finish in the Topper Turkey Tourney.

Michael Lowery and Blake Collier were also named to the all-tournament team along with Matt Muller and Max Muller from Porta and Steven Price from Tri-City and Gannon Hughes from Danville-Schlarman.

Toppers scoring for Friday night game versus Decatur LSA

Lowery 16
Amidon 9
Taylor 9
Curry 7
Blake Collier 6
Beau Collier 3
Litterly 3

In other Friday night action, Illini Central defeated Decatur Christian 78-24 and Porta defeated Springfield Calvary 60-37

Toppers scoring for Saturday night game versus Springfield Calvary

Curry 18
Lowery 11
Amidon 9
Taylor 8
Blake Collier 4
Brett Huff 4
Aylesworth 2
Beau Collier 1

In the championship game Saturday night, Porta defeated Decatur LSA 72-33 In earlier Saturday afternoon action Tri-City defeated Decatur Christian 53-38 and Illini Central defeated Danville Schlarman 54-38

[Teena Lowery]

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