Toppers escape the wrath of the Tornadoes

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[February 03, 2016]  Will Stewart (35) was the fourth quarter hero for the Toppers Tuesday night. Stewart scored 6 of his 9 points in the quarter to lead Mount Pulaski to a 54-50 victory over the Tri-City Tornadoes.

First Stewart tied the game at 47-47 with 5:27 remaining in the fourth quarter and then he tied the score at 49-49 with 3:24 on the clock. Finally, he stepped to the free throw line with 11.5 seconds left in the game and calmly sank two free throws to seal the 54-50 victory.

The win improved the Toppers record to 11-10 in front of a large Tuesday night crowd.

Mount Pulaski's shooting was hot from the start in this one, a big change from last Friday night's loss in Riverton. Brett Huff quickly got the Toppers on the board with a three just seconds after tip-off and Dalton Litterly also sank one from beyond the arc to put Mount Pulaski up 6-0. Then it was Brett Huff nailing another trey to give Mount Pulaski the 9-0 lead that forced Tri-City to call a timeout.

The Tornadoes came out of the huddle ready to do damage, particularly Trever Martin, who went on a tear scoring the first eight points for the blue and gold. Then back-to-back buckets by Andrew Gordan and Devon Matthews put Tri-City on top 12-11 with 3:37 left to play in the first quarter.

The lead would bounce back and forth like a yo-yo for a couple possessions until Martin made it 17-13 in favor of Tri-City with his nice little acrobatic move to the basket that ended with an underhanded roll up and over the rim and thru the net.

Finally Lukas Aylesworth showed off his own sweet finger-roll layup to make it 17-15 and following a steal it was the ever-so-consistent junior again with a jump shot that bounced in for two points and the 17-17 tie game. Both teams missed a chance to regain the lead in the final minute of the quarter.

Back and forth to start the second quarter was the theme in this one until Litterly spotted Taylor open in the paint and the senior dumped the ball into the hands of the sophomore, who laid it in nicely for the 25-24 Topper lead. The Toppers continued playing smart basketball as Aylesworth pulled down the defensive rebound and went full court towards the basket but at the last moment spotted Litterly camped in the corner wide open for the three. As Aylesworth dished the ball off to Litterly, the senior tossed it in, nothing but net.

Gordan answered for Tri-City with a three that made it quite the ballgame, 28-27 still the Toppers lead. A long two from Taylor would put Mount Pulaski up 30-27 with just a minute to play before halftime.

Then it was the spark plug, Eli Griesheim, coming off the bench to get the baseline jumper to bounce in and the Toppers could head to the locker room with a 32-27 lead.

Luckily for Mount Pulaski they built up a little lead early in the third quarter because the Tornadoes were about to get their second wind. Steven Price connected for a couple threes midway thru the third quarter and then it was Matthews tying the game at 40-40 around the 2:00 mark. Price had the hot hand for the Tornadoes in the third quarter and his three with under a minute to go in the quarter earned the lead back for Tri-City, 43-41. Mount Pulaski missed their next attempt and so did Tri-City, however Charles Mosley came flying in to get the offensive rebound and he put it back up for his only points of the game and gave Tri-City the 45-41 lead at the third quarter buzzer.

Needless to say, Mount Pulaski Coach Ryan Deibert was not pleased with his team's effort at the end of that quarter. They had eight minutes left to turn things around and indeed they did. Taylor showed that he could also rebound his own miss and put it back up for two points, while Brett Huff also showed that he wanted to win and his jumper with 5:55 remaining made the score 47-45, still in favor of the Tornadoes. But Will Stewart was about to be the game-changer. His nice head fake and patience under the basket resulted in a move that tied the score at 47 -47 with 5:27 left to play.

After Price was fouled by Brett Huff and he sank his free throws, Tri-City again had the lead. But it was Stewart's turn again and he came thru under pressure with the bucket in the paint to tie the game at 49-49 with 3:24 remaining.

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A minute later, Taylor came thru big as well, with his basket and one to break the tie. The three-point play that coaches on the winning side love to see put Mount Pulaski up for good, 52-49.

 However, Mount Pulaski was still not out of danger at this point. A free throw by Martin made the score 52-50 with around two minutes remaining. Then as Mount Pulaski was tossing the ball around to run time off the clock, Brett Huff was called for his foot being out of bounds with the ball in his hands. A close call for sure for the Toppers.

With 33.5 seconds remaining Tri-City had possession and they went for the win with 15 seconds left. A rushed shot led to an air ball and Mount Pulaski had control of the ball again, no harm done after all.

Tri-City was forced to foul quickly and they chose Stewart, wrong choice, but a good deal for the Toppers. Stewart stood at the line with 11.5 seconds left and he easily sank, or made it look easy, the bonus free throws. The four-point lead that resulted allowed the crowd to breathe easier.

The final great play of the game belonged to Griesheim. A quick steal by the lightning-fast junior caused the crowd to erupt in applause and even though he missed the free throw with four seconds left, it did not matter. Mount Pulaski walked away, having survived the Tornadoes by a score of 54-50.

Taylor led Mount Pulaski with 21 points and Martin led Tri-City with 20 points.

The Toppers are back in action Friday night for Senior Night versus Springfield Lutheran.

In the Junior Varsity game, Tri-City defeated Mount Pulaski 53-32. Ben Fricke and Tanner Farris led Mount Pulaski with eight points apiece.

Toppers Varsity scoring

Taylor 21
Stewart 9
Brett Huff 8
Litterly 8
Aylesworth 4
Griesheim 4

Tornadoes Varsity scoring

Martin 20
Price 11
Gordan 7
Standish 6
Matthews 4
Mosley 2

Toppers Junior Varsity scoring

Fricke 8
Farris 8
Griesheim 6
Shehorn 5
Huff 3
Dyer 2

Tornadoes Junior Varsity scoring

Arnold 14
Summer 10
Krider 8
Bumgardner 8
Watring 5
Martincic 3
Largent 2
Pickrell 2
Dilley 1

[Teena Lowery]

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