Mount Pulaski edges Illini Central 54-53 in the Bill Rucks Tournament

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[November 21, 2017] 

The Mount Pulaski Hilltoppers Basketball Team opened the 2017-18 season by hosting the Bill Rucks Tournament at the Ed Butkovich Gymnasium on Monday night. The home team had to mount a comeback to pick up win number one on the season. Mount Pulaski edged out the Cougars from Illini Central 54-53 in a game that had fans on the edge of their seats all the way to the final buzzer.

Both teams started the game with what appeared to be a little first-game jitters. Senior Peyton Taylor of Mount Pulaski scored the first bucket of the game as he pulled down an offensive rebound and tossed it back in for two points with 6:10 showing on the first quarter scoreboard. Taylor would go on to dominate the first quarter with eight points scored to give Mount Pulaski an 11-6 lead.

Illini Central came charging back in the second quarter and took a 13-11 lead over the Hilltoppers after a layup by Max May around the 6:00 mark.

Buckets by Lane Johnson, Cole Wherley and May extended the Cougars lead to 20-13.

A free throw by May would give Illini Central their biggest lead of the game at 21-13.

The Hilltoppers went nearly five minutes without scoring a basket in the second quarter. Finally Brandon Kretzinger connected for a three around the 1:00 mark and Mount Pulaski trailed 21-16.

Two free throws by Johnson before the close of the quarter gave the Cougars a 23-16 halftime lead.

Mount Pulaski came inching their way back in this one to start the third quarter. Freshman Drew Martin scored his first Varsity points of his career with a bank shot in the paint at the 7:15 mark to make the game 24-18 still in favor of Illini Central.

Twenty seconds later Gezus Oliver hit a jumper and Mount Pulaski was only down 24-20.

The two teams traded buckets evenly the next couple possessions, with Illini Central maintaining a 28-24 lead.

Finally Mount Pulaski got the momentum to swing in their favor as Martin tossed it in for two more points and then Trevor Hayes quickly stole the ball from the Cougars and he ran down the court with the game-tying layup with 4:17 left to play in the third quarter.

With the game knotted at 28-28 Mount Pulaski fans got on their feet.

Illini Central called a timeout as Mount Pulaski had outscored the Cougars 12-5 and IC Head Coach Tony Wherley needed to get his team to regroup.

Mount Pulaski Head Coach Ryan Diebert meanwhile was getting his team fired up and no one came out of the huddle more ignited than senior Seth Huff. Huff’s three pointer at the 3:39 mark gave Mount Pulaski their first lead since the second quarter, 31-28 now the score in favor of the Hilltoppers.

Mount Pulaski would get a three from Kretzinger to extend the lead to 34-29 around 3:00 but then Brandon Higdon of Illini Central launched one from out of nowhere and the Cougars were right back in it, trailing just 34-32.

Mount Pulaski ran off five quick points to further the distance between them and the Cougars, 39-32, now the Hilltopper lead.

May was putting on quite the shooting display for Illini Central and his baskets kept the Cougars in the game. But another three from Huff put Mount Pulaski on top 42-34.

One more layup from May would complete the third quarter scoring but Mount Pulaski was still in control leading 42-36.

Fourth quarter

Quick fourth quarter baskets by Wherley and Johnson allowed the Cougars to creep back in this one. With the Hilltoppers leading 44-40, May connected from long distance with back to back threes giving the Cougars a 46-44 lead with 4:59 now left to play in the game.

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Lane Dowell (22) and Peyton Taylor (45) face off in the tip-off as Illini Central battled Mount Pulaski Monday night in the Bill Rucks Tournament. The Hilltoppers edged the Cougars 54-53. 

Huff answered back with his third three of the game to put Mount Pulaski on top again, 47-46. The Hilltoppers padded the lead on buckets by Taylor and Hayes and with 2:40 remaining Mount Pulaski looked to be in the driver’s seat leading 52-46.

A little late game foul trouble put the Cougars at the line. Illini Central was a perfect 4 for 4 from the line near the end of the game, making the score too close for comfort for Mount Pulaski fans. Their Hilltoppers were just barely hanging on to a 52-50 lead as the teams had crossed that last minute mark.

For the next 45 seconds the story was a potentially costly turnover by Mount Pulaski followed by a missed shot in the paint by Illini Central.

Fans on both sides were inhaling and exhaling with a bit of nervousness but then with 11.5 seconds on the clock 6’8 Taylor threw down a dunk for Mount Pulaski that brought the house down. His “easy” bucket gave Mount Pulaski a little breathing room and excited the Hilltoppers purple and gold fan section.

The Cougars were not about to be counted out though and “Mad Max” May hit yet another three with two seconds left to make the score 54-53.

Luckily for Hilltopper fans Mount Pulaski remained in control of the ball those final two seconds and the buzzer sounded with the purple and gold picking up the win. The final score 54-53.

Peyton Taylor’s solid performance of 16 points, 15 rebounds and 2 blocked shots led Mount Pulaski.
Senior Trevor Hayes tossed in 10 points for Mount Pulaski.

Illini Central’s Max May led all scorers with 24 points. Cole Wherley chipped in 10 points for the Cougars.

The Bill Rucks Tournament tipped off at 5:00 p.m. with Springfield Calvary defeating Central A & M 67-62 in game one. Porta then doubled up on Tri-City to hand the Tornadoes an 80-40 loss in game two.

The tournament continues tonight with the following games scheduled:

5:00 p.m. Tri-City vs. Illini Central
6:30 p.m. Central A & M vs. Edinburg
8:00 p.m. Decatur LSA vs. Springfield Calvary

Mount Pulaski (54)

Peyton Taylor 16
Trevor Hayes 10
Seth Huff 9
Gezus Oliver 9
Brandon Kretzinger 6
Drew Martin 4

Illini Central (53)

Max May 24
Cole Wherley 10
Lane Johnson 6
Lane Dowell 4
Kyle Worner 3
Braden Higdon 3
Alex Marshall 2
Emilio Rivera 1

[Teena Lowery]

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