Grant McAtee goes up against Payton Cook in the opening tip-off in a 45-34 win against Lincoln at Mt. Zion.
By BLAKE FAITH
The Mt. Zion boys basketball team won two of its three last games defeating Lincoln and Mattoon and losing to Eisenhower. The Braves also won the Apollo conference championship last week for the first time since 2015.
Against Lincoln, the conference championship would ultimately be determined by the winner of the game. In the first half of the game, Lincoln controlled the tempo of the game.
Late in the second quarter, the momentum shifted. Brayden Trimble made a chase down block that erupted the crowd. Lincoln’s Payton Cook nailed a three-pointer right before the end of the half to give the Railers a 21-17 lead.
Drew Hayes put the Railers up 23-17 to start the third quarter after scoring a two-point basket. The Braves then started a 7-0 run.
The run started when Trimble found Carson Cuddy who hit the mid-range jumper. Next Braves possession Sam Driscoll found Lyncoln Koester who nailed the three-pointer. The Braves finished the run taking a 24-23 lead when Cuddy hit another mid-range jumper after a Trimble assist.
The Railers regained their final lead of the night after Trey Schilling nailed a three-pointer to give the Railers a 26-24 lead.
From there, the Braves took over. Cuddy tied the game with a basket and then took the lead off another. Trimble then grabbed a rebound and threw the pads to Driscoll who drove to the basket and finished before the third quarter buzzer. The Braves controlled a 30-26 lead and would finish with a 45-34 win. Cuddy had a game-high 15 points.
“The first half was definitely all their (Lincoln) pace and tempo and we missed a ton of shots,” Head coach Dale Schuring said. “In the second half, we did a better job of doing what we actually practiced doing. We practiced different ways to attack the three, two in the press and we didn’t do any of them correctly or, well, in the first half, second half we did much better and we got up and down the floor just a little bit in the second half. We just pushed the ball a little bit occasionally and we got some breakouts, we got some lamps. And defensively we were excellent in the second half.”
The Braves improved to 26-3 on the season and 11-0 in Apollo Conference play. The Braves finish off their last week of the regular season with games against Macarthur and Effingham. The MacArthur game is a possible regional final preview for both teams.
“The goal is to just improve,” Coach Schuring said. MacArthur does have a great record and, but any team can beat anybody on any given night and we talked about that. So you gotta focus.”