It was the hottest ticket of the Christmas Classic Boys Basketball Tournament when Teutopolis played St. Anthony on Friday, Dec. 27.
And Griffin Gym was full to the brim with plenty of Navy Blue and fire engine red clothing in the stands. Wooden Shoe fans sought payback for the loss a month ago to the Bulldogs in the St. Anthony Thanksgiving Tournament. St. Anthony fans wanted to go 2 for 2 against Teutopolis and not just for the season record but bragging rights as well.
In the first half, the teams battled it out with a shooting match that had the score tied several times. There were several arching 3-pointers, gravity-defying lay-ups, brutal rebound battles, sleight-of-hand steals of the ball and pinpoint passing.
The first half was a basketball fan’s dream with two talented squads showing why they strike fear in the hearts of many opponents in this part of the state. There was only a one-point difference, 28-27, between the teams when they went to their locker rooms.
In the second half, the Shoes eventually took over with a couple of rallies where they doubled the point total for the Bulldogs in the third quarter. Defensive pressure and shots, appearing laser-guided at times, made the difference.
The Shoes captured the momentum and held it tight – there would be no St. Anthony turnaround like the one at the Thanksgiving tournament in Effingham.
St. Anthony would whittle down the lead for Teutopolis to four points in the last three minutes of the game. That left many Teutopolis fans nervous. But Teutopolis scored key baskets and free throws as the clock ticked down and won 62-49.
How did they do it? The Shoes did not rewrite their game plan in the second half; they just executed it to near perfection.
“We just emphasized what we are doing, better,” Teutopolis coach Chet Reeder said. “We got the ball in the paint more. Defensive rotation got better. We guarded the basketball better. We didn’t change any schemes. We just did them better.”
Evan Wermert led Teutopolis with 16 points while Luke Ungrund poured in 13. Brock Deters was also in the double digits with 10. St. Anthony’s Jaccob Dust led all scorers in the contest with 22 points and Jack Hoene racked up 11 points.
Reeder said both his team and St. Anthony were fired up for the game, which is not surprising considering the longtime rivalry between the cross-creek rivals. But when the teams met in the Thanksgiving tournament on the Bulldog’s home floor, it was just the start of the season. Reeder said both teams were better prepared this time with about ten games behind them.
“The difference was both teams were better at what they do now,” Reeder said. “We were better at executing. So was Cody’s team. We were fortunate to make some more shots this game, especially in the third quarter.”
St. Anthony’s coach Cody Reed said his team played well and kept the game very competitive, especially in the first half. But his squad did not execute plays well in the final minutes in the final quarter.
“We just didn’t execute. We came up short,” he said. “But we want to put our best foot forward and you can’t hang your head on that one. Both teams played three games in 24 hours. Each kid on the court gave all they had. You’ve got to be proud of that and work for the next one.”
The next game did not turn out well for Teutopolis against Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin on Saturday, Dec. 28. In the consolation game of the tournament, Sacred Heart Griffin eventually took control of the game played at Effingham High School. Teutopolis was off target on many shots and continually lost rebounds on both ends of the court. The final score was 64-56 in favor of the squad from Springfield.
Teutopolis put in an impressive run at the Christmas Classic. After losing their opening game 57-52 against Chicago Brooks in overtime, the Shoes won 62-30 over Lawrenceville and then the victory over St. Anthony.