Excitement, patience, anticipation and pregame jitters are just a few of the roller coaster feelings basketball players go through on their opening day.
The Litchfield Purple Panthers experienced those feelings on Monday, Nov. 25, as they opened their 2019-2020 basketball campaign in the annual Metro-East Lutheran Thanksgiving Turkey Tip-off.
Those feelings were not the only roller coaster action, though as the contest between Gillespie and Litchfield was a roller coaster affair with the Miners getting off the ride with a 59-46 victory.
With the excitement of the opening game also comes the nerves of the opening game. Litchfield would be able to tackle those early in the contest as they were able to knock down the first basket when Austin Niehaus connected 13 seconds into the game.
Litchfield would be unable to overcome two other obstacles: a determined Gillespie squad, led by a group of seniors who won state as seventh graders, and the absence of one of their leaders, Brady Bishop, whose playing time was limited after coming off a bad ankle injury that occurred just over a week ago.
After the first basket of the contest, the Purple Panthers would put in the next two baskets also, as Blaine Stewart connected on a field goal and a three-point basket to give Litchfield a 7-0 lead just under two minutes into the contest.
The Miners would respond with two quick baskets, narrowing the Purple Panthers' lead to 7-4. Blake McGill would get his first basket of the season and would connect on his second basket, following a Miner three-pointer. McGill's five points would put the Purple Panthers up 12-7 with just over two minutes to play in the opening quarter.
In the final two minutes of the quarter, the Miners and Purple Panthers would add four points apiece as Litchfield would be in control of a 16-11 contest after one quarter.
After shooting 60 percent in the opening quarter, Litchfield would struggle to put the ball in the basket in the second quarter.
Litchfield would shoot under 35 percent in the quarter and would not put a point on the board until nearly halfway through the period.
Austin Niehaus, who opened the first quarter with a basket would also get the first basket of the second quarter for Litchfield with 4:27 left to play in the half.
Before Niehaus' basket, Gillespie would be able to take over the lead for the first time in the contest as they connected on the first six points of the quarter, giving the Miners a 17-16 lead. Niehaus' basket would not only give the Purple Panthers the lead back, but it would start a small run the would see Anthony Boston and John Corso connecting on baskets to give their team a 22-17 lead late in the first half.
But Gillespie would not go away as they would respond with a 5-0 run, tying the contest with just over a minute to play in the half.
After both teams exchanged baskets, John Corso would end the half with a field goal at the buzzer. The basket would give the Purple Panthers a 26-24 lead at the half. Blaine Stewart and Blake McGill would lead the Purple Panthers in scoring in the first half as both connected on seven points, all coming in the first quarter.
In the second half, the Purple Panthers would look to get back on the right track on the offensive side of the court as they struggled in the second quarter to put the ball in the basket.
In the opening minutes the of the third quarter, scoring would come at a minimum for both squads. In the first three minutes both teams combined for five baskets as Gillespie would tie the contest at 30 by outscoring Litchfield 6-4.
Both teams would continue to exchange blows throughout the remaining five minutes of the third frame. Litchfield would be able to hold the biggest lead at 36-33, but Gillespie would end the quarter on a 5-0 run to build a 38-36 lead after three quarters of action.
Brady Bishop would have a big three-point basket in the quarter as he led the Purple Panthers in scoring in the quarter with five points. John Corso's five points and Anthony Boston's field goal would round out the scoring for the Purple Panthers in the quarter.
In the final frame, the Litchfield squad would be able to narrow the Miner lead to one point at 42-41, but the already struggling offense would go cold. The Purple Panthers would struggle to find a basket as their shot selection would decline in the last half of the final quarter.
The offensive woes by Litchfield would in return give the Miners some momentum on their offensive side of the court. Gillespie would build on their one point lead with a 7-1 run, giving the Miners the biggest lead of the game at 49-42.
A Purple Panthers basket would narrow the Gillespie lead to 49-44. After a Miner basket, the Purple Panthers would get an old fashion three-point try. With just under two minutes to play in regulation, John Corso would connect on his 11th point of the contest and would be rewarded a free throw on the attempt as he would be fouled.
Corso would not be able to connect on the shot from the free-throw line, but his field goal would narrow the Miners lead to 51-46. Corso's basket would not only narrow the Miner lead but would also be the last basket of the contest for Litchfield.
The Purple Panthers would not be able to buy a basket in the final two minutes of the contest as the Miners secured the victory at the free-throw line. Gillespie added eight more points to their total before time would expire for a 59-46 victory.
John Corso's 11 points would lead the Purple Panthers in scoring, followed by Blake McGill's nine points.
The loss would drop the Purple Panthers to 0-1 on the season and push Litchfield to the consolation side of the bracket in the Turkey Tip-off. The Purple Panthers continued action in the Metro-East Lutheran Turkey tip-off Tuesday night against Brussels.
November 25 at Edwardsville
Litchfield 16 10 10 10 46
Gillespie 11 13 14 21 59
Litchfield (46) - John Corso 11, Blake McGill 9, Anthony Boston 8, Blaine Stewart 7, Austin Niehaus 6, Brady Bishop 5. Totals: 16 (5-11) 46.
Gillespie (59) - Frankie Barrett 19, Blake Zenner 16, Anthony Kravanya 10, Billy Gill 9, Brock Fredricks 3, Anthony Ribes 2. Totals: 24 (6-12) 59.
Three-point field goals: Litchfield (3) - McGill 1, Stewart 1, Bishop 1; Gillespie (5) - Gill 3, Barrett 1, Kravanya 1.
Records: Litchfield (0-1), Gillespie (1-0).
2019 Turkey Tip-Off
Monday, November 25
Game 1: Mater Dei 78, Brussels 50
Game 2: Gillespie 59, Litchfield 46
Game 3: Odin 55, Gibault 51
Game 4: Lift for Life 81, Dupo 49
Game 5: Metro-East Lutheran 66, Christ Our Rock Lutheran 54
Game 6: Marissa 48, Southwestern 31
Tuesday, November 26
Game 7: 5:30 p.m. - Alton Marquette vs. East Alton-Wood River
Game 8: 5 p.m. - Roxana vs. Valmeyer
Game 9: 6:30 p.m. - Brussels vs. Litchfield
Game 13: 7 p.m. - Mater Dei vs. Gillespie
Game 14: 8:30 p.m. - Odin vs. Lift for Life
Wednesday, November 27
Game 10: 5 p.m. - Gibault vs. Dupo
Game 11: 6:30 p.m. - Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8
Game 12: 5:30 p.m. - Christ Our Rock Lutheran vs. Southwestern
Game 15: 7 p.m. - Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8
Game 16: 8:30 p.m. - Metro-East Lutheran vs. Marissa
Friday, November 29
13th Place Bracket Semifinal
Game 17: 11 a.m. - Loser Game 9 vs. Loser Game 10
Game 18: 12:30 p.m. - Loser Game 11 vs. Loser Game 12
Game 19: 11:30 p.m. - Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10
Game 20: 1 p.m. - Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 12
5th Place Bracket Semifinal
Game 21: 2:30 p.m.- Loser Game 13 vs. Loser Game 14
Game 22: 4 p.m. - Loser Game 15 vs. Loser Game 16
Game 23: 5:30 p.m. - Winner Game 13 vs. Winner Game 14
Game 24: 7 p.m. - Winner Game 15 vs. Winner Game 16
Saturday, November 30
Game 25: 15th Place - 11 a.m. - Loser Game 17 vs. Loser Game 18
Game 26: 11th Place - 12:30 p.m. - Loser Game 19 vs. Loser Game 20
Game 27: 13th Place - 11:30 p.m. - Winner Game 17 vs. Winner Game 18
Game 28: 9th Place/Consolation Championship - 4 p.m. - Winner Game 19 vs. Winner Game 20
Game 29: 7th Place - 1 p.m. - Loser Game 21 vs. Loser Game 22
Game 30: 5th Place - 2:30 p.m. - Winner Game 21 vs. Winner Game 22
Game 31: 3rd Place - 5:30 p.m. - Loser Game 23 vs. Loser Game 24
Game 32: Championship - 7:30 p.m. - Winner Game 23 vs. Winner Game 24