Even though Christmas was over the holiday season was not complete without high school basketball. On Thursday, Dec. 26, the Litchfield Purple Panthers began action in the 2019 Carlinville Holiday Tournament.
Litchfield would be grouped in the green pool, with Calhoun, Carlinville and Hillsboro, for pool play action. The Purple Panthers would walk away from pool play with a 1-2 record, defeating Hillsboro on Saturday afternoon. The 1-2 record would put the Purple Panthers in the fifth place game on Monday, Dec. 30, after a three-way tie with Carlinville and Hillsboro.
On Thursday, the Purple Panthers would square off against the tournament favorites, the Calhoun Warriors. The Warriors would be the only team in the eight-team field that entered the tournament with a winning record at 5-0.
Last year these two teams squared off in the same tournament; Calhoun would walk away with a 73-67 win that saw the Purple Panthers' Sam Painter put in 36 points.
Litchfield would look to put the first mark in the loss column for Calhoun's season, but again the Warriors would defeat the Purple Panthers, 60-43.
In the first quarter the Warriors would jump out ahead of the Purple Panthers 12-7, but the five point lead would not come easy for Calhoun. After the Warriors connected on the first basket of the game, nearly two minutes into action, the Purple Panthers would grab a 5-2 lead after Blaine Stewart knocked down a three-point field goal and Austin Niehaus connected on a basket inside the paint.
After a basket by Calhoun to narrow the lead, Anthony Boston would increase the Purple Panthers' lead once again. Boston's basket would give the Purple Panthers a 7-4 lead with four minutes to play in the first quarter and forced Calhoun to take a timeout to regroup.
The mid-quarter timeout would change the tide in the contest as the Warriors would respond with an 8-0 run. That run would end the first quarter as the Warriors would build a 12-7 lead, keeping the Purple Panthers off the scoreboard in the final four minutes.
The Warriors would extend their run and the lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Calhoun would be able to increase their lead to 19-8, outscoring the Purple Panthers 7-1.
Litchfield would not go away though, as they would quickly narrow the double digit lead. Blake McGill and Anthony Boston would both connect on a basket to narrow the Calhoun lead to 19-13 with under four minutes to play in the half.
Again the Warriors would have an answer as they built their lead to nine points, 22-13. Litchfield would not go away as they would narrow the Calhoun lead once again. Another clutch three-point basket from Blaine Stewart, with less than a minute to play in the quarter and a field goal by Blake McGill with ten seconds to play in the quarter would narrow the Warriors' lead to 24-20.
Calhoun would have the last laugh of the half though, as they would be rewarded with three free throws after being fouled at the buzzer. The Warriors would put in all three attempts, giving them a 27-20 lead after two quarters. Blaine Stewart would lead the Purple Panthers in scoring in the opening half with six points, while Blake McGill would put in six points, all coming in the second quarter.
After shooting 45 percent in the first half, the Warriors would change their approach in the second half, as they started pounding the paint. The strategy would work as Calhoun would connect on 58 percent of their field goal attempts. The Warriors would use their height in the third frame to increase their lead as they would outscore the Purple Panthers 17-11, giving them a 44-31 lead after three quarters.
The Purple Panthers would stay in the ball game from behind the arc. They would get two more three-point field goals from Blaine Stewart, giving him four on the game, and John Corso would connect on one also as the Purple Panthers would trail after three quarters by 13 points.
In the final frame, the Warriors would put the finishing touches on the contest by outscoring the Purple Panthers 16-12. Calhoun would continue to have the hot hand as they would shoot nearly 78 percent from the field in the quarter.
The Warriors would also stay inside the three-point arc to help secure the lead. Litchfield on the other hand would look to use the three-point field goals to pull themselves back into the contest.
After going 3-of-11 in the first half, the Purple Panthers would put up ten three-point field goals in the final frame giving them 27 total three-point field goals attempted. John Corso and Blake McGill would connect on a three-point basket each, giving them each two successful attempts in the contest.
The Warriors would remain perfect with their record, as they would knock off the Purple Panthers 60-43. The loss would drop Litchfield to 0-1 in pool play and 5-6 on their overall record. Blaine Stewart would lead Litchfield in the scoring column with 12 points, all coming from behind the arc.
Litchfield vs. Carlinville
After falling to 0-1 in the Carlinville Holiday Tournament and dropping their third straight, the Purple Panthers would look to get back to winning ways as they tipped off game two in the Carlinville Holiday Tournament.
In the Friday night tilt the Purple Panthers would square off against the host school Carlinville Cavaliers. The Cavaliers would also enter the contest at 0-1 in the tournament as they fell 60-46 to Hillsboro on Thursday night.
After falling behind early the Cavaliers would grab a lead and hold on as they would secure their first win of the tournament by defeating Litchfield 59-57.
In the opening quarter, the Purple Panthers would slowly build an eight point lead in the first six minutes, holding the Cavaliers off the scoreboard and scoring eight points.
Carlinville would have a spark to end the quarter as they would outscore the Purple Panthers 7-2, with the Purple Panthers' points coming with 36 seconds left in the quarter. Anthony Boston would net the last two points for Litchfield, giving him eight points in the quarter, as Litchfield would lead 10-7 after one quarter of action.
In the second quarter, the Purple Panthers would see their lead slip away. At the four minute mark of the quarter the Cavaliers would tie the contest and 45 seconds later they would claim their first lead of the contest at 17-15.
Blaine Stewart would respond to the Cavalier call and tie the contest with two free throws. Cavaliers would once again regain the lead as they would finish the quarter with a 9-0 run to give them a 26-17 lead at the half.
Cavaliers would make the most of their trips to the charity stripe as they would connect on nine of their 15 attempts in the quarter as they finished 12-for-21 in the half.
The Purple Panthers would be flawless from the line in the first half as they connected on all six of their free throws. It was the second quarter struggles from the field that would cost Litchfield the lead as they would connect on only one field goal out of 16 attempts.
Anthony Boston would lead the way for the Purple Panthers in the scoring column with ten points, eight coming in the first quarter.
Litchfield would look to clean up their play in the third frame after a lackluster second quarter, but the Cavies would remain strong. The Purple Panthers would find ways to chip away at the Cavies' lead as they would narrow the nine point deficit to five points when Blake McGill connected on his ninth point of the contest. Litchfield would once again narrow in on the Carlinville lead when John Corso put in two points, making the score 37-33 with two minutes to play in the quarter.
After that, Litchfield would again struggle to put points on the board in the final minutes of the quarter. The Panthers would only put three more points on the board in the final two minutes as Carlinville would add eight more, giving Carlinville a 45-36 lead after three quarters.
If you left after three quarters, you missed the most exciting quarter of the contest as the two teams would combine for 35 points in the quarter, as Litchfield would outscore Carlinville 21-14.
Carlinville would use the first half of the final quarter to build a 15 point lead, outscoring Litchfield 9-3. Looking to have the game wrapped up, the Cavaliers would struggle to keep the never-give-up Litchfield squad down.
Litchfield would use a two and a half minute stretch to take over the lead from the Cavies. During that time frame, the Purple Panthers would knock down 18 points, including four three-pointers from sharpshooter Blaine Stewart. The outpouring of points by the Purple Panthers would allow them to take over a 57-56 lead with just under two minutes to play in the contest.
The Cavaliers though, would have the last answer as they would put in three points in the final minute and a half to secure a 59-57 victory. Litchfield would have two looks from behind the arc within the last ten seconds, but would come up unsuccessful.
The loss would move Litchfield to 0-2 in pool play and 5-7 overall. Blaine Stewart would lead the way for the Purple Panthers with 19 points, 15 coming in the final quarter of action. Anthony Boston and Blake McGill's 11 points would follow Stewart's performance.
Litchfield would end their pool play with a big 69-57 win over Route 16 rival, the Hillsboro Hiltoppers. The win would allow the Purple Panthers to finish 1-2 in pool play and secure a fifth place match-up on Monday against Bunker Hill at 1:30 p.m. at the Carlinville High School gym.
December 26 at Carlinville
Carlinville Holiday Tournament
Litchfield 7 13 11 12 43
Calhoun 12 15 17 16 60
Litchfield (43) - Blaine Stewart 12, Blake McGill 9, John Corso 6, Austin Niehaus 6, Anthony Boston 4, Cameron Crow 2, Chase Hires 2, Jordan Harris 2. Totals: 17 1-4 43.
Calhoun (60) - Stone Zirkelbach 20, Corey Nelson 11, Bryce Eilerman 10, Brody Caselton 7, Kaden Baalman 6, Colby Clark 6. Totals: 26 11-13 60.
Three-point field goals: Litchfield 8 (Stewart 4, McGill 2, Corso 2); Calhoun 3 (Zirkelbach 3).
Records: Litchfield (5-6), Calhoun (6-0).
December 27 at Carlinville
Carlinville Holiday Tournament
Litchfield 10 7 19 21 57
Litchfield (57) - Blaine Stewart 19, Anthony Boston 11, Blake McGill 11, John Corso 7, Cameron Crow 4, Austin Niehaus 2, Chase Hires 2, Jordan Harris 1. Totals: 18 15-24 57.
Carlinville (59) - Michael Byots 32, Ethan Trimm 9, Briley Roper 7, Jack Kessinger 6, Mason Duckels 4, Carson Wiser 1. Totals: 21 17-28 59.
Three-point field goals: Litchfield 6 (Stewart 4, McGill 2); Carlinville 0.
Records: Litchfield (5-7); Carlinville (2-7).