DANVILLE — History and current events met on the court Saturday at Palmer Arena.
The last time Westville won the Vermilion County boys’ basketball tournament (1995), Allen Greenlee was the head coach ... of the opposing school (Catlin).
Saturday, as an estimated 1,200 spectators watched, Greenlee was on coach Jeff Millis’ staff as the Tigers upended top-seeded Salt Fork 43-34 in the title contest.
Another assistant coach on the Tigers’ bench, Joe Brazas, remembers the previous title team well. It came during his senior year at the school and followed up on a title the Tigers claimed when he was a junior.
His son, Kyle, was among the four Westville players who played all 32 minutes Saturday.
“We played pretty clean (five turnovers) and our defense was outstanding, with Robert Elliott setting the tone out front,” Millis said. “Everyone played exceptional basketball.”
Westville (16-4) went 4-0 during the eight-day event, but Millis said the preparation started more than seven months ago.
“Most people have no idea how hard we worked in the summer, in the preseason and all year,” he said. “Defense like we played doesn’t just happen. We’re in tremendous shape.”
Westville hit its first nine fourth-quarter free throws, including six in a row by Jeffery Thompson, who scored a game-high 18 points.
“This was another game where every possession mattered and every bucket mattered,” Salt Fork coach Andrew Johnson said. “Thompson stepped up his game (15 second-half points) and was able to get to the rim. They didn’t leave us any opportunities by missing free throws. That’s how you finish off games.”
Said Thompson: “I can’t describe it without smiling.”
“We train for games like this,” teammate Tanner Cox said. “Our defense always kept the pressure on them.”
Salt Fork (16-3) received 17 points and a game-high 13 rebounds inside from Max Stutsman.
“Their defense made every field goal attempt difficult,” Johnson said.
In one stretch, starting with 3:51 left in the second quarter when Thompson scored, the teams exchanged leads on nine consecutive baskets or free throws. Two free throws by Thompson snapped the final tie with 5:55 left in the game and put the Tigers ahead 28-26.
“We play every game the same,” said Elliott, who led Westville with 10 rebounds, “but a big game like this is something we will remember.”
Kyle Brazas, Elliott, Thompson and Layn White (10 points) played the entire game. Cox received a third-quarter break after picking up his third foul, with Jordan Romo filling in.
“Monday, it’s over and we practice and start to prepare again,” Millis said.
Bismarck-Henning forced nine third-quarter turnovers — while committing none — and rallied to beat Oakwood for the third time, 56-42.
The Comets led 27-25 at halftime.
“In the second half, they really responded to an inspirational talk from myself and coach (Jim) Ribbe,” B-H coach Jon Clapp said. “Basically, we told them they weren’t playing the way they were capable.”
B-H (16-5) hit 10 of 12 fourth-period free throws against an opponent that didn’t go to the line after the first period.
“That’s been a focus in practice,” Clapp said. “Free throws hurt us in early games.”
Andy Bott, who scored 14 points for B-H, hit 6 of 6 free throws in the last 2:09. Austin Toler scored a game-high 18 points. Wilde Garowski had a team-high 10 rebounds and also scored nine points. B-H had six turnovers, just two in the second half.
Kyle Elliott, who made all three of Oakwood’s three-pointers, led the Comets (5-15) with 17 points, and Skyler Slade grabbed 10 rebounds.
“Since I’ve been here, this is the best we’ve played against them,” Oakwood coach Doug Robinson said. “It is another step in our progress. In the third quarter, it got away from us, but they put in the effort we needed.”
Georgetown-Ridge Farm’s first four shots were by different starters and each was good, staking the Buffaloes to an 8-2 lead they never lost. Kyle Coburn finished with a game-high 20 points for G-RF, which dispatched Hoopeston Area 58-46.
The Buffaloes (3-16) led 32-19 before the Cornjerkers rallied to regain a tie, 32-32. Two free throws by Coburn broke the game’s only deadlock.
“We’ve emphasized getting the ball inside and scoring from the paint,” G-RF coach Adam Latoz said. “Last year we averaged (attempting) about 20 threes a game, and this year it’s about five.”
The Buffaloes’ Aaron Scott had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Tyson Reed added 10 points. Hoopeston’s Brennan Crose, Daniel Lawson and Mason Layden scored 15, 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Oakwood earned the cheerleading championship trophy. Bismarck-Henning placed second in the seven-school competition, Salt Fork finished third and Hoopeston Area was judged fourth.