PAXTON — Of everything top-seeded Paxton-Buckley-Loda did wrong in Friday night's 50-35 loss to fourth-seeded Momence in the Sangamon Valley Conference tournament semifinals, it wasn't the missed shots, turnovers or poor defensive rotations that most irked Panthers coach Scot Vogel.
It was the total disregard for the meaning of a big game.
"We didn't value the experience," Vogel said.
Momence's speed forced PBL into 20 turnovers and 40 percent shooting, a number that was lower until PBL made several buckets in garbage time. It all added up to an early 13-4 lead for Momence and, eventually, the worst loss PBL had suffered since December 2009.
"Credit them. They were focused, they were ready," Vogel said. "They wanted it. Nothing in this world is given to us. It's all earned."
"I liked our intensity for 32 minutes on the defensive end. I thought we did a pretty nice job of staying in position for most of the game," said Momence coach Ben Sikma, whose team advanced to today's 7:30 p.m. championship game against St. Joseph-Ogden at Parkland College.
PBL (17-4) struggled to initiate its offense all evening, and the turnovers led to a string of run-outs for Momence, which was led by Lamar Watson's game-high 14 points. The Redskins (14-8) also got 10 points apiece from DeAndre Wright and Tyler Cantwell.
"I like how our team played tonight," Sikma said when asked if he felt good about his team going into the title.
Gauge Snider led PBL with 10 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks, but concerns still abound for the Panthers.
"We have a tendency to get lackadaisical at times," Vogel said. "We got to make sure we understand we got to continue to bring it. This is the time of the year you need to take steps forward. You can't be going backwards."
SJ-O 60, CPCI 57. Chase Patton scored 18 points, Nate Michael had 15 and Louis Acklin hit a three-pointer in overtime to send the Spartans to the title game. Corbin Hesterberg added 10 points and Blake Hoveln scored all nine of his points after halftime for the Spartans, who lost to PBL in last year's championship game.
"It was one of our team goals — to win this tournament," SJ-O coach Brian Brooks said.
Beau Anderson led CPCI with 22 points.
"It was a great high school basketball game," Brooks said. "We feel fortunate to be on top. Every kid battled hard and played well."
St. Thomas More 60, Iroquois West 55. Richard Harrington scored 19 points (five three-pointers), Cortez King had 13 and Michael Rubenaker added 12 as the Sabers rallied in the fourth quarter to advance to the consolation championship.
Keaton Zirkle had 20 points for the Raiders, who led 43-38 after three quarters.
Clifton Central 44, Watseka 39. The Warriors were held to four fourth-quarter points and then lost in overtime. Richard Braden led Watseka with nine points.