Reifsteck returns from injury to lead Blue Devils to county championship game

Reifsteck returns from injury to lead Blue Devils to county championship game

DANVILLE — Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin brings a potent student section to its Vermilion County basketball tournament games.

The group generated ample noise Thursday night as each of the Blue Devis' five starters was announced.

But the roar was just a little different for Drew Reifsteck.

A little louder. More pent-up.

Fitting for an athlete who hadn't suited up since Nov. 30 due to injury.

"I had chills," Reifsteck said. "It was amazing to get back out there and get back playing with the team."

Reifsteck made sure his classmates' passion didn't go unrewarded.

The junior tallied 19 points, including 13 in the second half, as BHRA advanced to the title game with a 49-34 win against Hoopeston Area at David S. Palmer Arena.

"To be in this position, we're ecstatic," Blue Devils coach Gary Tidwell said. "We look forward to the opportunity to win a championship."

Reifsteck offered BHRA (13-7) a much-needed shot in the arm, with his shifty nature giving the Cornjerkers (12-9) fits both in the paint and beyond the arc.

That was especially true in the third quarter, when Hoopeston Area failed to hit a single shot and Reifsteck buckled down for 11 of the Blue Devils' 15 points.

"(Reifsteck) makes a world of difference," Tidwell said. "He's the heart and soul of our team. He's just a heady player and just plays with great instincts and just makes everybody better."

No other BHRA player produced more than the nine points tallied by Elijah Tidwell, but it ultimately didn't matter.

The Cornjerkers converted just three second-half field goals. Their major scoring options — Lucas Hofer (12 points), Payton Berlin (11 points) and Josh Delfino (six points) — all fought through some level of foul trouble, with Delfino picking up his fifth in the last period.

First-year Hoopeston Area coach Dave Cox said the Blue Devils adjusted their defense to harass Delfino down the stretch, stalling the Cornjerkers' efforts.

"We couldn't get that pass to him as easily," Cox said. "That's kind of what we want to do — get it to him and then kick it out, or let him do something with it. And we couldn't get it to him."

Berlin notched nine points before the first quarter even ended, draining a trio of three-pointers. That alone was enough for Gary Tidwell to go back to the drawing board at halftime.

"We had a few mishaps in the first half," Reifsteck said. "We adjusted a bit, and we were contesting all three-pointers in the second half."

BHRA's final obstacle as it searches for its first county title since 2016 is a familiar foe.

Oakwood ended the Blue Devils' championship hopes last year at the end of pool play, with the Comets squeezing out a 75-74 triumph.

That Oakwood again stands in the way of Reifsteck and pals isn't lost on the youngster.

"I've been wanting to get to a county 'ship," he said. "It's kind of nice that it's against Oakwood. Maybe (we'll) get back at them."

 

Comets find spark. A balanced scoring attack returned Oakwood to the county final, as they staved off Salt Fork 50-38 in a rematch of last year's championship game.

Noah Ruch's inside presence generated seven first-quarter points as defending titlist Oakwood (12-7) built a 19-13 halftime advantage versus Salt Fork (10-7).

"Sometimes you can rely on the perimeter and ... throw up some shots," first-year Comets coach Jeff Mandrell said. "Sometimes you just need to be aggressive and either get fouled or score."

After establishing Ruch as a paint threat, Oakwood did turn to more of its outside game. Zane Priest knocked down a pair of three-pointers in the fourth period. Teammate Bryce Jones ended the third quarter by scooping up a rebound, lofting up a triple as time expired and getting it to sink while he was falling down.

Jones then started the last frame by driving to the hoop, converting a layup and drawing a foul.

"I've been around a long time, and I'm not sure I've seen anything quite like that," Mandrell said.

Senior Trevan Garrett finished with a team-best 14 points for the Comets and was backed by Priest (12 points), Jones (10 points) and Ruch (nine points).

Garrett described advancing to the 2019 county championship game as a different feeling than the same achievement did a season prior.

"Last year, we came in, we weren't really the target," he said. "Nobody was really gunning for us. Now we're the 1 seed. Everybody's gunning for us."

The Storm struggled offensively thanks to the Comets locking down on Payton Taylor. Though the area's leading rebounder still finished with a team-high 12 points, he hit just two field goals all evening.

Dawson Dodd added 11 points for Salt Fork, which draws Hoopeston Area in Saturday's 6:30 p.m. third-place game. But nine of Dodd's points arrived in the last eight minutes — when the Storm's disadvantage was too much to overcome.

"Credit their defense, their length and athleticism as far as getting hands on passes," Salt Fork coach Andrew Johnson said. "We couldn't string together two possessions."

Oakwood moves on to vie for consecutive county crowns.

"It's a great feeling," Garrett said. "We're just going to hope we can win it again."

 

A-P advances. Kyler Stephens scored 10 points as Armstrong-Potomac ensured a spot in the fifth-place tilt by beating Westville 33-26 on Thursday.

Trey Wilken added seven points for A-P (5-16), which faces Georgetown-Ridge Farm (3-15) Saturday at 5 p.m.

Nick Pinter led the Tigers (3-16) with eight points.

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