Palmer, teammates handle short-handed Warriors
VILLA GROVE – A victory over Tuscola in any athletic event is considered a happening in Villa Grove.
"We know they were shorthanded but we'll still take it," Villa Grove coach Larry Sigler said after Friday's 50-38 win over the Warriors in a nonconference basketball game.
"I thought we played very well in the second half. We really didn't do anything different. We kept using the box-and-one on (Clayton) Meyer as we had in the first half. We've always felt we were better than we had played earlier in the season. It looks like we might have come together in the second half. We made some mistakes, but we made plenty of good plays as well."
The Blue Devils went on a 10-0 run early in the second half to break up a close game as the Warriors were playing without probable starters John Wienke, Dane Winn and Blake Bassett and reserve Shane Alberts. Wienke was visiting at the University of Iowa over the weekend. Bassett and Alberts were serving one-game suspensions for reporting late for practice. Winn is still on suspension for a football-related incident.
Tuscola was trailing only 26-25 in its first game of the season when the Blue Devils went on their spurt to open up a 36-25 lead with 2:57 left in the third quarter. Josh Fisher started the uprising with a driving layup. Jake Palmer added a fast-break layup, Travis Parsley contributed two free throws, Fisher hit another layup and Palmer converted a steal.
"I had about as many steals as I had missed free throws," Palmer said after leading the scoring with 14 points despite going 0-6 at the free-throw line. We all did a good job of getting our hands up in the passing lanes. The start of the second half was the turning point for us. We didn't have much to talk about at halftime. The coach just told us to keep doing what we'd done in the first half.
We're definitely going to have to do some work on our free throws. It still feels good to beat Tuscola. We don't do it that often."
The Blue Devils got balanced scoring in their third win in five games this season with Travis Albin contributing 12 points, Parsley 11 and Fisher 9. Meyer was Tuscola's only double-figure scorer with 21. The margin would have been more except the Devils made only 11 of 29 free-throw attempts with many of them coming on the front end of one-and bonus in the fourth quarter.
"It always feels good to beat Tuscola," Albin said. "That's always a big game for us. We have several more big ones coming up with Martinsville tomorrow (Saturday) and Arthur and (Moweaqua) Central A&M next week. I was kind of hoping Wienke would be here tonight. I enjoy playing against him."
Tuscola coach David Hess admitted playing shorthanded made it difficult as returning starters Travis Surma and Meyer both fouled out in the fourth quarter to leaving the Warriors without any probable starters.
"It showed it was our first game," Hess said. "Our legs were just not there in the second half. The bottom line, though, is that they just outplayed us."