GIBSON CITY — Prairie Central and Rantoul will meet twice more this boys’ basketball season.
Fans should hope when the two Corn Belt Conference schools collide again, they put on a show like they did Saturday night.
Prairie Central edged Rantoul 57-56 in the championship game of the 41st Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Thanksgiving Tournament.
“My sophomore year we did this and beat them in the championship game,” said Addison Bounds, Prairie Central’s senior forward who scored a game-high 20 points to go along with 10 rebounds, three blocked shots and three assists. “The rest of the year was head-to-head every game. We knew what they were. They knew what we were there. It’s just who is going to play better that game. Every game we play them now we’ve just got to come and play our best.”
Bounds fed forward Ed Shafer for the game-winning basket with eight seconds left to put the Hawks (4-0) up 57-56.
After Shafer — who scored all 12 of his points in the second half — scored inside, the Eagles only had one shot in the final 7.2 seconds.
With four fouls to give, the Hawks fouled Rantoul twice before the Eagles (3-1) could get a shot off. Rantoul forward Greg Morrow’s off-balance 25-footer from the left wing at the buzzer fell short.
“We just told them that as soon as (Rantoul) catches it, just hack them,” Prairie Central coach Rick Schertz said. “That was the thing to not let them get a shot off right away. We wanted to make sure nothing went to the basket, so everything was in front of us.”
Bounds earned his third all-tournament selection in his career at the GCMS Thanksgiving Tournament with his stellar all-around play. He scored eight of his points in the fourth quarter to help carry Prairie Central past a double-digit deficit late in the third quarter. Rantoul led 41-28 with two minutes left after a basket inside by junior James Coleman, but the Eagles’ lead shrank to 41-36 by the time the fourth quarter arrived.
“It was crunch time,” Bounds said. “The adrenaline got really high there in the fourth quarter, and you’ve got to make something happen.”
More times than not, Bounds did. He blocked a layup attempt by Morrow with less than four minutes left and fed a streaking Lance Slagel for a fast-break layup to give the Hawks a 48-47 lead with 3:51 left. It was Prairie Central’s first lead since midway through the first quarter.
“Bounds is a great player, but to not have one guy on our team stop dribble penetration is really sickening,” Rantoul coach Brett Frerichs said.
Guard Talon Hardin (12 points, six rebounds) sank his second three-pointer of the fourth quarter to trim Rantoul’s deficit to 55-54 with 50 seconds left. The Eagles — who received a team-high 19 points from guard Devine Thompson along with 10 points and five rebounds off the bench by guard Josh Oliveras — took a 56-55 lead when guard Tanner McLain (six points, six rebounds) scored inside off an out-of-bounds play with 20 seconds left. But that was more than enough time for Bounds to produce another memorable moment at GCMS.
“I’ve played here for three years now, and you never want to leave losing,” Bounds said. “It’s great to go out with a win.”
Blue Ridge 65, GCMS 53
When Blue Ridge’s Michael Plunk went to the bench midway through the second quarter with two fouls, so did the Knights’ best offensive option.
But the Knights (3-1) don’t just rely on the talented junior guard. Fellow junior Will Duggins poured in a game-high 21 points to lead Blue Ridge to a win against the Falcons in the third-place game. Senior guard Jon Jones came up with 10 points off the bench to help offset the loss of Plunk, who still finished with 12 points. Junior forward Clint O’Neal (nine points, eight rebounds) and senior forward Mark Plunk (seven points) also contributed.
“That’s why I like our team this year,” Blue Ridge coach Kyle Watson said. “We’ve got a lot of kids who can score. People are going to want to stop Michael, but we’ve got a lot of depth.”
GCMS (2-2) cut Blue Ridge’s lead to 35-30 with less than six minutes left in the third quarter after an offensive rebound putback by senior forward Ben Eads (12 points, eight rebounds).
Wiley Hasty (11 points, five rebounds), guard Reese Simpson (nine points) and guard Drake Royal (eight points) also chipped in for the Falcons.
“We responded in a lot of ways,” GCMS coach Ryan Tompkins said.
“We found out throughout the game we could play with them and play with any team. They’re a good team. They’re in midseason form.”
Serena 44, Fisher 40
The Bunnies’ defense forced 23 turnovers against the Huskers (1-3), who only finished the game with four players after three fouled out. But Fisher shot a dismal 23 percent from the field (14 of 62) in the seventh-place game to suffer its fourth straight loss.
“That’s been the story of the tournament,” Fisher coach Ron Ragle said of the Bunnies’ shooting woes. “I told the kids that in the paint, within 6 feet of the basket, we’ve missed 45 shots in the first two games. It was the same thing (Saturday).”
It was the third straight loss for Fisher — back at the GCMS Thanksgiving Tournament for the first time since 2007 — by single digits.
Senior Tate Estes led the Bunnies with 15 points and nine rebounds.