Acklin leads, SJ-O follows in OT thriller
TOLONO — Louis Acklin makes plays.
Not the flashy ones, per se.
The shot fakes that result in layups.
The charges taken that lead to extra possessions.
The clutch free throws in the waning seconds that extend leads. The rebounds gathered amid a handful of opponents that secure leads.
The St. Joseph-Ogden senior put those blue-collar traits on display late in the fourth quarter and in overtime to propel the Spartans to a 66-59 win against Kankakee Bishop McNamara and into tonight’s Class 2A Unity Sectional title game against Monticello.
“Acklin doesn’t get enough credit, without question,” SJ-O coach Brian Brooks said of his 6-foot-5 forward who contributed 11 points and nine rebounds. “He’s just got a mind-set that as a senior that he doesn’t want his season to end. That’s how he approaches every practice and every game. Without him, we’re not even playing now.”
The same goes for senior Chase Patton and junior Brent Schluter. Patton scored a team-high 21 points and Schluter added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Spartans (27-3), who broke the program’s single-season record for wins with Thursday’s triumph.
It wasn’t easy, though. The Spartans trailed 56-52 with 2:46 left in the fourth quarter before Acklin and Corbin Hesterberg made layups to tie the game at 56 and force overtime after a three-point attempt by Hesterberg fell short at the buzzer.
Nate Michael (12 points) started off overtime with a three-pointer in the first 30 seconds, and SJ-O never trailed again, making 7 of 8 at the free throw line in the extra four-minute session.
“We’ve been playing together for a while, and we’ve been in these situations before,” Acklin said. “We’re a team. We stick together. We’re one team and one family.”
And one win away from the Elite Eight.
“The atmosphere is going to be crazy,” Patton said of today’s game. “It’s going to be a huge game.”
Ridgeview 65, Putnam County 54. Brock Heimer (15 points) and Cory Winterland (14) led the Mustangs, who will play Illini Central at 7:30 p.m. today in the Class 1A sectional final.