MONTICELLO — Trey McCormick has seen the lowest point of the Mustangs’ basketball team. The Ridgeview senior witnessed a one-win season the year prior to him joining the team as a freshman in 2010.
Five years later, he and the rest of the Mustangs are enjoying a return to the spotlight.
Five Ridgeview players scored in double figures as the Mustangs defeated tournament host Monticello 60-50 in the Holiday Hoopla championship game Saturday night.
It was the Mustangs’ first Hoopla title since the 2008-09 season, when they finished 29-4 and won a sectional championship.
“I’d say it started back in 2010 when we had a one-win season. We built it from there. Every guy came in in the summer. We just worked hard ever since,” McCormick said. “We never gave up on each other.”
The smallest school in the tournament (163 students) also had the deepest talent. Luke Ward (team-high 13 points) and Tyler McCormick (11 points) each hit three three-pointers as Ridgeview (14-0) bombarded Monticello with shots from the outside.
Leading scorer William Tinsley (five points) was held in check most of the night by Monticello’s Nathan Mumm, but the Mustangs made up for it as others contributed.
“It’s a team effort out there,” Trey McCormick said. “We can’t just rely on one guy all night.”
Junior forward Clay Becker had his best game of the season for Monticello, scoring a game-high 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting and pulling down seven rebounds.
Senior Nick Stokowski finished with a double-double (14 points, 13 rebounds), but his shot was off from deep — he was 0 for 6 from three-point range.
The Sages (3-7) shot 2 of 19 from beyond the arc.
“We were just looking to get out on shooters and push them off the line,” Trey McCormick said. “Coach (Rodney Kellar) really stressed getting loose balls off of tips, and I think we really made a conscious effort to do that.”
The mood coming from the Monticello locker room was bittersweet. The Sages played their best basketball of the season in the Hoopla, beating an athletic Blue Ridge squad that took third place and hanging with an undefeated and skilled Ridgeview team in the championship game.
Monticello was within striking distance entering the fourth quarter down 40-38 but couldn’t keep pace against Ridgeview’s barrage of threes in the final period.
“We knew that the third quarter was always a big quarter for them. I thought we held them off pretty good,” Monticello coach Kevin Roy said. “They have good, solid guards who could control the ball and control the tempo. We just couldn’t get baskets at the other end to get back in the game.”
Third-place game: Blue Ridge 69, Neoga 31. Senior Michael Plunk got the Knights started on the right foot with 12 of his game-high 23 points in the first quarter. Blue Ridge finished the tournament 3-1, with its only loss coming to runner-up Monticello.
“We are a run-and-gun team, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Plunk said. “We really want to set the tempo and just go, go, go. I think that works really well for us.”
It did Saturday as sophomore Dylan Trent finished with 13 points and three steals and helped the Knights open the game with a 24-4 run and put away Neoga early.
The defensive intensity returned for the Knights, a pleasurable sight for coach Kyle Watson.
“That’s definitely something we’ve been working on,” Plunk said. “We feel like any team that defense will lead to our offense, and we had been struggling on offense the past couple weeks. So we made sure to crank it up on defense.”
Blue Ridge forced 21 turnovers.
Coale Dolbert had 10 points for Blue Ridge.
Fifth-place game: Sangamon Valley 77, Tuscola 75. Sophomore Nick Bates led all scorers with 19 points and seven assists, but the Warriors’ fourth-quarter rally fell short.
Zach Bates and Kyle Pugh each had 14 points for the Warriors.
Seventh-place game: GCMS 69, Argenta-Oreana 64. Point guard Tyler Hinshaw had 25 points, five assists and three steals as the Falcons led wire-to-wire.
Wiley Hasty and Ross Royal joined Hinshaw in double figures with 12 points apiece.
Keegan McHood paced the Bombers with a team-high 32 points and eight rebounds.