Sabers win sectional opener in overtime

Sabers win sectional opener in overtime

DANVILLE — Matt Kelley’s message to his team was simple: Look, but don’t touch.

When St. Thomas More celebrated the school’s girls’ basketball state championship Tuesday afternoon, the title trophy was on display.

“I told them not to touch it,” said Kelley, the coach of the STM boys’ basketball team. “I said you have to earn one before you can touch it.”

His team is making its own path, outscoring sixth-ranked Arthur-Lovington 13-4 in overtime Tuesday night at Danville Area Community College to advance into Friday’s Class 1A sectional finals with a 61-52 victory.

The Sabers (21-7) were unranked at season’s end.

“We had a good laugh at those things every week,” Kelley said. “We’d beaten a few of the teams (in the polls), but no one was giving us any credit.”

Now, STM is one of the state’s final 16 surviving Class 1A teams.

The Sabers did it by never leading in the opening half, by committing only 11 turnovers and by overcoming a game-high 26-point performance from the Knights’ Tyler Schuring, who drained five shots from three-point range.

“We won this game back in November and December, when we were running sprints and putting them through the grind,” Kelley said.

STM showed its game plan on the first possession.

“We knew they were good at pressuring the ball, and one of our strengths is driving to the rim,” Kelley said.

Kyler Jones was whistled for a charge, which Schuring drew, seven seconds into the game, but the pattern was set. Of St. Thomas More’s 19 baskets, 17 were from within 10 feet of the basket.

“I don’t understand what we were doing defensively,” A-L coach Dale Schuring said. “We’ve been a good defensive team all year. If they’d made all their layups, they would have won by 20 easily. They not only missed some, they got rebounds and had second chances.”

Jones led STM with 19 points. Freshman Doug Wallen had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Curtis Plank was Arthur-Lovington’s other double-digit scorer. He had 10 points to go with five rebounds. Teammate Colton Yeakley cleared a team-high eight rebounds.

A-L hit 6 of 14 free throws.

“Shooting in general, we’ve been struggling with it the last couple weeks, but it has been a strength all season,” Dale Schuring said. “If we’d made half of our free throws, we’d probably win in regulation.”

St. Anne 53, Salt Fork 52. St. Anne effectively took Salt Fork scoring leader Max Stutsman out of the game, limiting him to five shots (four of which he made) in a rousing one-point triumph.

“Their length and athleticism makes it difficult for those passing angles,” Salt Fork coach Andrew Johnson said, “but we’re definitely not a one-man team. Cole (Taylor), Ross (Learnard), Taylor (Kirby) and Noah (Darr) stepped up and made shots.”

St. Anne (25-4) built a 17-8 lead before the semifinal game was 6 minutes old.

The Storm whittled the deficit to a point at halftime thanks to back-to-back three-pointers from Learnard in the final 30 seconds.

When Kirby made his only shot attempt at 6:58 of the third period, Salt Fork (24-9) held its first lead, 28-27. The teams were within five points the remainder of the game.

“It took a lot of heart and guts,” Johnson said. “Our kids never once wavered. They shot and they shot with confidence. I’m proud of what we accomplished.”

Learnard scored a game-high 23 points. Taylor scored 16 points and had a game-high eight rebounds. Darr had a game-high five assists.

A layup by Stutsman forced a 51-51 tie with 1:42 remaining. St. Anne’s Octavious Davis scored the last of his 10 fourth-period points (and 13 for the game) on a layup with 13.3 seconds left, putting the Cardinals ahead 53-51.

Darr was fouled on a drive to the basket with 1.6 seconds to go and hit the first of two free throws. The rebound on the second was batted out of bounds with 0.3 on the clock. Salt Fork was unable to get
a shot off on the inbounds play.

“We tried to run a misdirection but didn’t execute the way you want,” Johnson said.

Both teams made more than half of their shots from the field. Salt Fork ended at 54.3 percent accuracy (19 of 35).

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