ERIE -- Heading into overtime, Kewanee senior basketball player Dayton Ince hadn't had a great game.|
The all-conference guard was just 2-of-12 from the field and 1-for-3 from the foul line, but it didn't seem to bother him.
Ince canned a huge 3-pointer a minute into overtime that gave Kewanee the lead, and then calmly knocked down six consecutive free throws to give the Boilermakers a 67-62 Three Rivers Conference victory over the Erie Cardinals on Tuesday night.
"That's his job," Kewanee coach Steve Salisbury said of Ince. "Dayton was first team all-conference last year, so we are building off of him. He is shooting 94 percent (from the foul line) on the year, so he is supposed to make those."
"I know that I am a leader," said Ince, who finished with 15 points. "The coaches want the ball in my hands in those situations and I want it too."
Kewanee (15-3, 8-0 TRAC-9) jumped out to a 20-12 lead after the first quarter behind eight points from freshman phenom Donovan Oliver (team-high 20 points, four rebounds, three blocks), who went 4-for-5 in the frame.
The Boilermakers saw an upstart and determined Erie squad battle back, though, with a pair of 3-balls from Connor Saad (13 points) and a big 3 from Jacob Johnston (game-highs of 29 points, nine rebounds) that helped the Cardinals take a 31-24 halftime advantage on 8-of-10 shooting from the field in the frame.
"We knew we were in for a dogfight and (Erie coach) Ryan (Winckler) would have them ready to go," said Salisbury. "I told the kids we couldn't let them beat us in the third quarter."
The Boilermakers listened as they grabbed nine offensive rebounds in the second half and rode a trio of consecutive 3-pointers from a seven-point deficit to a 41-40 edge heading into the fourth quarter.
Said Salisbury, "We're small, but as a team we rebound really well. We know we have to go get offensive rebounds and get putbacks and it paid dividends tonight."
Kewanee took a 54-47 advantage after an Oliver bucket with two minutes to play, but Erie wasn't done.
The Cardinals got a big 3-ball from senior defensive stalwart Rhett Stover (three points) and Johnston then took over.
The Erie (13-9, 5-3) senior forward got a big bucket in transition and followed that by canning 2-of-3 free throws with 37 seconds to play that tied the game and sent it to overtime with Oliver blocking an Owen McConnell (four points) shot at the buzzer.
It was then Ince vs. Johnston in overtime. Ince canned his 3-pointer and a pair of free throws, only for Johnston to follow with a long ball of his own that tied the game at 59.
Another Oliver bucket and four more Ince free throws were too much for the Cardinals to overcome, however, and Kewanee remains in the driver's seat to win the conference title.
"I love the effort our guys are giving right now," said Winckler, whose starters played almost the entire game. "We have to play with this kind of chip on our shoulder. We have to continue to get in better shape."
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