The Moline student section rushed the floor Friday night to celebrate a smashing senior night victory.|
One of those 12th graders playing his last game at historic Wharton Field House hopes the Maroons just started to dance their way into "March Madness.''
"We got to celebrate and have a little fun afterward. But the party's over now. Monday's coming fast and this means nothing,'' Moline point guard Drew Owens said after the Maroons mauled border rival United Township, 64-43 in a the Western Big 6 Conference finale.
Owens finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and a game-best eight assists in his best all-around game as a Moline boys' basketball player.
Junior Brandon Vice also posted a game-high double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore Tyler Biscontine (14 points) and senior Derrick Stabler (10 points) added double-figure scoring as Moline (18-12, 5-5 Big 6) closed the regular-season with an exclamation mark.
However, the Maroons are rematched with United Township (5-21, 2-8 Big 6) in Monday's Class 4A East Moline Regional opener.
"I hope not,'' Vice said, when asked if the Maroons celebrated a bit too soon. "We know we have to be focused on Monday. It's going to be a tough game at their place, no matter what the scoreboard says tonight. We know we can't relax after this win.''
That's especially true after a late-game pushing and shoving match between the rivals resulted in technical fouls for Moline's Devin Struble and UT's Cody Vroman.The sides were separated, and cooler heads prevailed, but there's plenty of pride on the Panthers sideline heading into Monday's regional opener.
"As far as pride is concerned, we've been beat up, we've been kicked, we've been a lot of different things this season,'' UT coach Marc Polite said about his senior-less squad. "But as far as a resiliency standpoint, I'm not worried about this group. We've taken a lot on the chin, but keep coming back for more.''
The Panthers actually built an early five-point edge, too, before Moline asserted control with an 11-0 run late in the first quarter. Vice had the first nine of those points.
The lead grew to as large as 11 in the first half, and 26 late in the fourth quarter, when the benches emptied for both clubs.
Not counting 3-point attempts, Moline hit a sizzling 15-of-26 attempts from the field, added a 16-for-22 stint from the free-throw line, and outrebounded the visitors 39-28.
By comparison, UT was limited to 13-for-48 shooting. Lamont Mitchell's team-best 10 points and 6 rebounds were among the few bright spots for the Panthers.
"It's pretty simple. We have to play better,'' Polite said. "We had some easy looks we didn't knock down and they made everything. We have to take advantage of our opportunities when we see these guys Monday.
"We didn't play as well as we can defensively, either. We have to get these things corrected, but we have some good film to work off of this weekend. Hopefully we can do a better job Monday.''
The win was Moline's fifth in the final six Big 6 games, with the lone loss coming last weekend in overtime to league champ and regional top-seed Rock Island, which awaits Monday's winner on Tuesday.
"We were pretty jacked up for senior night,'' Moline coach Jeff Schimmel said. "There was a lot of emotion, and they're emotional kids, and it was a big deal for them to play their last game at the Field House. That part is good, that they appreciated playing here. But they also have to realize we have a basketball game still to play against these guys, and at their place on top of it.''
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