By Paul Hines
Bluford ended its season with a trophy Saturday afternoon in the Class S Southern Illinois Junior High School Athletic Association tournament held at Rend Lake College.
The Trojans beat Adams-Creel Springs 52-43 in the third place game.
“It's a great feeling,” Bluford coach Stephen Ellis said. “I'm not going to say we're not happy with it, but I think the boys would all tell you too that they're a little disappointed that they're not having one maybe a little bit higher. But we're more than happy to take home the third.”
Dylan Stratton led Bluford with 22 points. Charles Neal added 15 points and 11 rebounds while Pawl Lewis finished with 10 points.
Adams' Cameron Stephens led all scorers with 25 points and had 15 at half. He hit five 3-pointers.
“That kid's quick,” Ellis said. “He's maybe one of the faster kids we've seen this year, and he wasn't afraid to pull up anywhere on the floor.”
Bluford used a big third-quarter run to pull away from Adams. The Wildcats pulled even with Bluford at the outset of the second half. Stephens banked in a score to knot the score at 22.
The Trojans responded with a 12-0 run that established a double-digit lead. Adams made a late run but never led after the surge from Bluford.
Neal ignited the offense with a steal and basket to put Bluford up 24-22. Charles Schlickman closed the run with a bucket of his own that put Bluford in control at 34-22.
“We didn't draw any Xs and Os at halftime,” Ellis said. “We just talked emotionally, physically we've got to step it up. Coming back from that Giant City (semifinal) game, we just emotionally, I knew it would be tough for us.”
The Wildcats chipped the deficit down to 44-38 with three minutes to go in the game but never got closer.
Bluford also had a double-digit edge midway through the second quarter, but a late run from Adams eliminated the edge. Stratton put the Trojans up 20-10 with 4:10 left in the opening half. The Wildcats ended the period with a 10-2 push to get within a bucket at the break.
Bluford finished the season 24-3 overall.