By Paul Hines
SESSER — Goreville knocked Woodlawn down but not out of the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament on Saturday afternoon.
The top-seeded Cardinals trailed for most of the semifinal matchup before rallying late and consistently sinking free throws to win. Woodlawn was victorious 69-64. The Cardinal were 10 of 12 from the line in the fourth quarter.
“It's something you have to have is you have to be able to make those free throws at the end of the game, and everyone knows it,” Woodlawn coach Shane Witzel said. “And it's easy to say make them, but it's a whole different story when you're actually the player at the free throw line.”
Jayson Hapeman led the Cardinals in scoring with all of his 18 points coming in the second half. Chase Phelps added 17, and Jake Robinson finished with a dozen despite being hampered with foul trouble throughout the game. “Hapeman give us a huge spark offensively in the second half,” Witzel said. “He's more than capable of doing that. He's outstanding defensively, but he's a capable shooter and scorer.”
Goreville surged ahead in the opening minutes, and maintained its lead throughout the first half. Woodlawn was hamstrung with foul trouble in the opening half. Three players were saddled with three fouls. Robinson was tagged with his third midway through the second quarter. Woodlawn finished with 26 fouls in the game. Despite the limitations, Woodlawn stayed relatively close to the Blackcats. Goreville never established a double-digit edge and took a 33-26 lead into the half.
“They got off to a really good start in the first quarter, and then we had the foul situation in particular in the first half,” Witzel said. “Jake and Ross are pretty valuable to us. I felt like we did a good job of staying in it because it could have kind of got away from us.”
The Cardinals exploded at the opening of the third quarter with a 7-0 run to take a 34-33 edge. Hapeman ended the outburst with a jumper.
“I think a big part of that is defensively we switched up defenses again to see if we couldn't try to change the momentum somewhat and got some turnovers,” Witzel said. “They took some quick shots. We got some runouts.”
The game remained close after that.
Goreville edge ahead 50-46 to start the final quarter, but Hapeman helped the Cardinal claw back, once again. The senior sank a shot. Then with 1:45 left in the game, Hapeman canned a 3-pointer to give the Cardinals a 61-60 lead.
It was the opening Woodlawn needed. Goreville got to the foul line late, but finish with several critical misses. Woodlawn by contrast had Ross Owens, Hapeman and Phelps step up and hit most their attempts.