MT. VERNON —
Giant City edged Bluford 53-50 Thursday night in the Class S Southern Illinois Junior High School Athletic Association semifinals.
“We never quit, never gave up,” Bluford coach Stephen Ellis said. “I felt really confident through the whole game.
“We just came up a little short in the end.”
Charles Neal led Bluford with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Garrett Thompson added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Neal posted up Giant City in the first half before moving to a wing where he started to drive to the basket more in the second half.
“He's a versatile player so we kind of wanted to get him in the post some, we felt like we could take advantage of that or he's pretty good at driving so I wanted to get him on a wing and see if he could take it to the hole.”
Lucas Clough led Giant City with 18 points. Seth Germann added 17, and Darius Beane finished with 15.
“I still thought we did a pretty good job defensively,” Ellis said. “Just a few letdowns.”
Bluford led throughout the game behind the offense of Neal. The Trojans held an eight-point edge with 6:05 left in the game before a big run from Giant City. In a span of three minutes, Giant City ripped off an 11-2 surge to take a 47-46 lead.
The lead changed sides four times in the final three minutes of action. With 90 seconds left, Thompson snagged an offensive rebound and put Bluford up 50-49 with a layup. Beane countered with a spinning baseline drive for a bucket to put the Giants ahead 51-50 with 20 seconds left.
Bluford took possession and committed a turnover with 17.6 seconds left. Bluford tried to foul, but Beane found Clough for a layup as time expired.
Bluford started the game strong, hurting the Giants from beyond the arc. The Trojans opened the game with a 12-3 start. Tyler Johnston and Dylan Stratton both dropped in 3-pointers during the stretch to help Bluford.
“Tonight was just a night where we were on to start with,” Ellis said. “I felt like we cooled off a little bit, but we were pretty consistent I thought most of the night.”
Giant City chipped away at the Bluford margin and closed the gap to 16-14 to end the first quarter. The game stayed close for the next three periods.
Bluford is 23-3 this season and faces the loser of the Adams School-Creal Springs/New Hope matchup at 2:30 p.m. Saturday for third place in Class S. The game will be at Rend Lake College in Ina.