By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
Anything can happen in the game of basketball. That’s what the Carlinville High School boys’ basketball team proved when it stunned state-ranked South County, 42-39, at the Big House on West Main Dec. 11.
The Vipers, who came in as the No. 2 team in last week’s Illinois High School Association Class 1A poll and the top overall seed for the prestigious Waverly Holiday Tournament, led the one-win 3A Cavaliers 33-22 in the middle of the third quarter and looked to be pulling away as the vast majority expected.
Then, out of nowhere, Carlinville got the long-awaited breakout performance and memorable moment that its program had been striving for over the past nine years.
The Cavaliers scored 16 unanswered points to take a 38-33 lead with 2:41 left in the game and made that advantage stick down the stretch.
Of course, underdogs sometimes need to catch a break to pull an upset of high magnitude and Carlinville caught a huge one when South County missed two free throws that would have tied the game at 39-39 with under 30 seconds to go.
Although Matt Dunn didn’t come away empty-handed for the Cavaliers after getting intentionally fouled on the other end, he left the door open for the Vipers as he split two tosses from the stripe.
With 12.7 on the clock, South County elected to attack the basket and trimmed the Carlinville lead to 40-39 on a quick layup.
Triston Thompson then stepped to the line for the Cavaliers and remained calm, cool and collected under pressure. Thompson sunk both of his free throws to put Carlinville back up by three with seven seconds remaining.
Out of a timeout, the Vipers were able to get a game-tying shot up but the equalizing attempt ricocheted off the front of the rim and the ball conviently sailed into the hands of a trailing Thompson, who ran the rest of the clock out after securing the long rebound.
Dominic Alepra buried five of 10 shots from beyond the arc and led all scorers with 20 points for the victorious Cavaliers. Dunn grabbed eight rebounds and Camden Naugle dished out three assists.
In addition to snapping a six-game losing streak, Carlinville became just the second of 11 teams to take down South County this year. The Cavaliers are 2-6 overall.
“I was so happy with our effort that I gave the guys a day off,” said Dave Suits, who coached in the South County area before filling the head varsity coaching vacancy left by Alan Cooper in 2019. “We played that well. Hopefully, this is just the start of something good for us.”
Southwestern beats North Mac
In other action, Southwestern rallied to beat North Mac in an important matchup, not just for South Central Conference standing but Macoupin County tournament positioning.
The back-to-back defending county champion Piasa Birds, who had defeated the Panthers in both title showdowns, closed in on an all-important first round bye with a 39-36 home victory Dec. 15.
Ryan Lowis sunk five threes and compiled 21 tallies for Southwestern. Grayson Brewer, recently back in action after rehabbing from a football injury, added 11 points and five assists.
Southwestern improved to 7-6 overall and 2-0 in SCC play after trailing 22-18 at the half. North Mac fell to 3-7 (1-1 SCC).