PEORIA — As Illini Central coach John Giesler correctly pointed out, the Madison Trojans had the statistical advantage over his team in virtually every area of Saturday's Class 1A state championship game except the one that counted.
The final score.
Illini Central defeated Madison 55-44 Saturday in a game where neither team played very well and the Cougars did enough down the stretch to pull out a win.
"Let me see here, we got outshot from the field, outshot from the 3-point line, got outrebounded. ... I don't know how we won the game," Giesler joked, before adding "I know how we won the game, these guys just don't quit.
"They've got a lot of heart. When things look bad they keep stepping up and finding a way to win ballgames."
It was Illini Central's first state championship and took a flurry of offense down the stretch --including crucial 3-pointer from Jared Entwistle and Justin Onken -- to "get 'er done" as the Cougars' tournament T-shirts said.
"It was a struggle and give Madison a lot of credit for that," Giesler said. "They played hard, they did a great job and we somehow found a way to win. They beat us in about every stat you can think of except the final score --and I think that's all that counts."
Madison senior Marquis Borney felt confident his team would finish off a victory after taking a 32-27 lead into the fourth quarter.
"We were very confident coming into the fourth quarter," said Borney, who had a game-high 24 points. "We're always confident. We're not going to let any team take our confidence no matter what the score."
But all the numbers on the final box score did not favor the Trojans. They hit just 9-of-20 free throws, committed 18 turnovers and were unable to convert numerous shots around the basket.
While Madison missed 11 of its 20 free throws, Illini Central missed 12 of 32. Many of the Cougars' free throws came in the fourth quarter when Madison got behind and was forced to foul.
"The first three quarters they were letting us play basketball in my eyes," Borney said. "I give them respect though, they came down and hit two big threes and after that it was all free throws, in my eyes."
The enrollment at Madison High School was 590 students when the Trojans won their first state basketball championship in 1977. By 1981 the enrollment was 487 and this year, the Trojans' official enrollment is 176.
* The Central High pep band entertained fans Saturday during the state tournament games.