BREESE — Ben Sestak erupted for 33 points Monday and Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin won its first Mater Dei Christmas Tournament title since 1980 with a 61-48 victory over Edgewater, of Orlando, Fla.
Sestak had four 3-pointers and capped off the win with a slam dunk while the Cyclones (7-3) got 15 points from University of Illinois football recruit Malik Turner. Both Sestak and Turner were named first-team All-Tournament.
That late slam dunk brought forth a bit of an emotional celebration with 22 seconds remaining that resulted in a technical foul for Sestak, though the game was well in hand at that time.
"I don't know, I guess it was the scream maybe," said Sestak, a 6-foot-4 junior. "I got a little excited afterwards and I guess they thought they had to 'T' me up."
Sestak and the Cyclones watched the Eagles (11-3) ride the hot scoring of all-tournament player James Eads to take a 39-37 lead late in the third quarter. But Sestak reversed that momentum quickly by draining a big 3-pointer just ahead of the buzzer at the end of the quarter and the Cyclones never trailed again.
"We're excited to bring (the championship) back to SHG, it's been a long time," Sestak said. "We know we've got a good team and we knew we could come down here and win it, so we played like that and brought it home."
It marked the first time two schools from outside the metro-east battled for the tourney title since 2005, when North Lawndale from Chicago beat Effingham St. Anthony.
Eads led Edgewater (11-3) with 24 points while Towson University recruit Eddie Keith, a first-team all-tourney selection. was held to 11. Keith had only two points in the second half.
Griffin coach Blake Lucas gave junior Gabe Green the defensive assignment on Keith. Green, who quarterbacked Griffin to the Class 5A state football championship this fall, was more than up to the task.
"He doesn't put a lot of points on the board, but he is just a warrior and he always gets the toughest guy every night,' Lucas said of Green. "That's a good basketball player we held to 11, so credit Gabe and credit our team defense for knowing where those guys are."
After Edgewater's last real run at them late in the third quarter, the Cyclones pulled away in the fourth quarter led by Turner and Sestak.
Central 38, Okawville 35
With both teams struggling to find any shooting consistency, the Central Cougars knocked a few more shots down than Okawville and held on at the end to win the third-place game.
Mitchell Rule hit two free throws with 19.9 seconds remaining to give Central a 38-35 lead, but Okawville still had a chance to tie it. Okawville senior guard Jacob Brammeier's 3-pointer with three seconds left was off the mark as the Cougars (9-5) finished 4-1 at the tourney.
"As the No. 8 seed finishing third and going 4-1 in this tournament I'm as pleased as can be," Central coach Jeremy Shubert said. "That (Springfield) Sacred Heart (Griffin) team that beat us is awfully good."
Both teams struggled offensively as Central hit just 16-of-46 shots (35 percent) and Okawville hit only 11-of-39 (28 percent).
"That game had it's moments, didn't it," said Shubert. "You could tell both sides had played hard for four games in the prior four days, there's no question about that. It was a long week for both teams."
Rule had only four points, but those two free throws with 19.9 seconds remaining were among the biggest points scored by the Cougars.
Down by seven early in the fourth quarter, Okawville got 3-pointers from impressive freshman Noah Frederking and Brammeier to cut Central's lead to one. The Rockets tied it 35-35 on a free throw by Brad Fuhrhop, but Jacob Timmermann hit a free throw to restore Central's lead.
Central sophomore Logan Kohrmann had 13 of his team's 22 points in the first half and finished with 15 while Timmermann added nine.
Okawville got 13 points from Brammeier and 12 from Frederking.
Briarcrest 56, Mater Dei 51
Briarcrest's pint-sized sophomore guard Mark French had the biggest impact in the fifth-place game.
French poured in 21 points and sank five of his six 3-point attempts against the host Knights. The 5-foot-8 French wasn't hard to find, but Mater Dei had trouble pinning him down on defense.
"Somebody's got to recognize and make a change, divert him to doing something different," Mater Dei coach Ronnie Schadegg said. "He's a good player. Even though he's small in stature, he's got good strength and he makes everybody around him pretty good. That was a big difference in the game."
Maceo Woodard and Micah Thomas added 11 points each for the Saints (8-6),who held off a late Mater Dei comeback bid.
Ben Lampe led Mater Dei (7-6) with 13 points and Zach Haake added 10 as the Knights finished 2-3 at their own tourney.
Nashville 57, Carlyle 56
Hunter Beetley drained a short jumper with 2.2 seconds remaining as Nashville (8-5) held off an inspiring Carlyle comeback to win the seventh place game.
Down 45-34 early in the second half, Carlyle fought back to take the lead with 12.3 seconds remaining on a 3-pointer by Matt Hilmes and a free throw by Logan Zachry.
After Zachry hit one of two free throws to give Carlyle a 56-55 lead, the Hornets pushed the ball upcourt and Beetley sank the game-winner.
Hilmes had a game-high 27 points and nine rebounds for Carlyle (7-5) and Zachry added 10 points and five steals. Nashville got 13 points and three 3-pointers from 6-7 senior Clint Johannes while Beetley came off the bench to finish with 12 points.
Hilmes, headed to Quincy University on a baseball scholarship, scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half and had 13 in the fourth quarter.
Highland 67, Mascoutah 64, OT
In a wild ninth-place game, Highland wiped out a 13-point halftime deficit and trailed by as many as 18 points before coming back to beat Mississippi Valley Conference rival Mascoutah.
Aaron Elledge and Caleb McKee each scored 12 points for Highland (8-5), which went 2-3 at the tourney, while Joe Duncan added 11 points and Luke Thies had 10.
Mascoutah (3-11) got 13 points from M.Z. Duprey and 11 from Trevahn Williams.