When it comes to winning tournament championships, the Edwardsville Tigers typically deliver.
They did it again Saturday when senior Darius Crochrell sliced through the defense and drained a layup with one-tenth of a second remaining to beat Centralia 41-39 in the championship of the Salem Invitational Tournament.
Crochrell took a pass from Trevor Clay and made his way to the rim.
"I saw a lane and I tried to make a play for my team," said Crochrell, an All-Area football receiver who has interest from numerous schools. "It rattled around a little bit and fell through. It was crazy; the gym was packed and those Centralia fans were crowdy the whole game.
"It felt good to quiet them down."
Edwardsville point guard Shawn Roundtree wasn't surprised Crochrell got the shot down.
"You can always count on him at the end to make a great play," Roundtree said. "He's all about being tough."
It was the third straight Salem Invitational championship for Edwardsville (16-1). The Tigers have won seven straight tournament championships since finishing third at the 2011 Carbondale Holiday Tournament.
"That's a true testament to our work ethic," said Roundtree, named the tourney's Most Valuable Player after scoring 16 points in the championship game. "We're never satisfied. We're always trying to win that next game."
The only other loss for Centralia (17-2) this season came against Althoff in a South Seven Conference game.
Edwardsville senior and Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit Armon Fletcher also made the all-tourney team.
Centralia got 15 points from all-tourney performance Jerod Simmons-Young in the championship game. Fletcher had 11 for Edwardsville and Crochrell had nine.
Edwardsville lost three starters to graduation after last season, but the Tigers pulled together and their only loss is to Alton.
"It helps a lot having Shawn and Armon back," Crochrell said. "This team's like a family out there, we all hang out all the time and all know where everyone's going to be on the court. That makes things a lot easier."
Cahokia wins at Jerseyville
Cahokia rebounded from its recent slide to put four solid games together and win the Jerseyville Mid-Winter Classic.
The Comanches (14-7) got 20 points from all-tournament senior Darius Austin and 19 from tourney MVP C.J. Rivers on Saturday in a 60-50 championship game victory over the Jerseyville Panthers.
Montez Crumble added 13 points for the Comanches, which had lost two of their previous three games heading into the tournament.
Cahokia finished second at the Class 3A state tournament last season and figures to be an extremely tough playoff opponent once again.
Missouri-Kansas city recruit Austin (18 points, 7.9 rebounds per game) continues to lead the way along with Drake recruit Rivers (12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists per game) and guards Tarkus Ferguson (8.8 ppg) and Gary Hickman (8.6 ppg).
Waterloo claims another Sparta title
Waterloo won its second straight championship at the Sparta Mid-Winter Classic and stretched its winning streak to eight games with a 58-54 victory over Murphysboro on Saturday.
A little taller than most of the other tournament teams led by 6-foot-3 seniors Shane Lenhardt and Zach Schaab, the Bulldogs were content to pound it inside and take their chances.
"There wasn't an abundance of size in that tournament and the people that we matched up weren't overly big, so we went to the well quite a bit," said Waterloo coach C.J. Cruser, whose 12-5 squad lost four of its first six games this season.
The Bulldogs are unbeaten in 2014 and their last loss was to Marquette in the championship game of the Columbia-Freeburg Holiday Tournament.
"We couldn't score enough earlier," Cruser said. "We were struggling to score 40 points early on and that was putting stress on our defense to keep us close."
That stingy Waterloo defense is holding teams below 42 points per game. That's a major reason why the first-place Bulldogs are 3-1 in the Mississippi Valley Conference standings.
Waterloo has not won a conference basketball championship since 1981, when the Bulldogs still belonged to the Cahokia Conference. They have never won an MVC basketball title, finishing second last season.
"Our banner is completely bare, we have no titles," Cruser said. "I'm tired of looking at that."
The inspired play of Lenhardt (11.3 ppg), who missed most of last season because of knee surgery, has made a difference for the Bulldogs.
"He hadn't played in nine months. He didn't really start until our first official day of practice so he was really rusty," Cruser said. "Now he's starting to turn back into what he was his sophomore year. Earlier this year he was almost a shell of his former self and he was really frustrated by that.
"He's playing much better now and is making a difference."
Schaab (10.4 ppg) is Waterloo's other scoring threat along with Ryan Aycock ( 8.1 ppg, 27 3-pointers) and Rick Wiegand (7.1 ppg).