After winning one game at the Mater Dei Christmas Tournament over the previous three years, a much different Carlyle Indians team left the Breese gym on Friday.
Carlyle capped its best tourney performance since 2007 with its third win, riding a 26-point, 14-rebound performance by senior Connor Toennies to a thrilling 49-44 overtime victory over Briarcrest Christian in the fifth-place game.
“We haven’t had the best of luck in this tournament over my years,” said Toennies, who nailed one of the biggest shots of the game when he stepped out to the top of the key and drained a 3-pointer. “It’s good to go 3-2 here and get some wins.”
Carlyle coach Andy Palmer said the big difference for the 6-foot-5 Toennies was a more aggressive style. Toennies had 26 of his team’s 49 points, was 8 for 14 from the floor and also hit 7 of 10 free throws.
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“He played outstanding today,” Palmer said. “We just told him if you’re that active all the time, you just take our team to a new level, and he hadn’t been really to be honest with you up until this time. He’s had flashes of it, but consistently today he was at the boards, he finished at the rim, made his free throws.”
Carlyle (8-6) also defeated Metro-East Lutheran and Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin along with Briarcrest, while losing to Nashville and Mater Dei.
It was Carlyle’s best finish since going 4-1 and finishing second in 2007. The Indians lost to Central in the tourney championship that year.
Dru Johnson (seven points) and Tyler Siever (eight points) also came up big at the right time for the Indians. Johnson’s spinning shot in the lane with 4.5 seconds remaining in regulation sent the game into overtime, while Siever sank three free throws in the final 23 seconds to help nail down the win.
Palmer left the tourney much happier than when he arrived.
“It has to make us better,” he said. “To go 3-2 here against the competition we played, to beat two great programs in Griffin and Briarcrest ... I think the biggest thing for us was defensively we were really focused and kind of locked in these last two games.
“It’s got to make us better, it should. Hopefully.”
Highland 50, Metro-East Lutheran 42
Sophomore Sam LaPorta piled up 13 points and 10 rebounds and 6-6 sophomore Stephen Torre contributed nine points as Highland (3-10) capped a 2-3 week at the tournament by knocking off Metro-East Lutheran (4-11) in the ninth-place game.
Noah Coddington capped a solid tourney for Metro-East Lutheran with 13 points.
Springfield SH-Griffin 61, Mascoutah 39
Konnor Ingram scored nine points and three other players added eight points each to lead Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin past Mascoutah in the seventh-place game.
Mascoutah’s Malik Green continued his strong tourney performance with 13 points, and Blake Weiss added nine.