Boys Basketball

Gibault, Edwardsville claim titles; Flyers hold No. 1 spot

The bottom line for most high school basketball teams is they look remarkably better when the ball is going in the basket.

That definitely was the case for the Gibault Hawks last week as they strung together four straight victories to claim the championship of the inaugural Okawville Invitational Tournament. Using both familiar and also a few unfamiliar scoring sources, the Hawks had one of their best offensive weeks of the season.

“It was really a good offensive week for us,” said Gibault coach Dennis Rueter, whose team knocked off Okawville 59-54 in the championship game Saturday at Okawville’s O-Rena. “We made shots, which we haven’t done at timeds. Our inside people have been scoring most of the year but we haven’t shot the ball from the perimeter all the time. That helped a lot, especially the Wesclin game, which was the best we shot it all year.”

The Hawks needed every one of their shots in that game as they combined with the Warriors for an incredible 22 3-pointers — 12 by Wesclin — and won it 64-62 on a late steal and shot by sophomore Trevor Davis. Davis also was chosen for the all-tournament team.

Gibault put five players in double-figure scoring that night led by Jacob Rueter’s 18 points and 10 assists. Rueter had 49 assists in the four games and added a 13-point, 13-assist outing in the victory over Madison.

Davis had 31 points on 15-of-17 shooting in the win over Vandalia and junior forward Brian Deterding exploded for 29 points and 10 rebounds in a 69-55 victory over Madison. Deterding missed only one shot all night, sinking 14 of his 15 attempts.

“It was a fun tournament,” Coach Rueter said. “There were four teams that thought they could win going into it and legitimately so. There were no easy games. The only game we thought was going to be an easy game was the Vandalia game and it wasn’t by any stretch (the Hawks won 71-68).

“It would be really tough to pick an MVP out of our group because everybody contributed.”

What Dennis Rueter especially appreciated was an upswing in offensive production.

“We were in the 60’s and 70’s and even in the championship we were at 58,” he said. “We’re in the 40s in most of our games and at this tournament you had to make baskets in order tostay up there with these teams. It was kind of fun from a spectator standpoint to see games where the ball went in the basket a a little bit.”

While the same three players have led Gibault in scoring most nights, the Hawks saw some other players begin to contribute more to the attack.

Along with Deterding (14.8 points per game), Davis (13.8 ppg) and Jared Rueter (9.9 ppg), Zach Rueter and Jacob Bircher also made their mark in the tourney wins.

“Jacob Bircher was huge,” Coach Rueter said. “He made four threes against Wesclin and hit the free throws that kind of finished Okawville off.”

Edwardsville wins tournament at Salem

While their victory total has dropped a bit thanks to massive graduation hits after last season, the Edwardsville Tigers still remembered their winning formula at the Salem Invitational.

Edwardsville won its fourth straight Salem tourney championship Saturday by knocking off No. 1-seed Centralia 38-33. The Orphans have dropped three straight tournament championship games to the Tigers, who improved to 12-7.

Edwardsville continues to rely heavily on a talented sophomore nucleus that includes Mark Smith (12.8 ppg), A.J. Epenesa (12.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game) and Oliver Stephen (9.2 ppg) along with senior guards Kyler Davis and Dan Marinko.

Davis and Marinko are averaging a combined 11 assists per game as they continue helping the Tigers’ core group of youngsters make progress.

Epenesa, whose sister plays volleyball at Purdue, has close to a dozen Division I football scholarship offers as one of the top defensive line prospects in his age group in the country. That athleticism has transferred to the basketball court as well as he continues to be a force around the rim at both ends of the court with dunks, rebounds and blocked shots.

Epenesa earned Most Valuable Player honors at the Salem Invitational, erupting for 24 points and 10 rebounds in Friday’s semifinal victory over Mount Vernon. He had 10 points in the low-scoring championship game against Class 3A power Centralia, but seven came during a late hot stretch in the second half as the Tigers held off the Orphans.

Smith and Stephen earned second-team all-tournament honors.

Pinckneyville is the place to be

The annual Pincknevyille Panther Showcase on Saturday promises a full day of solid matchups and top individual talent for Southern Illinois hoops fans.

Here’s the schedule:

Steeleville vs. Goreville, 10 a.m.; Civic Memorial vs. Cairo, 11:30 a.m.; Marquette vs. Trico, 1 p.m.; Carbondale vs. Maplewood, 2:30 p.m.; Mt. Carmel vs. Mater Dei, 4 p.m.; Centralia vs. St. Louis Mary Institute-Country Day (MICDS), 5:30 p.m.; Woodlawn vs. Madison, 7 p.m.; Pinckneyville vs. Cahokia, 8:30 p.m.

Admission is $5 for an all-day pass.

By the numbers

A glance at the metro-east basketball leaders shows Okawville sophomore guard Noah Frederking still leading the area scoring race by averaging 21.7 points per game. The top 3-point shooter is Marquette’s Shandon Boone (48 total, 3.2 per game) and the top rebounder is Civic Memorial’s Jakob Lowrance, pulling down 10 per game.

Highland junior Austin Elledge leads the entire St. Louis area in free-throw shooting, knocking down 52-of-57 at the foul line (91.2 percent). The top assist man is Gibault guard Jacob Rueter (145 total, 6.9 per game) while Edwardsville senior Dan Marinko leads the area in steals with 62 (4.43 per game).

Not surprisingly, the metro-east player with the most blocks is East St. Louis’ 6-foot-11 sophomore center Jeremiah Tilmon with 58 (3.63 per game).

Flyers and Hornets top the rankings

Once the dust settled from the numerous mid-winter basketball tournaments throughout the region, East St. Louis and Nashville held on to the top spots in the weekly Belleville News-Democrat Boys Basketball Rankings.

East St. Louis (13-5) remained unbeaten in Southwestern Conference play by knocking off O’Fallon last Friday. Alton (14-3) tied for the No. 2 spot in the large-school rankings with Althoff (17-2), which won the Belleville East Chick-fil-A Classic championship.

Small-School No. 1 Nashville (20-2) lost to Teutopolis at the Nashville Invitational Tournament, but came back to tie the Wooden Shoes for the title after both teams went 3-1 at the round-robin event. Mater Dei (14-8) knocked off Central (16-5) in their head-to-head meeting at Nashville and the Knights have the No. 2 spot, followed by the No. 3 Cougars.

Gibault (14-7) grabbed the No. 4 spot after winning the inaugural Okawville Invitational.