Okawville used a 10-0 run in the third quarter to pull away from Goreville for a 48-33 win Friday in the semifinals of the Class 1A state tournament.
The Rockets, who finished second in the state last year after a tough-to-swallow overtime loss to Effingham St. Anthony, had their 11-point halftime lead reduced to just four at the 5:36 mark of the third quarter. But Okawville produced a couple turnovers, which resulted in layups from Caleb Frederking and Will Aubel.
The Rockets rolled from there.
“I’m excited for our kids,” veteran Okawville coach Jon Kraus said. “We were here last year in the same situation. These guys have had it on their minds since the Sunday when we got back from the state tournament. This is something they wanted to do, and all the credit goes to those guys.”
Luke Hensler scored on a pair of putbacks as Okawville expanded its advantage to 36-24. Meanwhile, Goreville went more than four minutes of the third quarter without a point.
Landon Albright made a basket in the paint for Goreville, but the Blackcats trailed 40-26 at the end of three quarters.
“We went up against a really good team, and we knew that coming into it,” Goreville coach Todd Tripp said. “You get up to this stage here at the state tournament, you’ve got to do a lot of things right for four quarters. We came out and dug ourselves a hole in that first quarter. But we battled back, and that’s one thing these boys have done.
"We came out in the third quarter and we were on a run. We thought we had it right there, and it just got away from us really quick.”
Despite trailing by as many as 16 points in the first half, the Blackcats persevered and came out on fire after halftime. Goreville opened the second half on a 9-2 run.
Peyton Massey buried a 3-pointer and Cole Tosh scored in the paint. Braden Webb drove to the rim for a pair of layups, and suddenly, Okawville’s lead was just 28-24.
But things went downhill for Goreville after that.
“They’re a nice ballclub and their guards get after you pretty good,” Tripp said. “That’s probably better than we’ve seen all year. When you’ve got a 6-7 kid (Hensler) that can block shots and adjust shots, it makes a big difference.”
Payten Harre led all scorers with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Hensler added 12 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots. Webb and Tosh paced Goreville with eight points apiece.
The Blackcats shot a paltry 27 percent from the field (14 of 52). Okawville forced 13 turnovers and that turned into 14 points. The Rockets shot 35 percent (20 of 57).
“Our guys did a great job,” Kraus said of his team’s defense. “We try to do a good job scouting. (Defense) is the backbone of what we try to do.”
Okawville (26-8) takes on Annawan in the championship game at 12:45 p.m. Saturday. Goreville (23-12) plays Newman Central Catholic for third place at 11 a.m.