Vianney’s athleticism and power in the paint proved to be too much for the Highland Bulldogs on Saturday in the 25th annual Highland Optimist Shootout.
Carte’Are Gordon, a strapping 6-foot-8 sophomore, had 28 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots and 6-5 junior Eric Krus had 20 points, 13 rebounds and five assists as the Golden Griffins outlasted Highland 55-42.
“Trying to get (Gordon) away from the basket was obviously a problem for us,” Bulldogs coach Matt Elledge said. “Early in the game and even late in the game, we had some opportunities and missed them, whether we were worried about him being in the post or coming to bock shots, whatever it might be. We’ve just got to be mentally tougher and finish those shots.”
Highland, which got 17 points from senior Austin Elledge, fell to 9-7. The Golden Grffins, who won for the fourth time in five games, improved to 10-4.
The Bulldogs were within 40-32 after three quarters, but Gordon helped shut the door by scoring eight fourth-quarter points that kept the Golden Griffins in control.
Carter, who has offers from Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Illinois and Purdue, put Vianney in the comfort zone with a basket in the lane that made it 49-35 with 3:13 to play.
“He’s got a full game,” Vianney coach Kevin Walsh said. “We let him bring it on the break, and he can handle it. He’s a good passer and obviously he finishes inside and he’s starting to step out and shoot it a little bit. The sky’s really the limit for him. When he works like he worked today, he’s a handful.”
Walsh said the Golden Griffins weren’t surprised to see Highland made its second-half push.
“Our guys did a good job keeping their composure when they made their run,” he said. “They made some shots. We knew they were going to. We knew they were a really good team, a senior-laden team, a well-coached team. We thought they would keep coming, but our defensive intensity was really strong throughout.”
Highland had no other player in double figures besides Austin Elledge. Senior Brode Portell finished with seven points.
Hazelwood Central 60, Springfield Lanphier 47
The triumphant Hawks got 23 points from Kansas State recruit Xavier Sneed, a 6-foot-6 senior, and 21 points from senior Dominique Dobbs. Sneed and Dobbs had all of Hazelwood Central’s 22 points in the first half, which ended with it leading by four.
The Hawks (13-1) trailed 49-45 with 2:19 to play, but went on an amazing 15-2 run to close out the Lions. The Hawks have won 13 in a row.
“They tried to bring us out because they’re a smaller team and we’re a big team,” Dobbs said. “We just made sure that we stayed together, defended and rebounded. They also crashed the boards very well, so we made sure we boxed out every time they tried to crash the boards on us. We stayed together.”
Sneed, in between an autograph-signing session with young fans, said the Hawks didn’t want to fold before a capacity crowd.
“We just didn’t want to lose,” he said. “We had the will to win. Of course, we had to get stops and rebounds. Those were very key for us. We don’t get down. They had a 9-0 run on us, but we didn’t get down. We got back into it. It was a pretty good game all-around.”
Lanphier (13-2), coming off a victory over Lincoln on Friday, was led by flashy 5-8 senior Xavier Bishop’s 22 points.
Bishop made a 28-foot 3-pointer that gave the Lions a 43-41 lead early in the fourth quarter, and his tough fallaway jumper in the lane made it 45-42 with 5:03 left before the Hawks rallied.
“We did a good job of staying together,” Hazelwood Central coach Josh Martin said. “Late, we were able to get some rebounds and stops, and we made free throws. I’ve got a lot of experienced guys who have been around a while.”
Father Tolton 74, Peoria Manual
Michael Porter Jr., a 6-9 junior being recruited by Duke, Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas and Missouri, among others, scored a game-high 31 points to lead the Trailblazers past Manual.
Porter’s younger brother, 6-9 sophomore Jontay Porter, had 10 points and 10 blocked shots. Jontay Porter has given a verbal commitment to Washington.
Father Tolton (12-2) led 30-18 in the second quarter. Manual grabbed a 41-38 lead in the third quarter, then saw the Trailblazers move ahead 52-46 on a three-point play by the older Porter with 2:22 left in the period.
It was 59-59 in the fourth quarter when Father Tolton took control with a 9-0 run that made it 68-59. The Rams were unable to rally again.
Highland 56, Triad 50
The Bulldogs extended their winning streak to 11 games with a hard-fought victory over Triad in a Mississippi Valley Conference girls game.
Highland overcame 27 points and seven 3-pointers from Knights senior Sophie Thompson. Junior Madison Wellen led the Bulldogs with 16 points, while senior Amanda Ponce finished with 14 points and junior Alex LaPorta had 10.
Ponce scored nine points in the fourth quarter to earn MVP honors. She is playing with a torn posterior cruciate ligament.
“We’re happy with the way we’ve been playing the last couple of weeks,” Highland coach Mike Aebuthnot said. “We feel like we’re starting to play a lot better. We were able to keep the ball in Amanda’s hands and Madison’s hands late in that ballgame with the lead. That’s good for us because we know they’re good free-throw shooters, and they were able to knock some down.”
Highland improved to 14-3 overall and 4-1 in the MVC. Triad, which defeated Highland 63-58 on Dec. 3 in Troy, fell to 12-2 and 4-1 and saw its 10-game winning streak come to an end.
Thompson, a Central Methodist recruit, said she hasn’t been shooting well, but she broke out of her slump by keeping the Knights in the game with sizzling efficiency from beyond the arc.
“I’ve been off my last few games and have been in the gym a lot trying to fix my shot,” Thompson said. “It finally clicked again. It was good to see that. I was doing something weird with my shot. I was kicking my feet out. I was in the gym making sure I didn’t do that. Today, everything just went right. I was shooting high and it was perfect.”
Still, it was bittersweet for Thompson.
“I’m glad I got my shot back, but I would have much rather won,” she said. “It’s Highland. We always want to beat Highland. But we get to play them again, probably in regionals. We’ll be back.”
Triad coach Josh Hunt lauded Thompson.
“Sophie was dynamic today,” Hunt said. “She’s been struggling a little bit lately, so that was really good to see.”
Hunt said the game didn’t mirror the first meeting between the teams, when it was the Knights who made the key plays down the stretch to win.
“It was 40-40 at one point and I just told the girls, ‘It’s a four- to five-minute game,” Hunt said. “They just made a few more plays than we did down the stretch. It happens. In the game at Triad a month ago, it was the same scenario, an eight-minute game where we made more plays down the stretch.
“For whatever reason, it wasn’t meant to be today. But there’s no shame in what we did. We played with a team that’s as hot as it can be.”
Senior Abby Burroughs had 10 rebounds for Triad.
Shootout co-chairman Kevin Hemann said attendance at the event was 3,100 for the second session, with Chaminade vs. Althoff as the marquee game.
Hemann said bleachers rented from Atlas Bleachers in Chicago contained space for 450 extra people. The bleachers were shipped to Highland.
“It took us 2 hours and 15 minutes to set them up,” Hemann said.
More than 1,100 people were watching the Chaminade-Althoff game on YouTube, Hemann said.