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Titans Win Consolation

January 13, 2014
Warsaw High School

The West Hancock Titans and Illini West Chargers entered the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament with two wins apiece. After following opening round losses with strong performances Friday and Saturday morning, the two teams had doubled their win totals to face off in the consolation championship.

In the end, the Titans proved to be too much in the battle of Hancock County teams, winning the game 46-40.

"If you had asked me a week and a half ago about what I thought our chances were in this tournament I'd have told you there was no way we were going to play four games, much less win three of them," said West Hancock Head Coach Reno Pinkston. "What these kids have done is simplify the game. If you're playing the game the right way you put yourself in position to be successful and win games."

Illini West struck first with a three-point play by Colton Mellinger, and opened an 8-2 lead early behind a three pointer from Jacob Douglas and a basket by Braden Bennett coming off of Titan turnovers. A free throw by Cole Fox and a score by Devin Rings cut the Titan deficit to 8-5, but a three pointer from Mellinger gave Illini West the 11-5 advantage after the first quarter.

"I think we may have found fools gold," said Illini West Head Coach John Hughs. "We were shooting the ball well. We weren't necessarily playing the other aspects of our game as well as we were this morning, so it hid a lot of our flaws.

"We felt a lot better about ourselves than we actually performed."

West Hancock forced two Charger turnovers to open the second quarter, and Drew Beeler scored four consecutive points to make the score 11-9. The Titans capped an 8-0 run behind a score from Fox and two free throws from Jeramey Marshall to take a 13-11 lead.

Douglas stopped the run with a three pointer to regain the lead for Illini West, but Rings answered with a three pointer of his own and another score at the rim to increase the West Hancock lead to 18-14.

"We wanted to contain the dribble and keep them out of the lane, and it looked like we were way too tight," Hughs said. "We wanted to make them take some pull up jump shots and hit some of those and they just got to the rim.

"We're a better team than that. We just didn't play with enough energy tonight."

The Chargers kept themselves in the game with a jump shot by Mellinger and a three pointer by Bennett, and went into halftime trailing the Titans 20-19 after connecting on four first half three pointers.

In the second half, the Chargers outside shooting went cold as the team missed all seven of its attempts. Meanwhile, a three pointer to open the third quarter by Trevor Knipe extended the Titan lead to four points.

"They were running an offense very similar to what we do and we had to make an adjustment at halftime," Pinkston said. "We thought we were giving a little too much help. We have to change up how we play sometimes depending on how a team attacks us and they were looking to shoot the three. We said we had to be aware of that.

"Fortunately for us we hit a few more shots and defended pretty well in that second half."

Rings made two of three free throws to give West Hancock a 26-21 lead with six minutes to play in the third quarter, but Illini West fought back. After falling behind 28-23, Mellinger found Douglas for a basket before scoring inside, and a layup by Nolan Ard gave the Chargers a 29-28 lead.

Unfortunately, it would be the last time Illini West was ahead. Jonathan Ferguson hit a three pointer late in the quarter to put West Hancock up 31-29 as the Chargers perimeter scoring continued to struggle.

"When we're playing really hard those shots seems to go in a lot more," said Hughs. "When we're into the game and enthused everything feeds off that. Credit West Hancock. They play good defense and they make you take those shots, but I didn't think we particularly worked for great shots either."

West Hancock extended its lead early in the fourth quarter behind a free throw from Fox and another basket from Rings. Two free throws by Jensen Corzatt got Illini West on the board down 34-31, but three straight layups by the Titans gave them a 40-31 lead.

Ard scored in back to back possessions to cut the deficit to five points, but West Hancock continued to have an answer. The Titans responded to a three point play by Corzatt and a jumper by Bennett with layups from Fox and Ferguson to secure the 46-40 victory.

"I told our kids we made great strides and if we play with energy and passion like we did this morning and yesterday morning we can be awfully good," Hughs said. "When we don't we're just an average to mediocre team. We took away from it that we can be a good team and we can move forward and build on those things."

Illini West, 4-9, got 10 points from Bennett and Mellinger. Douglas finished with seven points and six rebounds.

The Chargers host Quincy Notre Dame Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

West Hancock improves to 5-5 on the season. Rings scored 13 points, while Fox added 10 points and Beeler netted 10 points and seven rebounds in the win.

The Titans travel to Biggsville to take on West Central Friday at 7:30 p.m.

"I'm just proud of the kids for winning three games in this tournament," said Pinkston. "This is a quality tournament. I don't care if it's the consolation bracket or not. Obviously we'd like to be on the other side, but I'm just proud of these kids for winning three games in a tournament of this quality."

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