With just one loss and a No. 4 statewide ranking in Class 3A boys' basketball, the Washington Panthers were a formidable foe for Moline to wrap up its Martin Luther King Classic with.|
However, the Maroons weren't about to be intimidated on their own Wharton Field House floor. Led by a strong interior performance from 6-foot-6 junior forward and All-Tournament selection Brandon Vice, Moline led by as much as six points in the second quarter and trailed by only three at halftime. However turnovers and Washington's physical play wore the Maroons down in Monday's 54-40 setback.
"The first three minutes of the second half is where they take off on teams," said Moline coach Jeff Schimmel, whose 13-9 club took second at the MLK Classic with a 3-1 tourney mark as senior guard Jed Wood (eight points against Washington) also earned All-Tournament kudos.
"They make it tough to get anything going. There's a reason they're fourth in the state — it seems like they never let up on the defensive end of the floor."
That showed in the second half. After Vashaun Newman's 3-pointer beat the halftime buzzer, stopping a 12-0 Panther run and brought the Maroons to within 22-19 at intermission, Washington (18-1) cashed in on eight Moline turnovers in the third period to gradually work its way to a 34-24 lead entering the fourth quarter, and the Maroons never got back within single digits after that.
However, Schimmel said this weekend's experience, capped by playing a top 5 state squad, will only help his team as it moves into the second half of Western Big 6 Conference play.
"This was a good game for us to play," he stated. "A program like Washington is one we want to try and mirror. The play hard, they're strong with the ball and they share the ball. They're where we're trying to be."
Schimmel also was pleased with the play of Vice, who hit all five of his shots and all six of his free throws to finish with team highs of 16 points and eight rebounds. He was the only Maroon to finish in double digits.
"That was a nice game for Brandon, going up against some physical big guys," he said. "He didn't back down, and gave them some problems."
After a low-scoring opening period that saw the Panthers work their way to an 8-5 lead, the Maroons took their first lead at 13-10 when Wood knocked down consecutive 3-pointers. A Vice bucket made it a 16-10 Moline lead, capping a 9-0 run by the hosts.
However, Washington started to find its feet as a pair of Troy Adams buckets and a Mason McCoy trey fueled the Panthers' 12-0 run that was halted by Newman's late 3-ball. With Valparaiso signee and tourney MVP Alec Peters held to 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting, fellow All-Tourney choice Adams stepped up with 18 points, 10 rebounds and six steals.
"We were hanging around, but Washington got going at the start of the third, and it was an uphill battle from there," said Schimmel. "But this was a great weekend for us heading into Friday (at Galesburg)."
Moline 62, Rochelle 60: To get to their MLK championship game, the Maroons had to pull off a thrilling, come-from-behind victory over a team they defeated 64-57 at the DeKalb Holiday Tournament in December.
Moline trailed by as many as 10 early in the third quarter. With a minute left in the game, Devin Struble, who had seen one second of playing time when he was fouled on a free-throw rebound, hit two charities at the other end to give the Maroons a 61-60 lead.
Tyler Biscontine made it a two-point margin with a free throw with 2.2 seconds left, but he missed the second shot. Rochelle's Grant Prusator got the rebound and hurried a three-quarter-court shot at the buzzer. What could have been a game-winner hit the front of the rim and caromed back.
Biscontine and Vice tied for game-scoring honors with 20 points. Vice and reserve Derrick Stabler had team-highs of nine rebounds.
For Rochelle, Matt Rosenwinkel and Prusator scored 22 points apiece. Neither played because of injuries in the DeKalb Tourney. Add in Kole Smart's 11 points and 55 of their 60 came from that trio. They also took 27 of the team's 31 3-pointers, making 11 of the team's 12.
Sports editor Marc Nesseler contributed to this report