Boys basketball: Eagles bring the Wood in season opener

GIBSON CITY — Basketball purists might quiver at the sight of a Tom Wood 3-pointer.

Others may run in fear or hide their children's eyes.

But when the Rantoul Township High School senior guard unleashed his side-winding set shot on Tuesday night during the Eagles' season opener against Serena, the ball swished through the net somehow, someway.

Wood scored a game-high 17 points and connected on three 3-pointers during the Eagles' 80-51 romp against the Huskers in the Eagles first game at the 41st annual Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Thanksgiving Tournament.

RTHS (1-0) gets back at it at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday against Tri-Point before concluding pool play at 5:30 p.m. on Friday against Blue Ridge to determine who and when it will play during the final day of the tournament on Saturday.

While the number of turnovers (26) the Eagles had against Serena and the excessive fouling by both squads that dragged the game on at times will frustrate RTHS head coach Brett Frerichs to no end, Frerichs cracked a smile when Wood's shooting display was broached after the game.

"He has a pretty unorthodox shot," Frerichs said. "You look at him and you think there's no way he's going to make it when it leaves his fingertips, but he's been shooting like that all his life. If he's open, as ugly as it may look at times, he can hit it."

Wood picked up 10 of his points in the fourth quarter with the outcome well in hand since the Eagles led 56-33 at the end of the third quarter. But the reserve also contributed with five points in the second quarter to help RTHS stretch its 17-14 lead at the end of the first quarter to 40-25 at halftime. He also added three steals as the Huskers (0-2) turned the ball over 28 times against the Eagles' aggressive man-to-man defense.

"The way he shoots it, he shoots it with two hands, so I always think it's going this way or that way, but somehow it goes in," RTHS senior forward Greg Morrow said. "Hey, you can't complain about that."

No you can't even if Wood's shot, which looks like a two-handed heave, does not become a model for how to shoot the basketball.

"My sophomore year I didn't get to play a lot, last year I got cut and then I came out here in my first game and did it big," Wood said. "When you shoot like how I do, you can tell when they're going in."

Does he have a name for a shot that others may try to imitate, but will most likely fail?

"The Tom Wood shot," he deadpanned. "It's one of a kind."

Wood was one of four Eagles to finish in double figures. Morrow finished with 16 points and nine rebounds while junior guard Devine Thompson added 14 points, including a running 30-footer he hit at the third quarter buzzer.

"I was having an off game, so I was just praying it went in," Thompson said. "I was surprised it went through really. I was just trying to make stuff work."

Junior guard Talon Hardin chipped in 10 points for the Eagles, whose bus arrived only 15 minutes before tip-off, producing plenty of sloppy play in the first quarter.

Both teams combined for 18 turnovers in the first quarter and 34 combined in the first half.

Frerichs called the number of turnovers by his team "absolutely atrocious."

"We tried to dribble through traps and zone defenses instead of just making the simple pass," he said. "Obviously we've got to get better or it's going to be a long year. At the same time, we put up 80 points. We played hard, but we've got to get better."

The Eagles hit the 80-point plateau when freshman forward Brian Hunt nailed a 3-pointer for his first varsity basket that stretched the Eagles' lead to 80-47 with 1:41 left. All told, 10 Eagles entered the scoring column, but none did so in a more memorable way than Wood.

"Tom Wood is Tom Wood," Morrow said with a laugh. "He's just been that way for years. He's an all-around good guy and teammate. He has his moments. It was good to see him get his shot going."
mdaniels@rantoulpress.com

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