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GIBSON CITY — Prairie Central and Rantoul Township High Schooll will meet twice more this boys basketball season.
Fans should hope when the two Corn Belt Conference schools collide again, they put on a show like they did Saturday night.
Prairie Central edged RTHS 57-56 in the championship game of the 41st annual Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Thanksgiving Tournament.
"My sophomore year we did this and beat them in the championship game," said Addison Bounds, Prairie Central's senior forward who scored a game-high 20 points to go along with 10 rebounds, three blocked shots and three assists. "The rest of the year was head to head every game. We knew what they were. They knew what we were there. It's just who is going to play better that game. Every game we play them now we've just got to come and play our best."
Bounds fed junior forward Ed Shafer for the game-winning basket with eight seconds left to put the Hawks (4-0) up 57-56.
After Shafer — who scored all 12 of his points in the second half — scored inside, the Eagles only had one shot in the final 7.2 seconds. With four fouls to give, the Hawks fouled RTHS twice before the Eagles (3-1) could get a shot off.
RTHS senior forward Greg Morrow's off-balance 25-footer from the left wing at the buzzer fell short.
"We just told them that as soon as (Rantoul) catches it, just hack them," Prairie Central head coach Rick Schertz said. "That was the thing to not let them get a shot off right away. We wanted to make sure nothing went to the basket, so everything was in front of us."
Bounds earned his third all-tournament selection in his career at the GCMS Thanksgiving Tournament with his stellar all-around play.
He scored eight of his points in the fourth quarter to help carry Prairie Central past a double-digit deficit late in the third quarter. RTHS led 41-28 with two minutes left after a basket inside by junior James Coleman, but the Eagles' lead shrank to 41-36 by the time the fourth quarter arrived.
"It was crunch time," Bounds said. "The adrenaline got really high there in the fourth quarter, and you've got to make something happen."
More times than not, Bounds did. He blocked a layup attempt by Morrow with less than four minutes left and fed a streaking Lance Slagel for a fast-break layup to give the Hawks a 48-47 lead with 3:51 left. It was Prairie Central's first lead since midway through the first quarter.
"Bounds is a great player, but to not have one guy on our team stop dribble penetration is really sickening," RTHS head coach Brett Frerichs said. "When we helped, we didn't have opposite rotation. The defense was obviously very disappointing. We could have went zone (and) we probably should have went zone, but that's not what we teach. We've got to get better."
The Hawks upped their lead to 55-49 after a traditional three-point play by senior guard Lane Maurer (15 points) with 2:03 left, but RTHS did not go away.
Junior guard Talon Hardin (12 points, six rebounds) sank his second three-pointer of the fourth quarter to trim Rantoul's deficit to 55-54 with 50 seconds left.
The Eagles — who received a team-high 19 points from junior guard Devine Thompson along with 10 points and five rebounds off the bench by junior guard Josh Oliveras — took a 56-55 lead when junior guard Tanner McLain (six points, six rebounds) scored inside off an out-of-bounds play with 20 seconds left.
But that was more than enough time for Bounds to produce another memorable moment at GCMS.
"I've played here for three years now, and you never want to leave losing," Bounds said. "It's great to go out with a win."
Serena 44, Fisher 40
The Bunnies' defense forced 23 turnovers against the Huskers (1-3), who only finished the game with four players after three fouled out.
But Fisher shot a dismal 23 percent from the field (14-of-62) in the seventh-place game on Saturday afternoon to suffer its fourth straight loss.
"That's been the story of the tournament," Fisher head coach Ron Ragle said of the Bunnies' shooting woes. "I told the kids that in the paint, within 6 feet of the basket, we've missed 45 shots in the first two games. It was the same thing (Saturday)."
It was the third straight loss for Fisher — back at the GCMS Thanksgiving Tournament for the first time since 2007 — by single digits. The Bunnies lost 54-49 to Roanoke-Benson on Wednesday and 53-50 to GCMS on Friday night.
Senior Tate Estes led the Bunnies (0-4) with 15 points and nine rebounds, but even he struggled making shots at a close range. In the second half, after Fisher closed the second quarter with a 14-5 run to only trail 23-22 at halftime, the Bunnies were 5-of-31 (16 percent) from the field.
Junior guard Kyle Williams added eight points while senior Hans Carmien chipped in seven points.
Fisher trailed 43-33 with less than three minutes to play, but two steals by junior forward Colton Eby helped the Bunnies cut their deficit to four points in the final 10 seconds, but it wasn't enough to pull out the win.
"We're all having a tough time (finishing inside)," Estes said. "If we make those little layups, then we win ball games. We would have won (against GCMS) and we would have won (Saturday)."
For more on these two games, please pick up the Nov. 28 edition of the Rantoul Press.