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By TIM EVANS
Press general manager
Rantoul used fullcourt pressure to try to get back into a rivalry outing with Mahomet-Seymour Tuesday night, Feb. 5, but the third quarter rally didn’t help the host Eagles gain any ground on a 16-point halftime deficit, and Rantoul lost a key Cornbelt Conference game 66-48.
RTHS, however, earned a 66-52 victory over Stanford Olympia Thursday.
The Eagles, minus their best player in Johnny Jones, stayed even with the Mahomet-Seymour through the third period until Mahomet pulled away late in the quarter to roll to a 20-point lead behind some key free throw shooting.
The Bulldogs’ Connor Diedrich, a sophomore guard, and Sam Hohlfelder, a junior guard, combined to score 37 of Mahomet’s 55 points in the first three periods to guide the team to a comfortable lead that Rantoul never could penetrate.
Mahomet coach Chad Benedict said he was pleased with the effort of his team and knew it would be a battle with the Eagles. He credited RTHS for its third quarter effort.
“One thing about Rantoul — they didn’t give up,” Benedict said. “They matched us throughout the quarter, but we just pulled away at the end.”
He credited RTHS for doing a nice job of changing the game and said his team met the challenge and “finished on a high note,” hitting the last several shots of the period to expand the lead. Benedict said the Eagles playing without Jones “certainly changes things,” but said his team did a good job of focusing on whomever who on the court.
RTHS coach Brett Frerichs said he wanted his team to create some turnovers with the fullcourt pressure, but said his team didn’t take advantage of scoring off those turnovers.
Mahomet-Seymour came out smokin’ in the first period, taking an 11-2 lead on a trio of three-pointers by Holhfelter (2) and Diedrich by the time RTHS called a time out at 4:03. The Eagles hit a couple more buckets to cut the gap to 11-6 but finished down 12-6 by the end of the period.
The Eagles stayed with the Bulldogs in the beginning of the quarter as the score climed to 20-14, but M-S ballooned the lead to 24-17. RTHS had a chance to cut the gap to five on a steal by Devin Thompson, but he missed the shot and Mahomet-Seymour grew the margin to 30-17 by 2:10 when the Eagles called another time out.
Talon Hardin and James Coleman had six and five points, respectively, for the Eagles in the quarter. Diedrich and Hohlfelder kept their scoring marks alive with seven and six points, respectively, in the period and then led the third quarter charge with nine and seven points, including hitting eight of 10 free throws.
The Rantoul coach said his team chased Diedrich and Hohlfelder all night, complimenting their quickness.
“He’s the real deal,” Frerichs said of Hohlfelder, noting Diedrich also penetrated the lane well.
Frerichs said his team played hard, but didn’t play smart basketball. He said he hopes his Eagles learned from the experience.
“I told the kids, this is a four-month grind; we gotta get mentally tough,” he said.
M-S finished allowing RTHS to win the final period 13-11 as substitutes saw a lot of action.
The Bulldogs got 22 points from Diedrich (seven field goals, one three and 4-5 free throws) and 21 from Hohlfelder (four field goals, two threes and 7-8 free throws) while noone else hit double figures, although Ross Johnson had seven, Matthew Turner six while Grant Farchmin and Riley Cockerill each had four.
RTHS was led by Hardin, who had 14 on five field goals and hitting four of his six free throws while James Coleman also hit double-figures with 12 points, including hitting a pair of three-pointers, two field goals and both of his shots from the line. Weylin Williams and Tanner McLain both had five for the Eagles while Josh Oliveras added four. Scoring two points each was Cord Church, Devin Thompson, Alex Vermillion and Tom Wood.
Frerichs did compliment the play of Williams, noting he worked hard on both ends of the floor.
“I thought he continued to improve on the offensive side of the floor. He’s giving his all,” the coach said.
RTHS vs. Olympia
Paced by a regular non-starter and a player off the bench, Rantoul Township High School’s Eagles soared to their 11th win of the season Thursday evening at Olympia in Stanford, 66-52.
Senior Tom Wood, who is not a regular starter, scored nine points, and senior reserve Greg Morrow were keys to helping the Eagles to move their record to 5-8 in Cornbelt Conference play and 11-14 overall after taking an early lead and never giving it up.
The Eagles got off to a 15-12 start and rolled to a 35-25 halftime advantage over the taller Spartans before Olympia came back with a 15-10 third period. A pair of early three-pointers and some key free throw shooting down the line helped RTHS to the 14 point victory with a 21-12 finish.
“Olympia made a nice run for us in the third,” Eagles coach Brett Frericks said. “But we hit a couple of threes early, and then Morrow made six straight free throws down the stretch to help create the win.”
The coach said his team played well — especially on the defensive end.
“We came out and defended really well. Then we shot the ball well too. When we make shots, we’re a lot better team.”
Frerichs said his whole team played well, but noted the play of Cord Church was also key as he played his best overall game of the season, scoring eight points and creating a lot of plays.
He also complimented the play of Davon Thompson, who had nine points. The coach said Thompson was “really active” in the game, grabbing some key offensive rebounds and hitting some timely shots.
“He was quite active on both ends of the floor,” Frerichs said.
Junior Talon Hardin led RTHS scorers with 16 points, coming on four field goals (three three-pointers) and five free throws. While Thompson had nine, Wood and Church each hit eight, and Rantoul showed some good balance as James Coleman added seven and Morrow hit six.
Weylin Williams also had five points for the Eagles while Joshua Oliveras hit two and Brian Hut hit a free throw.
Olympia’s 6-6 senior center Reese Stroud scored a game-high 27 points. He hit 11 field goals and five free throws. Ian Geshwilm, a senior forward, had nine points for Olympia.
Rantoul finishes regular season play in the next week with an outing at U-High in Normal Friday, Feb 15. The junior varsity game begins at 6 p.m., followed by the varsity game about 7:30 p.m.
The Eagles will close their regular season Tuesday, Feb. 19, as they host Danville for senior, honoring the five seniors on the squad before the game with their parents.
Those players will include Cord Church, Damontae Space, Tom Wood, Greg Morrow and Weylin Williams.