BASKETBALL: Fred's buzzer-beater rolls out, Panthers escape

PINCKNEYVILLE, IL - It's a story that has become all too familiar for Du Quoin's boys basketball team - the Indians held a sizable lead in the fourth quarter of Saturday night's road game at Pinckneyville only to let it slip away in the closing minutes.

Much like losses in January to Trico and Lebanon where DHS had control only to end up on the losing end, the Indians led by eight with seven minutes to go - and by seven with 5:22 to play - but crucial turnovers in the last four minutes allowed the Panthers to steal one in Thomas Gymnasium, 42-41.

Du Quoin's Brenden Fred got a decent look at a three-pointer just before time expired, but the shot rolled around the rim before dropping off as the buzzer sounded to end the game resulting in deafening cheers from the fans in blue and white, heartbroken moans and groans from the ones in red and black.

"That's how it was the entire fourth quarter," said Indians' head coach Gabe Sveda. "We had some good looks inside, some good moves in the paint, but the ball rolled around the rim. Those shots fell early in the game, but give Pinckneyville credit. They made some big shots down the stretch, some big threes."

Pinckneyville's Tristan Fisher got two hands up in Fred's face on the last shot, but somehow the Du Quoin senior still almost managed to sink the long-range three from several steps beyond the arc. Fred finished with 21 points to lead all scorers, making four three-pointers.

"Fred had a heck of a ball game," said PCHS head coach Bob Waggoner. "If he would have hit that shot, it wouldn't have surprised me. He made some tough shots all night and they did a great job, the coaching staff did a great job of executing and getting him the ball there at the end. Tristan Fisher did a good job of defending him. It's one of those plays where if he makes it, we tip our hats and say you know what, tonight he deserved it."

The story in the first quarter quickly became foul trouble for Panther big man Chris Priebe, who picked up his second personal just a minute and 32 seconds into the game. Du Quoin took full advantage of his absence, feeding Daulton Beltz who finished the opening period with 7 points as the Indians led 12-5.

Priebe checked back in to start the second quarter and got inside for a layup, but then picked up his third foul with 7:15 remaining in the half. Fred came off a screen to hit his first triple of the night with 5:56 on the clock for a 15-7 Du Quoin lead.

"We got (Priebe) in foul trouble," Sveda said, "we wanted to run some sets that got him down in the low post guarding some of our post guys. We had success doing that early. (Pinckneyville's) pressure was pretty good in the second half as far us keeping us from getting some post feeds from our guards. That's what they do."

Just when things looked to be snowballing out of control for Pinckneyville, three of the more unheralded Panthers turned things around for the home team. Nolan Luke scored on a lay-up off of an inbounds play, then on a stick-back. Sterling Bejma, in for Priebe, drove for a bank shot then hit a turnaround jumper. Chase Lazenby drove the baseline and scored with 36 seconds to go in the first half, completing a 10-0 run for Pinckneyville that gave the Panthers the lead for the first time.

Fred got back quick after Lazenby's bucket and tied the game at 17-17 heading into the break, then really started to catch fire in the third quarter. Du Quoin outscored the Panthers 16-9 in the period with Fred putting in 10 points, including a pair of threes, and led 33-26 with eight minutes to go.

With foul trouble no longer haunting him, Priebe got his offense going in the fourth quarter with a couple of baskets in the paint, but Beltz scored with 5:22 to play to put DHS up 39-32. It would be the Indians' last field goal of the night.

"We got (Priebe) the ball (in the second half) and he got us back in it," Waggoner said. "I'm happy for him. I thought in the first half, Sterling Bejma kept us in the game and played huge for us. In the second half, Nolan Luke hit a big three, Dylan Hardin's scoring got better, Chris played better, and we just found a way."

Hardin sank a baseline jumper to start a 9-0 spurt for Pinckneyville, and both he and Luke buried three-pointers to bring the Panther fans to their feet. The senior guard then made one of two free throws following an Indian turnover, and with 44 seconds left in the game, Pinckneyville led 41-39.

"At some inopportune times we made some key turnovers down the stretch," said Sveda. "Part of that is lack of experience at the point guard position. We've got a few guys filling new roles out there for the first time this year and that's going to happen sometimes. I thought we played an outstanding ball game on the defensive end. I thought our effort was pretty good, they just made one more play than we did tonight."

Fred was fouled with 34.3 to go and made both charity tosses to tie the game, setting up the Panthers' last possession. Fisher drove into the lane, drew contact, and made one-of-two at the line to leave it up to Du Quoin to go the length of the floor with 4.6 seconds on the clock trailing by one.

The ball found Fred on the left wing where he elevated over Fisher for a potential game-winner, but after rolling around the circumference of the rim twice, the shot fell off.

"We got the look we wanted at the end of the game and it just rimmed out," Sveda said. "Our kids are hurting right now, but we've got to bounce back from this. We've got a new season coming up in about a week, we've got senior night, so we've got some things to look forward to."

An elated Waggoner slapped hands with his assistant coaches after the final horn, a sign of relief after an otherwise stressful weekend for the Panthers.

"I'm proud of the fact that we were down eight in the fourth and came back and found a way to win," said Waggoner. "After (losing at Nashville on Friday night), I didn't know if we'd have enough juice to get back after it today, and to guard, but we found a way. Sometimes it's not pretty, but you'll take it."

Hardin led the Panthers with 13 points, Priebe had 9, Luke 7, Bejma 6, Fisher 3, and Lazenby and Caleb Dahn 2. Beltz (12 points), Deeja Cole (5) and Austin Mapps (3) were the only Indians besides Fred to score.

Pinckneyville (18-10, 6-3) wraps up their regular season this coming Friday night at Sparta.

-Carterville 49, Du Quoin 34

Former Du Quoin player Matt Galik led Carterville with 13 points in Friday night's 49-34 victory in Anders Gymnasium at DHS. The Lions led it all the way, pulling ahead 10-4 after the first quarter on their way to victory.

The win gave Carterville victories over each of their opponents in the SIRR Mississippi this season - except Nashville, which all but wrapped up the conference by beating Pinckneyville on Friday night.

Fred had 10 points to lead the Indians, Cole had 9, Spencer Cook and Brock Bullar 5, A.J. Smith and John Erwin 2, Beltz 1. Du Quoin made just 2-of-8 at the foul line in the loss.

The Indians (10-13 after Saturday's game at Pinckneyville) host Nashville this Friday on Senior Night at DHS.