Add one more state honor to an already cluttered trophy case at Winnebago. The boys basketball team brought home the 2A third-place trophy Saturday, the 35th state trophy for the school since 1990.
In the consolation game of the IHSA tournament at Carver Arena in Peoria, Winnebago defeated St. Joe-Ogden 67-54.
In 2004 and 2005 the Indians took second and in 2009 finished fourth downstate. The 2013 team’s 33-1 record is the best is school history.
After a dismal shooting performance in Friday’s semifinals against Seton Academy, ‘Bago got untracked against St. Joe-Ogden (29-5).
Led by Dalton Menke and Taylor Shumate, Winnebago shot 50 percent from 3-point range. Overall, the Indians were 56 percent from the field, with Menke (17), Matt Reinke (13) and Jacoby Posley (12) scoring in double figures.
“I think once our shots started falling, our confidence came back,” Winnebago coach Joe Murphy said.
Against Seton Academy, ‘Bago only shot 22 percent.
“The reality was they were not going to go two nights in a row shooting the percentage they did (Friday),” SJO coach Brian Brooks said.
With four minutes gone in the first quarter, Winnebago took the lead for good, 7-6 on a Ryan Swigart jumper and never looked back.
A key for the victory was balanced scoring from several different Indian players.
“We’ve seen other games of theirs and how balanced they are offensively and how many guys can really score,” Brooks said. “That concerned us and they made shots.”
SJO closed to within 24-21 with three minutes remaining in the second quarter. Menke, a sophomore forward, scored the next seven points of the game to give the Indians a comfortable 10-point lead.
As the game wore on there was little doubt that the superior team was ‘Bago, as the Indians kept pressuring SJO on defense and also hitting timely baskets.
“We went to work out at Peoria high school and weren’t shooting very well,” Murphy said. “Some of the guys wanted to play ‘lightning’ one last time and I think that got them going and their hearts pumping a little bit.”
"We had to get the win for the seniors this year," said Menke, a sophomore."We had to come out and get the W so they would go out on a hot note. A lot less pressure today."
Senior Taylor Shumate said the Indians wanted to make a good showing at the tournament.
"We really wanted to show everybody that we were supposed to be here so it was important to get the win," said Shumate.
In an ugly 2A championship game marred by poor sportsmanship by both teams, Harrisburg defeated Seton Academy 50-44. Seton Academy left the arena without picking up its second-place trophy.
“I’m embarrassed by what took place here tonight,” IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said in a press release. “Interscholastic athletics are designed to teach young people important lessens about life. The lessons on display tonight were that respect and sportsmanship are not important and that is unacceptable.”
Seton Academy 62, Winnebago 37 (March 8)
Perhaps the most telling statistic of previously unbeaten Winnebago’s startling 62-37 loss to Seton Academy in the 2A semifinals was this — Seton made more 3-point shots in just nine attempts than the Indians did in 34.
“I think our shot selection was poor,” Winnebago coach Joe Murphy said. “We wanted to get the ball up the floor and spread and get to the hole.”
After a close first quarter in which both team traded baskets, the bottom fell out for ‘Bago. Seton went on a 17-0 run, while the Indians missed every shot they attempted in the second quarter, including nine from beyond the arc.
Several times in transition, Seton made easy lay-ups off missed shots by ‘Bago.
“When we did shoot, we didn’t hustle back,” Murphy said. “They were quick getting back. I don’t think it was their quickness that beat us; we just didn’t get back. There’s a big difference between the two.”
The Indians finally put three points on the board with 1:28 left in the second quarter on free throws by Reinke and Swigart.
To add insult to an already poor shooting performance from the field (15-for-68), those were the only three free throws ‘Bago would make the entire game out of nine attempts.
“I thought we did a really good job of knowing where certain guys were,” Seton coach Brandon Thomas said. “We wanted to make sure we accounted for (Reinke and Posley) and hold them under their average.”
Reinke and Posley combined for 27 points and four 3-pointers (on 23 attempts). No one else would score over four points or even make a trey.
Winnebago did close to within 50-37 with 3:48 left on a Polkowski lay-up, but missed its last 18 shots of the game.