Every team playing high school basketball in Illinois and Indiana have the same goal by mid-February – set yourself up to play your best entering the postseason.
Paris and West Vigo are two teams trying to get to the best versions of themselves.
At times on Tuesday, you saw flashes from both teams of what they want to be. At other times, they showed why they’re both below .500.
Sometimes you saw a little bit of both. Good passes that weren’t rewarded with a good shot. Good shots that weren’t rewarded with a good bounce.
In the end, it was Paris that struck the right balance, though free basketball was needed to split the teams. A Garrett King steal and Mason Hutchings bucket with 13 seconds left in overtime was the difference as the Tigers won the interstate battle 54-52 in the Jim Mann Green Dome.
“This was good for us to win like this. We’ve lost so many close ones this year. It’s great for us to win a close one going into regionals,” Paris coach Chase Brinkley said.
King led Paris with 22 points. Jude Sullivan chipped in 14 points. Sean Roberts led West Vigo with 12 points.
Both teams were streaky in the first half. Paris (11-14) started slow, making only one field in the first 4 minutes, 16 seconds of the contest, but West Vigo could only take a small lead as turnovers plagued the Vikings.
Paris eventually heated up. King drained all three of his 3-pointers in the opening period. The Tigers surged past the Vikings and led 20-15 at the end of the first quarter.
Paris, and King, kept cranking early in the second quarter. King scored 17 points in the first half and the Tigers had a peak lead of 10 in the second quarter.
West Vigo (5-13) was struggling, but got a lift off the bench from both Dane Andrews and Imare Holman. Andrews settled things inside the lane and Holman provided some offense off the bench. A 14-3 West Vigo run briefly put the Vikings in front before halftime. Paris inched back in front for a 30-29 halftime lead.
Jude Sullivan gave the Tigers a big lift in the third quarter. He made a trio of 3-pointers in the period and helped the Tigers create a bit of breathing room with a 40-36 lead at the end of the period after West Vigo led early in the quarter.
The Tigers scored the first seven points of the final period and needed the 47-36 cushion they built as West Vigo had a final surge in them.
The Vikings scored the final nine points of regulation. The big bucket was via an Ethan Kesler steal as he swooped in for an errant pass and took it the distance for a bucket with 55 seconds left to tie it. Paris held for the last shot, but it didn’t fall.
Kesler made another big shot in overtime, a game-tying 3-pointer with 1:06 left. It appeared West Vigo was in the drivers’ seat with the ball with under 20 seconds left, but King tipped the ball away at the top of the key and found Hutchings for what became the game-winner with 13 seconds left.
West Vigo had 20 turnovers in the contest.
“We have the tendency to keep shooting ourselves in the foot. We had plenty of opportunities to win the game. We talk all the time about how important it is to take care of the ball and value each possession. It’s almost impossible to win when you have 20 turnovers,” West Vigo coach Joe Boehler said.
Kaleb Hannahs missed a pair of shots on West Vigo’s final possession as Paris earned the victory.
“We’re just struggling right now. Hopefully, we can turn the ship around in the next week or so,” Boehler said.
Paris plays again tonight as it travels to Red Hill for a makeup game. West Vigo next plays at Terre Haute South on Friday.
“We’re playing better, we’re shooting better and we’re staying more focused. The first part of the season, we’d play 16 minutes games and had trouble staying locked in. We’re doing a better job of staying locked in now,” Brinkley said.