Illinois Valley Central's basketball team started strong, kept it going and finished a complete game Dec. 11 when it beat Ottawa, 59-44, at home.
"We played really well," coach Joe Mintus said. "We played three really good quarters. We took a couple breaks on defense and they got some open looks but we really played good overall. It was a good win for us."
Out of the gates, the Ghosts began to build a lead when AJ Johnson tore his way through the Ottawa defense.
Johnson led the team with 16 points in the game.
Despite a great game from Johnson, it was not a solo effort that carried the day for IVC.
Reilly Owens racked up 13 points in the game and Sam Reuter added 12.
By halftime, the Grey Ghosts took a 23-14 lead.
In the third quarter, IVC was outscored by Ottawa but the team remained calm and limited the damage by regaining its footing in the last quarter.
Down the stretch, the Ghosts crushed any momentum Ottawa had gained in the third quarter by putting 23 points on the board in the final eight minutes to charge to the win.
The team dropped a home game Friday when Rock Falls came into town and left with a 69-62 victory.
Rock Falls star Steven Armoska put up 43 points for the Rockets and his teammates did enough to fill in the holes for the win.
"That kid is a good player but he had quite a few points where we had nobody with their hands in his face and quite a few off offensive rebounds," Mintus said. "If we cut those in half then I think we win going away but Rock Falls is a good team."
The Rockets took an early 17-15 lead in the opening quarter but IVC turned on the gas in the second quarter.
Johnson knocked down shot after shot for the Ghosts to tear down the Rocket lead and put IVC up, 35-30, at halftime.
Johnson led the team with 17 points for the game.
Defensively, the Ghosts fell asleep in the third quarter and allowed Armoska and his Rockets to blast in 23 points without much of a challenge.
IVC's offense was not shut out in the quarter but the Ghosts could not find enough open shots to keep Rock Falls from taking a 53-48 lead into the final quarter.
Despite smart ballhandling decisions from Magee in the final quarter, the Ghosts were unable to regain the lead and fell.
"I thought we did some really good things until about the last 30 minutes of the game," Mintus said. "We have to get better at coming out of the locker room and playing after halftime."
Page 2 of 2 - The Ghosts next play Dec. 26 in the State Farm Classic in Bloomington with times and opponents to be announced.
"I think there are a few things we want to work on," Mintus said. "When looking at the schedule before the season I knew this would be a time to work on a few offensive sets and zone presses. We have 10 days to really get that cleaned up. We need that time off, we are going to play some really good teams in that Christmas tournament."