With one game left and one chance to get a win in the tournament, Illinois Valley Central's boys basketball team beat Springfield, 50-44, in its final game in the State Farm Holiday Classic Dec. 28.
"It was a good win," coach Joe Mintus said. "Springfield is a young team, but they are very athletic. That was something where the speed of the game was a little faster. We had to adjust to that.
"It's tough coming into a game where you've just lost three games. We were adjusting a little bit. That type of consolation game is tough to fight through. You have to fight through being sad at the losses and at playing at 9 a.m. I'm proud of the kids, that was a good win."
IVC fell behind early after the defense lagged against a strong Springfield offense, which scored at will from any spot on the court.
In the second quarter, the Ghost defense clamped down and disrupted the Springfield offense.
Springfield turnovers led to Ghost points as IVC capitalized on the opposition's mistakes.
AJ Johnson and Reilly Owens established their ability to score over Springfield defenders and got their teammates in on the action with good ball movement.
Johnson and Owens led the team with 13 points each.
At halftime, Springfield held a 25-23 lead.
IVC rallied in the third quarter to regain the lead.
Defensively, the team continued keeping Springfield from sinking back into that first quarter rhythm and allowed the Ghost offense to make the shots needed to grab a 35-32 lead after the quarter.
Down the stretch, the Ghost offense made more shots than any other period during the game to secure the win.
The team headed to Abingdon Friday and came home with a 51-48 victory.
"We didn't play our best game and Abingdon really played well," Mintus said. "They hit a lot of shots. We have a hard time adjusting to playing smaller schools like Abingdon. They get pretty excited playing teams like us because that's a big game for them. We haven't adjusted to playing in games like that yet."
The Abingdon offense came out on fire, knocking down shot after shot from the perimeter.
The accuracy on offense for Abingdon did not translate to defense, and the Ghost offense quickly established a rhythm.
Johnson played smart and fast with the ball, dealing it to open teammates and slicing through defenders when the lanes opened.
Johnson led the team with 18 points.
Throughout the first half, both teams put on an offensive clinic as neither defense found a way to slow the other side.
Page 2 of 3 - At halftime, Abingdon led 29-24.
After strong offensive output in the first half, the Ghosts topped themselves with a crushing third quarter on offense.
Whether it was long-range shots or tip-ins at the hoop, the Ghosts could do no wrong on offense and racked up 16 points in eight minutes.
After three quarters, Abingdon's lead was 42-40.
In the final frame, the Ghost defense clamped down and completely disrupted Abingdon's offense.
IVC created enough turnovers and forced enough bad shots to hold Abingdon to six points while the Ghost offense racked up the points needed to win.
"It's never easy to win on the road but we did go on an hour and 25 minute bus ride, get a win and got out," Mintus said. "At this point in the year, that's what's important. You want to string together wins. We didn't play our best game but we got a win."
The team took to the road again Saturday with a 66-59 win at Peoria Christian.
"We played a lot better," Mintus said. "We played hard like we did every game. I'll credit our kids because they always play hard. Peoria Christian is a tough place to play and get a win."
Both sides were evenly matched to start the game, with both sides sinking finding offensive success.
Owens weaved through Charger defenders to take open shots at mid-range.
The Chargers had no problem scoring of their own and held a 14-13 lead after the opening eight minutes, however.
The Ghost offense exploded in the second quarter and racked up 22 points.
Johnson scored at will from anywhere he chose to shoot and also made sure to get his teammates in on the action.
Johnson finished the game with 24 points.
At halftime, IVC led 35-26.
The Chargers did not get the comeback they wanted out of the locker room as both teams found an answer to the other side's baskets.
Down the stretch, both defenses lapsed but the Ghost offense was able to put in enough baskets to hold on for the win.
"Defensively, we did some great things," Mintus said. "We made them earn their points and we fought through some tough stretches. We kept our composure and got a win. That's a big step for this team."
The team next plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against St. Bede.
"I think January can be a really good month for us and we got off to a really good start with two wins right off the bat," Mintus said. "If we have a good month of January, we will be in a position to win the (North Central Illinois) Conference and put a little push into that February and March area.
Page 3 of 3 - "We want to keep getting better. I think our kids are continually getting better. That's what you want to do in a season."