Mount Pulaski’s Peyton Taylor is fouled hard going to the basket by Tri-City’s Charles Mosley in Monday night’s opening round of the Bill Rucks Tournament

Hilltoppers hang on to win season opener in the Bill Rucks Tournament

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[November 22, 2016]  The Hilltoppers hung on to win 55-54 over Tri-City’s Tornadoes in Monday night’s opening round of the Bill Rucks Tournament.

Peyton Taylor scored the first basket of the Hilltoppers season off an offensive rebound that he pulled down and then spun around and banked in perfectly. A nice move by the now 6’8 junior and just like that the 2016-17 is underway.

The Hilltoppers were crashing the boards early as Senior Lukas Aylesworth came flying in under the rim to grab the next offensive rebound and his strong putback tied the score at 4-4.

Gezus Oliver put the Hilltoppers on top 7-4 with his three at the 3:50 mark.

Then it was Aylesworth with the nice spin around jumper for two and the home team was looking good in the first quarter.

Junior Gezus Oliver sails through the lane in Monday night’s tournament action.  Oliver led the Hilltoppers with 17 points.

Oliver nailed another three in the quarter and just like that Mount Pulaski was up 12-6. Oliver would miss a three at the buzzer but better luck next time.

The second quarter scoring was opened by freshman Brandon Kretzinger, who managed to connect for a three at the 6:45 mark. The 5’8 freshman learned just before game time he would be in the starting lineup, replacing Junior Seth Huff.

It looks as if Huff may have a fracture behind his kneecap. Hilltoppers fans can only hope Huff recovers in due time and is back on the court, but in the meantime Kretzinger did an outstanding job stepping up, playing great defense and scoring 11 points in his first game playing varsity basketball.

Oliver has also stepped up his game this season and this young man had back surgery earlier this summer. Oliver hustled all night long and between him and Kretzinger they combined to score 11 of the Hilltoppers 13 second quarter points.

The icing on the cake was Oliver’s three at the halftime buzzer that gave the Hilltoppers a 25-23 lead going into the locker room.

Aylesworth went on a tear in the third quarter for Mount Pulaski, scoring 8 points while showing off some nice spin moves. Along with a couple third quarter baskets from Oliver, Kretzinger and Senior Eli Griesheim, Mount Pulaski looked pretty comfortable in this one.

The Hilltoppers lead was 43-36 at the end of the quarter.

Oliver’s layup quickly in the fourth quarter extended the lead to 45-36. Looking back that would be the only basket from the field the Hilltoppers managed to score the rest of the game.

As the Tornadoes came barreling back in the fourth quarter, Mount Pulaski would have to rely on points from the free throw line. There’s work to be done there yet as Mount Pulaski’s 10 of 22 shooting from the line in the fourth quarter may have secured the victory on this night, but it may not accomplish the goal every night.

On the other side, Tri-City was more than fired up in the fourth quarter and the lead flamethrower was 6’1 Senior Steven Price, who poured in 11 points in the quarter without missing a free throw.

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Price's three with 19.0 seconds on the clock brought a roar out of the Tri-City crowd and put a scare into the Mount Pulaski fans. The trey by Price made the score 54-52 at that point.

But Price was not finished yet. Mount Pulaski fans broke out in a sweat when Price banked one in with 9.2 seconds remaining in the game.

The score was now 55-54, but the Hilltoppers had a chance to add to the lead after Eli Olson was intentionally fouled. Olson missed the free throws but with the intentional foul Mount Pulaski ended up with the ball and luckily time ran out for the Tornadoes.

Mount Pulaski hung on for the 55-54 win, despite Price scoring 26 points to lead all scorers.

Mount Pulaski put three players in double figures on the night. Oliver led the way with 17 points, Aylesworth contributed 13 points and Kretzinger chipped in a very respectably 11 points in his varsity debut.

Mount Pulaski Head Coach Ryan Deibert spoke after the game and said, “I thought we were going to do everything we could to give that one away. It’s just a matter of we’ve got to be stronger with the ball. We’ve got a lot of unproven players. People who have had a little bit of experience but who haven’t proven they can do their job at a high level. Ball handling is going to be a big thing.”

Deibert continued, "With our point guard (Huff) going down, we’ve got a freshman (Kretzinger) stepping up and we’ve got players around him stepping up, but we’ve got to prove we can handle the ball without him in the lineup.”

Speaking of the freshman, Deibert said, "Overall he did a pretty good job. He hit some key shots for us and overall took care of the ball. It’s his first game he’s ever played in high school, so you've got to keep that in mind and realize he should only get better.”

The Bill Rucks Tournament resumes tonight at 5 p.m. but Mount Pulaski has the night off. The Hilltoppers will play tomorrow night at 8 p.m. versus Central A & M.

Mount Pulaski scoring

Oliver 17
Aylesworth 13
Kretzinger 11
Taylor 9
Griesheim 5

Tri-City scoring

Price 26
Gordan 9
Summer 6
West 5
Long 4
Bumgardner 2
Watring 2

[Teena Lowery]

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