Hilltoppers move on to Regional Championship with a 63-57 win over Sangamon Valley

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[February 23, 2017]  Mount Pulaski survived a couple scares by Sangamon Valley Wednesday night to advance to the Class 1A Regional Championship.

The Hilltoppers found themselves down early 8-4 as the Storm started launching threes right from the start. Nathan Doty, who scored 11 points in the first quarter, gave the Storm a 13-9 lead after one quarter of play.

The Storm’s lead grew to 16-9 early in the second quarter before Peyton Taylor finally got the home crowd fired up. With 6:32 on the clock Brandon Kretzinger and Taylor were in the open court with one defender between them and the 5’8 freshman who goes by “BK” decided to dish off to the 6’8 junior and the latter slammed it through the rim, pounding his chest and bringing the crowd to its feet.

Seconds later Seth Huff connected for two points and was fouled on the play, making the free throw good as well. Mount Pulaski was still trailing 18-14 at this point, but the Storm were cooling off in the second quarter. Huff would spot Kretzinger camping out in the corner on the next Hilltoppers possession and the freshman would give Mount Pulaski fans just what they needed - a three.

With Mount Pulaski fighting their way right back in this one, it would be the senior power forward Lukas Aylesworth leading the way. Aylesworth pulled down the offensive rebound, put it back up strong for two points, drew the foul and sank the free throw.

Finally a tie game for the Hilltoppers, 20-20 the score. Aylesworth broke the tie on the nice assist from Gezus Oliver to give the Hilltoppers their first lead since it was 2-0.

The Mount Pulaski fans were loving the 22-20 lead and the Hilltoppers knew it. Oliver’s three was nothing but net to extend the lead to 25-20 and the 6’1 junior was just getting warmed up for Mount Pulaski.

Following two more buckets by Taylor in the quarter, it would be Oliver again scoring for Mount Pulaski. This time the smooth operator made a nice move by taking a step back off his defender and popping a nothing-but-net jump shot that pleased the crowd right before the half came to a close. His bucket gave Mount Pulaski a 31-22 halftime lead.

6’8 Peyton Taylor of Mount Pulaski soars above everyone in regional action versus Sangamon Valley at the Ed Butkovich Gymnasium. Taylor’s dunk early in the second quarter sparked a comeback for Mount Pulaski as the Hilltoppers went on to win 63-57.

Oliver was even more focused in the second half. His quick three would start the third quarter scoring for Mount Pulaski and give the home team a 34-22 cushion.

However, the two teams would go back and forth in scoring for the first three minutes of play in the third and with the scoreboard showing Mount Pulaski in the lead 41-32, things took a different turn.

Sangamon Valley managed to sink six consecutive shots from the free throw line, while Mount Pulaski turned cold from just about everywhere on the court.

Finally, Oliver drove the lane successfully with just under three minutes to go in the quarter and he was fouled on the play. Oliver hit that free throw and kept the Hilltoppers in the lead, 44-38 now the score.

Jacob Oakleaf’s bucket to close out the third quarter for Sangamon Valley allowed the Storm to move closer to Mount Pulaski. The Hilltoppers were hanging on to a 45-40 lead but there was still a lot of time left in this ballgame.

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Gezus Oliver looks down at his defender from Sangamon Valley. The Mount Pulaski guard poured in 26 points versus the Storm and was key in helping the Hilltoppers advance to the Class 1A Regional Championship Friday night versus Colfax Ridgeview.

The Hilltoppers had to survive a couple more close calls, as the Storm pulled to within 47-45 behind a couple more buckets from Oakleaf. Aylesworth was not about to let things get away for Mount Pulaski and he scored two quick buckets in the lane to give the Hilltoppers a 52-47 lead.

With 5:14 showing on the clock, Mount Pulaski decided to work some time off the clock. Oliver got antsy and with just under 4:00 minutes on the clock he swished a three to extend the Hilltoppers lead to 55-47. The Storm came surging back and over the next minute and a half outscored Mount Pulaski 8-2.

With the score now 57-55 and just over a minute to play, Mount Pulaski had reason for concern. The Storm, led by the 5’11 senior Doty, was not letting up either. Doty would sink two free throws with 47.8 seconds remaining and he now tallied 33 points on the evening and his team trailed by a mere 58-57.

Sangamon Valley had a chance for the lead after Kretzinger fouled out but Doty would miss the shot in the lane and Mount Pulaski would get the ball back. Oliver would miss the drive on the other end but he would go to the line shooting two. His free buckets went “swish-swish” and the Mount Pulaski fans exhaled with the lead extended to 60-57.

Doty would miss again for the Storm and this time Sangamon Valley fouled Aylesworth on the rebound. Aylesworth was sent to the line with 20.1 seconds remaining and he was good for one shot.

Doty was giving it his best shot on the other end, but he was getting wore down. He missed an attempt at a three and even though the Storm got the rebound, this time it was Oakleaf missing the easy basket.

After several hands touched the ball it was Mount Pulaski’s Trevor Hayes winding up with it and Sangamon Valley was forced to foul him quickly. Hayes was clutch at the free throw line, sinking his two shots with 8.6 seconds left in the game giving Mount Pulaski a 63-57 lead that would stick.

Oliver led Mount Pulaski with 26 points, while Aylesworth chipped in 14 points.

Mount Pulaski (17-11) moves on to the Regional Championship Friday night at 7 p.m. versus the No. 1 ranked team in the state, Colfax Ridgeview.

Mount Pulaski 63

Oliver 26
Aylesworth 14
Taylor 8
Kretzinger 7
Huff 3
Hayes 3
Griesheim 2

Sangamon Valley 57

Doty 33
Staab 13
Oakleaf 9
Manion 2

[Teena Lowery]

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