Mount Pulaski Hilltoppers come out on top in overtime thriller versus Riverton

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[January 27, 2018] 

The Mount Pulaski Hilltoppers traveled to Riverton Friday night and brought with them a caravan of purple and gold fans. An enormous crowd full of enthusiastic Hilltopper fans filled the stands and cheered their team on in perhaps one of the most exciting wins of the season. Kudos to the Mount Pulaski students who really kept the team pumped up from start to finish.

And what a start to this one! A minute-and-a-half into the game, no one had scored when Peyton Taylor swatted the ball from a Riverton player and Seth Huff grabbed it in mid-air. Taylor took off running down the court and Huff tossed a long pass towards the SIUE-bound track athlete (discus) and the big man slammed it home. The crowd went wild! The cameraman from Sports 1450 was right near the basket and captured it all. A great start to the game.

Thirty seconds later Taylor would score the second basket of the game from the paint and then things got interesting. What looked to be a clean block by Taylor was called a foul. Even a neutral fan in attendance shook his head at the call.

Gezus Oliver was "Mr. Clutch" down the stretch at the free throw line. Oliver led the Hilltoppers with 15 points.

Riverton tied the game at the 5:14 mark and then Gezus Oliver was knocked down while shooting in what appeared to be a foul but nothing was called. So Oliver decided on the next go ‘round just to pop a three and give Mount Pulaski a 7-4 lead. But with 4:01 showing on the clock Taylor picked up his second foul that had many in the stands mumbling, “cheap foul.” Taylor went to the bench and never returned until after the halftime.

Mount Pulaski battled without the big man and held their own quite well. A three by Brandon Kretzinger extended the lead to 10-4. Riverton would hit another basket just before the first quarter was over and Mount Pulaski maintained a 10-6 lead after one quarter of play.

Again in the second quarter Riverton tied the game, 10-10 the score with 7:24 on the clock. A few more questionable calls were noticeable in the quarter but luckily the Hilltoppers hung in there. Riverton took a 12-10 lead but Drew Martin quickly tied the game for Mount Pulaski on his drive through the lane.

Oliver would sink another three to give Mount Pulaski a 15-12 lead. But by halftime time Riverton had edged closer and the score was 15-14 going into the locker rooms.

Taylor got back in the game to start the third quarter and just his presence allowed Mount Pulaski to go on a 6-0 run. Oliver, Huff and Martin all scored baskets in that stretch.

Riverton, despite being young and a bit unpolished, never gave up. Just when the Hilltoppers lead was up to 26-16 the Hawks got right back in it. The Hawks ran off five straight points and by the end of the third, no one was bleeding yet, in the very physical contest but the score was 26-21 in favor of the visitors.

Riverton opened the fourth quarter by finally hitting a three. The Hawks were shooting from beyond the arc all night long, even their two 6’4 sophomores loved to launch the long ball, but it wasn’t doing any damage to the Hilltoppers.

The fourth quarter would be a bit different. The Hawks would sink three 3s in the quarter. Mount Pulaski’s only three in the quarter was a huge corner shot from Kretzinger that rattled the rim at the 4:30 mark and gave the Hilltoppers a 34-26 lead.

With the Hawks crawling back in the game though Mount Pulaski really needed some offense, Taylor managed a basket in the lane around the 2:00 mark but that was it for the Hilltoppers in regulation.

With Mount Pulaski up 36-35 and time running out for the Hawks, the home team got a chance with 13.7 seconds left and shot at the free throw line. Travis Hogan stepped to the line and made 1-of-2 free throws to tie the game. Oliver had one more chance for Mount Pulaski but his shot with 4.6 seconds remaining missed.

However, Riverton tossed the ball up with 1.2 seconds left and another miss ensued. Not to dwell on the negative but Mount Pulaski also had three players all miss free throws near the end of regulation and everyone knows how much that drives a coach crazy.

To overtime the Hawks and Hilltoppers go with the score 36-36. Not long into the four minute OT, Taylor would be bleeding and have to take a seat. This time he was struck right in front of the referee and with blood gushing from his head, a whistle didn’t even blow. Taylor would get heavily bandaged and return to the court.

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In the meantime though, the Hilltoppers tossed the ball around on offense without him and after running a minute off the clock, Kretzinger saw an opening in the lane and he took advantage. His last minute drive to the bucket resulted in a 38-36 Hilltopper lead.

Riverton would miss a shot on their next possession.

Then Mount Pulaski’s Nate Dyer would come down-court and get fouled on his shot attempt. Dyer hit one of these free throws to extend the lead. Riverton would miss again at their end and this time bodies were just flying through the air and hitting the floor like something out of a scene from a bad movie.

Whatever the case, the crowd was sure fired up and people were getting the price of admission and then some, plus the popcorn was delicious.

At the 1:51 mark Kretzinger was the next casualty and he went to the line to sink 1-of-2 free throws good for a 40-36 Mount Pulaski lead.

Riverton inched closer with a couple free throws with a minute left, 40-38 now the score. Mount Pulaski was getting their parting shots in also.

In the final seconds though, it was Oliver who came through for Mount Pulaski at the free throw line. He had the opportunity twice, in fact, and he didn’t let anybody down. The senior connected for 4-for-4 from the free throw line down the stretch and Mount Pulaski won this thriller in OT 44-38.

A real game-changer at the end was the two offensive rebounds pulled down by Martin that allowed Mount Pulaski to keep control of the game in overtime. If that doesn’t happen, the ending could be written different.

But thanks to an overall great effort by Mount Pulaski, the Hilltoppers improved to 16-5 on the season and fortunately every man was left standing, despite taking a beating on the court.

Gezus Oliver led the Hilltoppers with 15 points and Peyton Taylor tossed in 10 points in his limited play.

Varsity scores by quarter:

Mount Pulaski 10 15 26 36 44
Riverton 6 14 21 36 38

Mount Pulaski (44)

Oliver 15
Taylor 10
Kretzinger 9
Martin 7
Huff 2
Dyer 1

Riverton (38)

Hogan 10
Moushon 7
Charles 6
King 6
Yoggerst 6
Durham 3

The Mount Pulaski JV team lost 48-43 to Riverton. Dustin Murphy led the Hilltoppers with 16 points and Joey Davis added 11 points for Mount Pulaski.

JV scores by quarter:

Riverton 6 20 36 48
MP 11 21 31 43

Mount Pulaski (43)

Murphy 16
J. Davis 11
Lawson 6
G. Davis 6
Combs 4

Riverton (48)

Pryor 15
Durham 14
Kendal 12
Williams 5
Rutter 1
Craft 1

[Teena Lowery]

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