GIBSON CITY - Fresh off their historic 11-1 football season that ended in a heartbreaking one-point loss to eventual state champion Arcola, the Falcon players were hoping to move on and get over the loss quickly.
For a dozen of them, they had no choice.
Only a few players on the GCMS boys basketball team didn’t play football, meaning last week’s annual Thanksgiving tournament forced the team to switch gears right away.
And after just four days of practice, the Falcon boys basketball team pulled together enough to sweep their home tournament and start the season 4-0.
“What’s great is these kids are going to enjoy it and get back to work on Monday,” Falcon coach Ryan Tompkins said in a WGCY radio interview afterward. “We talked this morning about being battle tested. This field of teams is pretty impressive, and you’re going to see a lot of wins coming out of this tournament from a multitude of teams. It was just good to see us get a little bit better every day.”
The tournament win is the first for GCMS since 2007, when they defeated rival Blue Ridge and later won a regional title.
Since then, the Falcons have finished second in 2008, as well as the last two years, before winning it again this year.
Senior captain and third-year starter James Fairfield said beforehand that the team would most likely worry less about plays and focus more on aggressiveness until the team got back in rhythm.
That strategy stood out immediately, as GCMS came out the gates running with a 29-point win over Tri-Point behind 16 points from Fairfield, 13 from Tucker Cribbett, and 10 from Mitch McNutt.
From there, the Falcons stepped up in crunch time, as the next three games were decided by six points or less.
Down 40-45 after three quarters, GCMS managed a 30-point fourth quarter to outlast Clinton 70-64 Tuesday in game two of the tournament.
Cribbett, McNutt and Fairfield led the scoring again, with 23, 19 and 13, respectively.
The following night, it took a bigger comeback and a game-winning shot to get it done.
Trailing 13-28 in the second quarter, the Falcons applied pressure and turned on a full court press for much of the rest of the game.
GCMS scored 10 straight points and then inched their way to a comeback that culminated when Tucker Cribbett hit a midrange shot with 40 seconds left to finally take the lead at 49-48.
Fairfield hit a free throw, and Prairie Central failed to hit a shot as GCMS escaped 50-48 Friday.
The Falcons were hoping to be celebrating a championship in football Saturday, but their celebration came in the form of a Turkey Tourney basketball trophy instead.
Faced with a tough matchup with LeRoy, who had just finished their football season in the semifinals, the aftermath of football was clearly fresh.
Heavy aggressiveness led to 57 total free throws between the two, with GCMS making 20 of 24 and LeRoy sinking 27 of 33.
“It was a physical game. Both teams got to the line, and both teams capitalized for the most part,” Tompkins said.
GCMS pulled away late in the game and finished with a 72-69 victory.
Tucker Cribbett and James Fairfield were named to the all-tournament team.
The Falcon cheerleaders also earned the tournament cheerleading title.
Monday - GCMS 72 Tri-Point 43
Tuesday - GCMS 70 Clinton 64
Friday - GCMS 50 Prairie Central 48
Saturday - GCMS 72 LeRoy 69