NORMAL - The day didn't start well for Hartsburg-Emden High School's basketball team.
A player was late for the bus and consequently earned a seat next to Coach Josh Nauman at Horton Field House Tuesday. The fourth-seeded Stags were in danger of missing something else, too.
Namely, a spot in the State Farm Holiday Classic Class A quarterfinals.
Luckily for Hartem, Scott Ubbenga had other ideas. The senior forward scored 12 of his game-high 20 points in the second half as the fourth-seeded Stags held off No. 13 Olympia 59-50 in a first-round game.
"I think our defense wore them down eventually," said Nauman, whose team led 32-30 midway through the third quarter. "Sometimes we get frustrated if we don't pull away early, but we stuck with it and kept our composure down the stretch and were able to pull away."
Hartem improved to 10-1 and faces Meridian at 6 p.m. today at Shirk Center.
Olympia (5-4) trimmed a 30-22 halftime deficit to two. But the Spartans never got the lead and the Stags closed the period with a 9-4 run to take a 41-34 advantage into the fourth quarter. Olympia coach Paul Swanson knew what did in the Spartans.
"Let's all say the words 'free throws' together," said Swanson. "Nothing else has to be said."
The Spartans were 12 of 25 at the line, including 6 of 13 in the fourth quarter.
"We didn't keep contact, we didn't shoot well at the line and we missed some chippy shots inside," said Swanson. "If you make free throws you keep contact and then you let the last two minutes of the game go where it goes."
Guard Alex Frantz paced Olympia with 21 points.
Dakin Bolen contributed 14 points for the Stags despite getting chills and flu-like symptoms in the second half, said Nauman. Josh Conrady added 10 points.
CPCI 58, Driscoll 47
Sixth-seeded CPCI (10-1) knew it was in for a physical game against Addison Driscoll, which has seven players from its football squad that won a fifth straight state title a month ago.
The Timberwolves, with their tallest starter being 6-2, didn't back down. CPCI led 42-38 after three quarters and gradually pulled away behind junior forward Andy Leppard's 20 points.
"We were trying to neutralize their athleticism and their physicality and size advantage (in the fourth quarter) by spreading them out a little bit and giving us a chance to attack off the dribble," said CPCI coach Kevin Long.
Jordan Hurliman added 13 points for CPCI, which advanced to a 7:30 p.m. quarterfinal today against Quincy Notre Dame. Senior forward Kyle Jenkins paced Driscoll with 19 points.
IVC 59, El Paso-Gridley 45
Top-seeded IVC (8-0) used the 3-point shooting of senior guard Ryan Thornton to zoom to a 21-5 lead after the first quarter. Thornton sank four 3-pointers and scored 14 of his 19 points in the opening period.
El Paso-Gridley (3-4) didn't play like a No. 16 seed after that. The Titans cut the margin to 31-18 at halftime and trailed 42-28 late in the third quarter. IVC ended the quarter on a 10-4 run to take a 52-32 lead.
"We've had 11 days off. Zach McAllister hadn't played in two weeks. We were a little rusty," said IVC coach Jim Thornton, who is Ryan's father. "It was pretty much what I expected. The good thing was we got our starters some rest. I was able to do that in the fourth quarter."
McAllister, a 6-5 senior center who missed IVC's last game with a sprained ankle, scored a game-high 22 points. Senior forward Michael Haas paced the Titans with 11 points.
"We told the kids coming in that IVC was going to give us their best punch in the first quarter. We had to weather the storm," said El Paso-Gridley coach Brian Quam. "I thought we were going to be in for a long night. But the kids did a nice job recovering in the second quarter, were patient offensively and did what we needed to be successful."
Rockridge 56, U High 55
What appeared to be a rout early in the third quarter turned into the day's most exciting game as No. 9 Rockridge (6-3) edged eight-seeded University High (5-6).
U High trailed 34-20 just two minutes into the third quarter when Coach Cal Hubbard pulled his starters. With junior forward Tyler Cook leading the charge, the Pioneers proceeded to go on a 20-2 run to grab a 40-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The U High starters returned with six minutes left. Rockridge jumped ahead 51-44 before the Pioneers made another comeback. Drew Miller's 3-point play put U High ahead 55-53 with 55 seconds left. Rockridge scored the winning basket with 29 seconds left when Tyson Blaser drove into the middle and dished out to a wide-open Logan Wynn, who sank a 3-pointer.
U High couldn't get off a shot in the final seconds, calling timeout with :01 showing. Miller took an in-bounds pass in the corner and put up a hurried attempt, but Blaser flew over to block it.
"I'm not sure we should have had a chance to win it, but we did. I'm proud of those kids who came in. They executed and gave us a chance," said Hubbard. "We didn't get a very good shot at the end. We didn't attack very well. We had a bunch of kids who weren't used to playing with each other."
Cook scored a game-high 18 points to lead U High, while Miller added 15. Blaser paced Rockridge with 17 points.
"Their second team was probably their better team tonight. We lost a little energy and then had to fight them to the end," said Rockridge coach Jeff Henry. "Our kids held together and found a way to win. It showed some character."
Central Catholic 71, Peoria Christian 43
The third-seeded Saints (8-2) turned the first half into a track meet to post the day's most impressive victory. Central Catholic cranked up its transition game and relentlessly attacked the basket, scoring 29 points in the second quarter en route to a 53-25 halftime lead.
"We like playing high-possession basketball games. We do everything we can to force the tempo and push the ball on makes and misses," said Central Catholic coach Jeff Wulbrun. "The guys did a good job tonight. Our defense created a lot of offense. We have guys who been coming to practice and been determined to get better every day they step on the floor. Collectively, that's had quite an effect on our basketball team."
The Saints' starters were able to take the fourth quarter off and get some rest before today's 9 p.m. quarterfinal game against Sherrard. Senior forward Justin Safford led Central Catholic with 15 points, while senior Paul Kabbes added 12 points. Central Catholic grabbed a huge 37-16 rebounding advantage, with junior guard Brandon Dunson pulled down nine boards.
Peoria Christian (4-5), the No. 14 seed, received 13 points from senior guard Glenn Werry.
w Quincy Notre Dame 54, Rochester 26: Second-seeded and defending champion Notre Dame (9-3) nearly set a tourney record for fewest points allowed. Ridgeview scored 22 points in 1998 and '99.
Notre Dame led 10-2 after the first quarter and 28-12 at halftime. Forward Greg Hellhake paced the Raiders with 14 points.
"Early in the game we did a good job of putting pressure on their perimeter players where it was never comfortable for them to do what they wanted," said Notre Dame coach Scott Douglas. "They never really got in a good offense, but in the second half they seemed to find a way to get into offense."
w Meridian 55, Rock Island Alleman 40: Travis Rosenkranz scored 20 points as fifth-seeded Meridian (7-2) pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Alleman, which trailed 38-35 after three quarters, didn't have a player score in double figures.