BLOOMINGTON — Ridgeview High School basketball coach Rodney Kellar hung a pair of motivational banners in his locker room before Saturday's championship game of the 104th McLean County Tournament.
The top-seeded Mustangs then took the Shirk Center floor and delivered a banner worthy performance in a convincing 71-53 victory over No. 2 seed Fieldcrest.
"It's been 25 years since our first one (championship) as Ridgeview in 1990 and 10 years since our last one in 2005," Kellar said of his pregame visual reminders. "To play a great program and quality team like Fieldcrest and find a way to complete it is very gratifying."
The win was sweet for a Mustangs' team that dropped the title game the past two seasons.
"The third time's a charm," said Kellar, whose No. 5-ranked team in Class 1A improved to 19-1. "This group had a couple really good groups before it come real close. These guys followed in their footsteps and did a great job finishing it."
The Mustangs cast aside Fieldcrest (14-4) with a dominant third quarter.
Ridgeview struck from the perimeter with three 3-pointers from sophomore Tyler McCormick and 10 points from junior Austin Zielsdorf attacking the basket. Drew Jones' 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer sent the Mustangs into the final period with a 50-30 bulge.
"It just means everything to us bringing this home. It's been too long," said William Tinsley, the lone senior starter. "It's just great. We passed the ball and played defense."
After a 16-16 deadlock through one quarter, Ridgeview scored the next 10 points on a Jones trey, a Zielsdorf bank shot, a Luke Ward 3-pointer and a Tinsley 10-footer.
The Mustangs, who led 28-21 at the half, held the Knights to 5 of 24 shooting over the middle two quarters.
"They're playing really well. Their defense was very good, and their offense was even better," Fieldcrest coach Matt Winkler said. "We needed to try to get the ball inside a little better and take advantage of our height. We did that a few times then quit going to the well. I don't know why."
Led by the 17 points of Jackson Puetz, the Knights got as close as 14 points in the fourth quarter.
"They are playing with a lot of confidence," said Winkler. "They've got a great ballclub."
McCormick and Zielsdorf scored 18 points each to lead Ridgeview. Jones chipped in 14 and Tinsley 10. Ward grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
Ryan Barth added eight points for Fieldcrest, which had a 41-29 rebounding advantage behind nine boards from Matthew Modro.
Fieldcrest finished at 35.7 percent from the field (20 of 56) compared to 53.2 percent (25 of 47) for the Mustangs.
Ridgeview committed just one turnover in each of the first three quarters and ended with seven. The Knights had 11 turnovers.
The long range marksmen Mustangs were 10 of 26 from 3-point range.