BHRA wins fifth Vermilion County title in a row

Jan. 21—Vermilion County Champions!

— BHRA (@BHRABlueDevils) January 21, 2024

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DANVILLE — If there was any doubt Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin and Oakwood was the right Vermilion County Tournament championship matchup Saturday night, they put it to bed in the opening quarter.

Alec Harrison rebounded his own miss on the game's first possession and scored to give the Comets the first lead of the night.

The Blue Devils answered with a jumper from Ayden Ingram to tie it at 2, and Ingram repeatedly clapped his hands to get the BHRA fans fired up at a sold-out Mary Miller Gym on the Danville Area Community College campus.

Moments later, BHRA's student section exploded after Ingram stole the ball and passed it ahead to Keison Peoples, who dunked it home.

Oakwood's students matched that energy on the ensuing possession after Carsen Dudley nailed a three-pointer.

"It was super hype," Ingram said. "Both teams were getting at it. Both student sections were yelling. It was hard to hear at times, but it was a great experience."

They continued to go back and forth to the tune of an 18-16 first-quarter lead for the Blue Devils. BHRA built a nine-point lead by halftime and kept that momentum rolling for a 62-50 win, its fifth consecutive county title.

"Anytime you can win a championship is always a good feeling," BHRA coach Gary Tidwell said. "Obviously, there's a lot of pride involved with the county tournament, but there's also a little bit of pressure to keep it going. I was really happy with the way our guys responded. They just played with a lot of confidence and composure."

After water issues moved games off the DACC campus Thursday and Friday, Saturday's championship night for the boys' tournament was back in Mary Miller Gym, which got the players even more ready to play.

"We were excited because DACC did a great job last year," Ingram said. "It was a great experience here with a big, nice court and the DACCtron. It's just a cool thing to have here."

The game's back-and-forth competition kept up in the opening possessions of the second half. Dudley hit another three-pointer to bring Oakwood (17-6) back within six, but Ingram immediately responded with a three of his own for BHRA (20-3).

Peoples then picked up his third foul, sending him to the bench for the remainder of the quarter. BHRA didn't miss a beat without one of its best players, taking a nine-point lead into the fourth quarter.

Ingram and Chaz Dubois paced BHRA (20-3) with 19 points apiece, while Peoples added 13 points.

Harrison led Oakwood with 16 points, while Dudley and Cort Vermillion each scored 13 points.

Tigers roll to third

As Saturday night's third-place game got going, it felt like a three-point contest between Hoopeston Area's Wyatt Eisenmann and Westville's Drew Wichtowski.

Eisenmann made a trio of shots from beyond the arc, and Wichtowski made a pair to lead the Tigers to an 18-13 lead after the first quarter.

"We always seem to start slow, so to be able to come out and start hitting shots like that helps," Wichtowski said. "We've kind of fell into a hole in the first quarter these last couple games, so to come out like that really helps us."

The sharpshooters cooled down from deep the rest of the way, but that back-and-forth competition continued throughout the game, and the Tigers came away with a 58-37 win.

Wichtowski picked up right where he left off, as he scored his 1,000th career point in the Tigers' final pool-play game on Thursday.

"I'm not about personal awards, but 1,000 points is cool," Wichtowski said. "It's just winning games. To come out and win this game means a lot for our team."

Westville went into halftime Saturday with a 32-26 lead after the scoring slowed down a tad in the second quarter.

The start of the third quarter was when the scoring nearly reached a standstill. Both teams came out of the break more physical with a bigger focus on defense. The Tigers (16-4) couldn't seem to get past the initial line of defense on the perimeter, and Hoopeston Area big man Kendrick Sigerill never got an inch of breathing room in the post.

The Cornjerkers (16-8) eventually went on a brief scoring run to tie the game at 32 midway through the third quarter, but Westville went right back up by eight going into the fourth after Sigerill subbed out with four fouls. That's also when the Tigers cranked up the defensive pressure, which is what Wichtowski said was the turning point.

Wichtowski led all scorers with 29 points, and Easton Barney chipped in 12 points for Westville. Eisenmann paced the Cornjerkers with 13 points.

"It shows that we can win games," Wichtowski said. "It shows the younger kids in our program that county should be fun."

Storm hang on for fifth

It wasn't for a championship, but the fifth-place game between Salt Fork and Armstrong-Potomac had that kind of feel through the first half on Saturday evening.

Fans had filled the Mary Miller Gym parking lot and most of the seats inside by tipoff, and they were teated to a back-and-forth battle before Salt Fork earned a 45-40 win.

"The biggest thing is managing the game," Salt Fork coach Andrew Johnson said. "You practice these end-of-game situations, the pressure moments, pressure free throws and things like that. Our kids did a pretty good job of finding ways to secure the win."

Trojan fans got something to cheer for all night.

Kollin Asbury has been A-P's (11-11) go-to scorer all season, and he scored another game-high 27 points Saturday to finish with 116 points at the tournament. That mark is second all-time in county tournament history.

"He's been good since he's touched that high school floor," Johnson said of Asbury.

The A-P senior carried his team as far as he could, leading a late comeback push, but Salt Fork (11-9) took away everyone else to come out on top in fifth place.

Jameson Remole led the Storm with 24 points, including a deep three-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer. Evan Webb added 12 points.

Cole Bailey complemented Asbury with 11 points for the Trojans.

"Everybody's got anywhere from eight to 10 games left, and you're just trying to create momentum for yourself," Johnson said. "(Saturday) was hopefully a step in the right direction."