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Elite Eight shoe doesn't fit for SJ-O boys' basketball

Mar. 2—SHELBYVILLE — It was loud.

So loud to where St. Joseph-Ogden senior guard Tanner Jacob said he couldn't hear much on the court.

There wasn't an open seat in Shelbyville High School's gym for Friday night's Class 2A boys' basketball sectional championship game between SJ-O and Teutopolis. And for 90 minutes, all those fans watched exactly what a championship game should feel like. In the end, Teutopolis outlasted SJ-O 61-55 in overtime to deny the Spartans a shot at the state tournament.

Four quarters wasn't enough to decide a winner, as the score was tied at 50 to end regulation. The first three minutes of overtime weren't enough either, with the teams knotted up at 55 with one minute to go.

Zac Niebrugge hit a clutch three-pointer with 40 seconds left to put the Wooden Shoes ahead. A couple defensive stops later, and Teutopolis (24-10) captured yet another sectional title — its 16th in program history — and advanced to Monday night's super-sectional game against Benton at the Banterra Center in Carbondale.

SJ-O (27-7), meanwhille, will have to wait at least another season to capture the school's fourth sectional title after falling two wins shy of playing next week at State Farm Center in Champaign.

It wasn't for lack of effort, though.

"We left it all on the floor," SJ-O coach Kiel Duval said. "Our guys wanted it. A few shots didn't go our way, a few plays didn't go our way, and that's what happens. It was two good teams battling out there."

The Spartans still put together a sterling season after losing News-Gazette Player of the Year Ty Pence to graduation. Losing a talent like Pence, the program's all-time leading scorer who is now a freshman guard at Illinois State, meant the outside expectations dipped. But when it was all said and done, the Spartans won just as many games as last season and made it as far as any SJ-O group has since it won a 2A state title in 2016.

"Internally, we knew we could get here," Jacob said. "This is right where we thought we could be, and we were right there at the end of the game. A few things fall our way, and we would be advancing. I feel like we accomplished what we wanted. Obviously, we could have accomplished more, but I think we opened some eyes."

The Spartans proved they don't need a go-to scorer to be successful. They had guys step up when needed all year long, but nobody was consistently the top scorer.

They proved that again Friday. The starting five scored all the points, but they nearly all finished in double figures. Luke Landrus paced SJ-O with 13 points, followed by Tanner Siems with 12 points, Logan Smith and Coy Taylor with 11 points apiece and Jacob with eight points.

But Teutopolis beat SJ-O for the second time in the last two months, this time ending the Spartans' season.

"They know how to play," Duval said. "It's tough to win these things all the time, and they find a way. It's a basketball town. It's what they do."

Another group that believed in the Spartans all season was their student section, the Maroon Platoon. Co-leader Braxton Waller said they had more than 120 students make the hour-and-a-half trip to Shelbyville Friday, which is a fourth of SJ-O's student body. They were just as deep and just as loud as Teutopolis' students, as they went back and forth all night.

"It was exhilarating," Waller said. "That's how you want to go out right there. Both teams cheering at the top of our lungs. It was amazing."

As fun as it was to watch for the students, the players were just as appreciative to see them come out.

"That was probably the biggest crowd we've had all year," Jacob said. "They definitely helped give us some momentum at times during the game. It's always good to see the support."