Saturday’s championship game of the Gene Steighorst Invitational had just about anything anybody could want…momentum shifts, excellent shooting, tenacious defense, enthusiastic fans, and overtime. The only problem for the Hillsboro Hawks fans in attendance was the final score. The Eureka Wildcats pulled out an overtime victory for the second straight night, this time a 54-53 victory over Hillsboro, that earned the Wildcats the tournament title.
“Eureka is a good team,” senior guard Mark Moore said. “They are very well coached and play hard. They executed a little better than we did.”
The Hawks came out quickly and opened a 19-10 lead after the first quarter. But the Wildcats would never let them run away with the game. Eureka cut into the lead and trailed by just four points (27-23) at halftime.
The Hawks were not the usual sharpshooters they’ve been in the past. Chalk it up to just one of those days, and the good defense the Wildcats threw at them. Hillsboro shot 38 percent from the field in the ball game. Eureka was able to slowly creep back even with Hillsboro, trailing 38-34 after the third quarter, and then 48-48 at the end of regulation.
Both teams had opportunities to pull away, but neither could do so. Trailing 53-51 in overtime, Garrett Pinkley took a pass from Ethan Worley and drove for a layup that tied the game, but a foul on the inbounds gave Eureka a chance to shoot two free throws. The Wildcats made one, and Moore’s desperation shot missed the mark, giving Eureka its second straight Steighorst championship.
These types of games in December are ones that coaches and players will be able to look back on and use down the road. “It was good,” Ethan Worley pointed out. “It was a growing experience for us, and we will learn from it and get better everyday.” Moore said the team played hard. “We gave an effort that is hard to be disappointed with,” he explained. “We will learn a lot from this game and move on.”
Pinkley and Ethan Worley led the team with 14 points each. Pinkley also had five rebounds. Moore added 13 points, as well as four steals. Evan Worley finished the night with seven points and six rebounds, while Logan Smith scored five points. Zach Whaley also had five rebounds and four assists.
The Hawks, now 4-2, will stay home on Tuesday, hosting the Ste. Genevieve Dragons at 7:30 p.m. Hillsboro opened the season with a 77-42 victory over Ste. Gen back on December 2.