By Don Eskins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Class 2 second ranked Skyline Tigers pushed their record up to 22-2 on Friday night, in Urbana, with a 58-51 conference win over the Strafford Indians (15-8).
The Cats, who jumped out in front of Strafford early and then held on to stave off a furious comeback bid by the Indians in the fourth quarter, were paced by senior Dax Beem’s 18 points.
It was a big win for the Tigers who hadn’t registered a victory over the Indians since February 12, 2010. A stretch that has lasted for just over ten years.
“This was a big win for our kids tonight,” said Tiger head coach Tommy Egan. “But not because we finally beat the Indians, it was because we’re now 4-0 in Mid-Lakes Conference play.”
Skyline outplayed the Indians throughout the first two periods of the game and held on to a 12-point, 28-16, lead at the half.
After trading buckets with Strafford in the third frame the Tigers found themselves still up by 12, 44-32, as the two teams headed into the fourth and final frame of play and for a few brief moments it appeared as if Skyline had posted an insurmountable lead.
However the Indians battled back and with just 1:22 left in the game, pulled to within three points of the Tigers 52-49, on a three point shot from senior forward Cade Rear.
But a steal by Skyline’s Gage Gunter with just 39 seconds remaining, and some clutch free throw shooting down the stretch from Dax and Lawson Beem, gave the Tigers a long overdue 58-51 win.
Joining Dax Beem as double digit scorers for Skyline were Lawson Beem with 15 and Jaytin DeFreece with 10.
Pacing the Strafford offensive effort was Sawyer Lumley with 13. Zak Lutgen and Vance Mullins added nine each.
Team play and the free throw line played key roles for the Tigers in picking up their twenty-second win of the season.
“We played well as a team tonight,” said Dax Beam. “You have to give Strafford a lot of credit to though. They came back to make a game out of it when we had them down pretty good. But we spread them out over the last few minutes of the game and I think that helped us out a bunch. We have really good guard play.”
“I feel like being able to hit our free throws was the big difference in the outcome of the game tonight,” said Lawson Beem. “When we got the opportunity to go to the line we made it count.”
Skyline went to the line 33 times Friday night making good on 27 of them for 82%. All 14 of their fourth quarter points came from the charity line.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” said Strafford head coach Tyler Ryerson. “I think they went on a 4-0 run on us at the end of the first period and a 6-0 run at the end of the second and that hurt us. But I’m really proud of our kids, they played hard tonight and after trailing by 12 at the start of the fourth period they made a game of it.”
Ryerson wasn’t the only proud coach Friday night.
“These kids are really special. They’re all about team,” said Skyline’s coach Egan. “We knew tonight’s game was going to be tough, Strafford has such a great program and are well coached. But with the game on the line our kids showed great determination and composure to get the win and I’m so proud of them all.”
With the victory Skyline is now 4-0 in Mid-Lakes Conference play. Strafford fell to 1-2.
Box Score 1 2 3 4 F
Strafford 6 10 16 19 51
Skyline 11 17 16 14 58
Skyline: 1. Dax Beem- 18/2. Lawson Beem- 15/3. Jaytin DeFreece-10/4. Ethan Edwards- 6/5. Bradyn Porter- 5/6. Gage Gunter-4 (FT’s 27/33/82%)
Strafford: 1. Sawyer Lumley- 13/2. Zak Lutgen- 9/3. Vance Mullins- 9/4. Cade Rear- 5/ 5. Seth Soden-5/ 6. Gabe Mahon- 5/7. Clay Lawson- 3/8. AK Rael- 2. (FT’s 10/13/77%)