BLANCHARDVILLE — The names of the players have changed over the past 11 seasons, but the results have remained the same as the Redbirds extended their winning streak over the Pecatonica Vikings to 11 consecutive games after rallying late for a 48-42 non-conference victory at PHS on Thursday, Dec. 28.
Freshman Carter Lancaster buried a 3-pointer from the corner to put the Redbirds (6-2 overall) ahead 43-41 with 2:19 remaining, and the ‘Birds went 5-for-6 from the foul line over the final minutes to sink the Vikings (5-3) for the 11th season in a row.
“It’s always good to get a road win against a very good team like Pecatonica. It was very much a defensive battle all night,” said Darlington head coach Tom Uppena. “We just made enough plays at the end to get the win. We were only 9-of-17 from the free throw line for the game, but we made the ones we needed at the end. It was an ugly game overall, but I’m happy we came away with the win.”
Stryker Fitzsimons and Tanner Evenstad each hit a pair of free throws for the Redbirds to extend the lead to 47-42, and Tony Ruesga added a free throw with 13 seconds to play to seal the victory.
Neither team could get much going offensively in the first half. The Redbirds were slowed by early foul trouble, while the Vikings’ standout guard Colton Schraepfer played sparingly in the first half after suffering an ankle injury in the team’s morning shoot-around and would sit out the entire second half.
Lancaster scored eight points and Fitzsimons added seven in the first half to lead the ‘Birds out to a 25-15 halftime advantage.
“We started the game well and got off to a nice lead. Pecatonica’s zone gave us trouble in the second half and that allowed them to chip away at the lead and eventually take the lead,” explained Uppena.
Pecatonica fired off on a 24-13 run to open the second half to erase their double-digit deficit and grab a 39-38 lead on the ‘Birds with 7:18 left to play.
The Vikings missed 6-of-8 free throw attempts in the final four minutes of play and had a critical turnover in the final minute, while Coach Uppena’s crew went on to outscore the hosts 8-1 over the final two and a half minutes to rally for the win.
Fitzsimons finished with a game-high 13 points and Lancaster chipped in with 12 for the Redbirds. Evenstad added eight points and Tucker Lange scored six on a pair of second-half 3-pointers to aid the victory.
Evan Prust netted 10 points and Jaden Hendrickson tallied nine for former Redbird Matt Fink’s Vikings.
Darlington hosts Fennimore in a key SWAL game on Friday, Jan. 5, and travels to Belleville for a non-conference game on Tuesday, Jan. 9.
“Heading into the next two months, we definitely have some positives to build on. The kids are defending at a high level and the effort has been good every night. We need to find out how to generate some more offense, however, if we want to continue to have success,” Uppena replied.
“I think we will be competitive in every game, but the margin of error in every game will be very small with the number of very talented teams we play. I look forward to the challenge and I know our guys do as well.”
Darlington……….. 25 23 – 48
Pecatonica.……… 15 27 – 42
Darlington– Kameron Blosch 2, Tanner Evenstad 8, Tucker Lange 6, Carter Lancaster 12, Bailey McGuire 3, Stryker Fitzsimons 13, Tony Ruesga 4. Totals – 17 9-19 48.
Pecatonica – Schraepfer 2, Prust 10, Eaton 7, J. Hendrickson 9, B. Hendrickson 6, Johnson 5, Ruegsegger 3. Totals – 14 10-13 42.
3-point goals– D 5 (Lange 2, Lancaster 1, McGuire 1, Ruesga 1), P 4 (J. Hendrickson 2, Johnson 1, Ruegsegger 1). Total fouls– D 19, P 16. Fouled out– P: J. Hendrickson.