Tigers Take Second in Christmas Tourney

The Festus Tigers Boys Varsity Basketball team take down second place overall in the Annual Park Hills Central Christmas Tournament, falling in the final game.

The Festus Tigers Boys Varsity Basketball team was cruising through the 66th Annual Bob Sechrest Jr. Central Christmas Tournament until they ran into a buzzsaw in the finals. The Tigers traveled to Park Hills and dispatched their first three opponents before falling to the three-peat Champion South Iron Panthers 78-66 in the finals.

Festus’ first test was a matchup with the Crystal City Hornets, and the third seeded Tigers stumbled a bit out of the gate, as the Hornets were clinging to a 12-11 lead after eight minutes. That didn’t last long though as Festus broke through in the second quarter with a 25-burger and held the Hornets to just 10 to take a 37-22 lead into the half.

That lead was one the Tigers wouldn’t relinquish either, as they tacked on 23 more in the third and kept Crystal City to a mere six points. Festus had the luxury of coasting in the fourth due to their sizable lead, and despite allowing a 16-10 fourth quarter advantage to the Hornets, they easily held on for the 69-44 victory.

The offense was effectively spread out in this one as Collin Weinhaus led the Tigers in scoring with 12, while Carter Roth had 11 and Arhmad Branch followed suit with 10. Logan Cash was the closest to sniffing a double-double as he had eight points and led the team with eight rebounds.

The second round game would not be nearly as easy for the Tigers as they took on the sixth-seeded Ste. Genevieve Dragons. It was a razor-thin nail-biter throughout the game with lead changes all over the place, and it was the Dragons who came out breathing fire. They went up 21-18 after the first, but the Tigers roared back in the second with a huge 22-14 frame and took a 40-35 lead into the half.

Ste. Gen came out hungry again though and won the third-quarter battle 17-13, which pushed the heart-pounding score to 53-52 and set up a wild fourth quarter. The two teams pretty much traded buckets and free throws, but with Festus leading 67-65 in the waining seconds, Cole Rickermann made a game-saving block and the Tigers hung on for the victory… and a trip to the semifinals.

Rickermann was the big story in this one as he had that crucial block, led the team in scoring and rebounds with 18 and nine, respectively, and one of those 18 went for his 1,000th point of his illustrious High School career. Branch was notable as well with four points, eight boards and nine assists, while Weinhaus had 15 points and made three of the team’s five three-pointers.

In the semis the Tigers would have to take on the host team in the form of the very tough Park Hills Central Rebels, and it would be another tight affair. In fact, after being knotted at 16 after the first quarter, the two schools put up matching nine-spots in the second to create a 25-all game at the half.

The third quarter was almost as close, but the Rebels tacked on an extra bucket, earning them a 15-13 edge in the frame and a slim 40-38 lead overall. The Tigers clawed back in the final eight minutes though, putting up 20, while holding Central to just 16. Branch nailed the game-winning bucket and the 58-56 triumph sent the hosts packing and the Tigers to the finals.

In addition to the game-winner, Branch had six additional points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Rickermann led all scorers with 19 and Eric Ruess nearly earned a double-double with 14 points and seven boards. It was a gutsy performance that saw the defense stand up big with 28 total rebounds and seven steals, while the offense was timely and just effective enough to get to the biggest game of the tournament.

Speaking of which, the Tigers would have to take on the tiny powerhouse known as the South Iron Panthers. The reigning Class 1 State Champions would be the Tigers’ toughest test, and responsible for their only loss in the tournament. Festus held their own though, as they kept it extremely close in the first quarter with the slim edge going to the Panthers, 16-15.

The second frame, however, would be the breakout that South Iron was looking for. They took down the quarter 22-14 and went into the half with a 38-29 advantage. Despite hanging tough with an 18-18 third quarter, the Tigers just couldn’t gain any ground. South Iron won the fourth 22-19, the game 78-66 and the overall Tournament for their third straight title.

The Tigers fought hard though and had some notable performances in the game. Branch led the charge with 19 points and Ruess got that elusive double-double with 15 points and 13 boards. Rickermann had 12 and Connor Westhoff had 11 to round out the notable scorers.

The Tigers took second overall in the tourney with their 3-1 record, and are having an excellent season by all accounts. They are up to 8-3 on the year and look to stay hot in the second half. Tigers Take Second in Christmas Tourney

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