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GIBSON CITY – Before entering the Heart of Illinois Conference Tournament, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley had a chance to get into the win column in the conference’s regular season play.
The Falcons took advantage, gaining its first HOIC victory of the season Friday over Deer Creek-Mackinaw 38-28.
“I thought it was a good, grind-it-out win,” GCMS head coach Ryan Tompkins said.
GCMS (7-11, 1-7 HOIC) took an early 11-0 lead, not yielding a single point to the Chiefs for the first 4:30 of the game. Nick Retherford scored five points during that run, including a 3-pointer, while Ross Royal and Reese Simpson each hit one from downtown as well.
The Falcons ended the opening quarter with a 11-4 advantage.
“I thought we came out and played well and played with energy early offensively,” Tompkins said. “We played with confidence. As the game wore on, we started moving the ball a little bit and starting executing better at the halfcourt level. We got ourselves some looks, and we were able to attack.”
After Retherford scored another bucket to increase GCMS’s lead to 13-4, Dee-Mack’s Brandon Weed – a 6-foot-9 senior center – scored seven points, including a three-point play with 4:02 remaining in the first half, to lead the Chiefs through a 12-0 run that gave them a 16-13 lead. With 3:04 left in the half, Grant Frahm ended the run with a three-point play of his own.
“They’re going to try to dictate pace and tempo, and they were able to do that,” Tompkins said. “Weed is a big kid. You don’t come across a lot of 6-foot-9, 260-pound (players). He’s got good hands. He was able to finish. He created problems for us and got us in foul trouble in the post.”
The Falcons responded with a 7-0 spurt that included a three-point play by Ben Eads – which put GCMS up 18-16 with 51.1 seconds remaining until halftime – and two buckets by Retherford.
Weed scored six more points – en route to a team-high 15 points – as Dee-Mack started the second half with a 10-3 run, taking a 26-23 lead. Simpson ended the third quarter by getting a fastbreak layup off a steal to cut the lead to 26-25 by the end of the third quarter for GCMS.
Frahm scored the first two points of the fourth quarter to increase the Chiefs’ lead to 28-25. Dee-Mack would get shut out from there.
Retherford made three free throws within the first 2:11 to tie the game at 28-28. Eads scored what would be the game-winning basket with 3:03 remaining, giving GCMS a 32-30 lead.
“We were able to change some things up in the second half and kind of get the ball out of his hands and try to make other kids make plays for them,” Tompkins said. “Our defense did a nice job of rotating and forcing the ball into other people’s hands. That was a nice run.”
Simpson scored on a transition basket to increase the Falcons’ lead to 32-28 and made a foul shot with 1:39 remaining. Simpson finished the game with 11 points.
“I thought Reese Simpson stepped up in a big way,” Tompkins said. “With his athleticism, he was able to convert one in transition there to get us up by four and knocked down a free throw to get us up to five, and then we were able to ice it from there. I thought Reese played well. I thought that was as well as he’s played in a few games as far as taking care of the ball and playing with poise and playing under control, and it paid off because we needed those plays.”
After scoring 11 points in the first half and one more in the third quarter, Retherford helped GCMS ice the game with a field goal and five free throws in the fourth quarter. He was the game’s leading scorer with 19 points.
“Nick Retherford had a steady game as well running the floor – getting to the foul line, being physical, using his body, drawing contact,” Tompkins said. “We still got good efforts out of the other guys, too, but it was, offensively, those two guys (Retherford and Simpson) stepping up when we needed it.”
The No. 12-seeded Falcons will open up their HOIC Tournament play by facing No. 5 Ridgeview at 1 p.m. today in Colfax.
“We’ve got to match their intensity, come out and play hard and take care of the basketball,” Tompkins said.
The loser will play at 5:30 p.m. later today against the loser of the game between No. 4 Lexington and No. 13 Dee-Mack. The winners of those two first-round games will face each other at 8 p.m. Monday in Bloomington’s Illinois Wesleyan.