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Tigers advance to consolation semifinals

Last updated: February 10. 2014 9:23PM - 1079 Views
By KYLE SMITH Democrat Sports Editor



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The Apsher brothers held things together for the Smithton Tigers in the second half Monday night at Sacred Heart School.


The brothers combined for 24 second-half points helping the sluggish Tigers hold off the Lincoln Cardinals 91-79 in a consolation game in the Kaysinger Conference boys basketball tournament.


The game along with the Smithton-Green Ridge girls matchup — which Smithton won 50-47 — were moved to Sacred Heart’s gym to shorten a night that featured four games. Two games were also played at State Fair Community College.


The Tigers (16-2) will face Stover in a consolation semifinal at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Fred E. Davis Multpurpose Center. Lincoln (2-15) was eliminated from the tournament.


Senior Dane Apsher scored a game-high 32 points for the Tigers, and freshman Drew Apsher totalled 19.


Having three players with three or more fouls by halftime, the Tigers sat some of their regulars for large stretches of the second half. The Apshers carried the team, and they even helped each other out. Dane and Drew each assisted the other two times, and a steal by Dane led to a basket by Drew.


With Jeffrey Bell, Damien Hendricks and Preston McMullin on the bench for much of the second half, the Tigers managed to pad their lead. They extended their lead to 14 points by the end of the third (73-59) and pushed that lead to as many as 22 in the fourth quarter.


Lincoln responded with a 16-0 run that was spurred by six points from Boone Kroenke. His 3-pointer opened the surge, and he converted a 3-point play that sliced Smithton’s lead to 83-71 with 2:33 to go. Lane Johnson and Tyler Kroenke followed with layups after back-to-back turnovers by the Tigers, and Johnson capped the run with two free throws with 1:38 to play.


The Cardinals had to start fouling Smithton at that point. The Tigers responded, going 6 of 8 from the free throw line in the final 1:29 to finish off the Cardinals. Drew Apsher went 3 for 4 from the foul stripe, and Dane Apsher sank the final two with 22.6 seconds left in the game.


“It was very similar to the first time we played them,” Lincoln coach Tyler Burke said of Smithton. “They got a jump on us early. We fought back hard and found a way to get back in the game. We weren’t able to close it out.”


Boone Kroenke and Mason Sanders paced Lincoln with 17 points each, and Ryan Eckhoff added 10.


The first half was a free throw shooting contest because the teams combined for 37 fouls — 23 by the Tigers. Lincoln went 19 of 33 from the free throw line, and Smithton went 10 of 20.


The Cardinals started the game strong, attacking the basket, showing patience on offense and grabbing key rebounds. On defense, they drew two charging fouls and did enough to disrupt Smithton’s passing game.


Lincoln built a 15-9 lead near the four-minute mark of the first quarter, but the Tigers’ uptempo style of play allowed them to quickly put together an 11-0 run to take a 20-15 lead and followed that with a 6-0 quarter-ending burst to take a 28-20 lead.


The Cardinals scored 13 of their 20 second-quarter points from the free throw line, but Smithton used a 7-0 run to extend its lead to 53-40 at halftime.


“We did a lot of things that you think of when you think of young teams,” Burke said. “We missed a lot of free throws. There were a lot of execution things.”


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