LANARK – Winnebago did something to Eastland that seldom gets done to the Cougars. The Indians handled the Cougars with relative ease on Eastland's home floor.
In a matchup of two of the better small-school programs in the area, Winnebago overcame an early six-point deficit and pulled away late in a 64-47 win in the final game of the day-long, nine-game Eastland Shootout.
The Cougars (1-1), who have been a perennial Class 1A power, could not keep up with the Indians (3-0), who boast a strong 2A program.
"I couldn't respect a program more in the state of Illinois than the one that [coach Joe Murphy] has at Winnebago," Eastland coach Tony Dunlap said. "I hope they made us better."
The Cougars struggled mightily from the free-throw line, going just 13-for-28, and had a difficult time handling the Indians' defensive pressure.
"We knew their defense was one of their best aspects," said Eastland's Dalton Shaner, who scored a game-high 21 points. "We've been really bad with our turnovers, and our free-throw percentage isn't too good right now, either."
Things started just fine for the Cougars, who jumped in front 11-5 just over 3 minutes into the action. Eastland's early surge included a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws by Austin Hansen, and field goals from Marshall Fink, Tyrus Hartman and Shaner.
The Indians quickly erased the deficit with an 8-1 burst to go ahead 13-12. Matt Reinke, who led Winnebago with 17 points, hit two 3s in the run.
The Cougars grabbed a 15-13 edge after one quarter.
With the Indians leading 20-17, Hansen, who scored seven of his 10 points in the first quarter, picked up his second and third fouls in the span of just 15 seconds and went to the bench with 5:14 left in the half.
"I kind of let my teammates down," Hansen said. "I had two stupid ones in a row."
Shaner kept Eastland close, scoring 10 points in the second quarter. He hit a pair of free throws, then converted a three-point play when he deftly split two defenders en route to the bucket, giving the Cougars their last lead at 22-21 with 3:27 left in the half.
The Indians went up by nine at 44-35 with 2:15 left in the third quarter on a 3-pointer from Taylor Schumate, who scored all eight of his points in the second half.
Fink put back his own miss and Shaner scored on a fast break to make it 44-39, but Winnebago got bookend 3s to end the third quarter and start the fourth to all but put the game away.
First, Dalton Menke (16 points) hit from long range with 7 seconds left in the third. Then, Schumate hit again from beyond the arc 15 seconds into the fourth quarter, making it 50-39.
Eastland could get no closer than eight the rest of the way.
"We let up in the second half," Hansen said. "We didn't have the grit that they had. They wanted to put us away, and we did not match them at all."
Jacob Posley was also a force for the Indians, providing tenacious defense to go along with 12 points.
Star of the game: Matt Reinke, Winnebago, 17 points, 13 in 1st half
Key performers: Dalton Shaner, Eastland, 21 points; Dalton Menke, Winnebago, 16 points; Jacob Posley, Winnebago, 12 points
Up next: East Dubuque at Eastland, 6:45 p.m. Thursday