LaSALLE – Sterling has handled pressure on the basketball court before.
No matter what type of pressure Peoria Manual threw at them in a 3A LaSalle-Peru Sectional semifinal Tuesday night, the Golden Warriors persevered – even if it took three overtimes in an 81-78 win at A.J. Sellett Gymnasium.
Sterling (23-9) had to deal with the Rams’ intense full-court pressure, which caused most of its 37 turnovers. Sometimes the Golden Warriors couldn’t make it 10 feet across the court against the Ram’s stifling pressure.
But in the end, a win is a win for the Warriors, who move on to play Wednesday’s Metamora/Dixon winner at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We knew it was going to be a big game going into it,” Sterling junior center Aidan Shore said. “I feel like we prepared, and the outcome shows.”
Shore showed power in the paint, and came away from a scramble of a game with the first triple-double in Sterling boys basketball history: 12 points, 17 rebounds and 12 blocked shots. Shore had six blocks in the third quarter, including swatting three consecutive opportunities in as many Rams tries.
Sean Gingrich led the Golden Warriors with 26 points. He made all 11 of his free throws, including four in the final overtime – where he also added a pair of two-point shots.
Usually Sterling’s go-to guy from behind the arc, Gingrich believes his long-range focus helps him at the free-throw line.
“It’s a little bit shorter, but really it’s just something that I put in work for,” Gingrich said. “Free throws can decide a game, like they did tonight.”
Marquez Williams broke a tie at 77 in the third overtime with a baseline jumper. He caught a pass from Alek Duran, who was open for Gingrich to make a hard-fought pass to in the midst of a triple-team.
Williams added another jumper, once more off a Duran pass, for a four-point lead.
“I just came into the game, posted up, got the ball, and the shots went up and in,” Williams said.
Manual (8-17), who took three overtimes to beat Washington in its regional final Friday, didn’t fare well this time around.
“Our team showed great fight,” Gingrich said. “We knew that’s what we had to do playing against a tough Peoria Manual team. They sped us up a little bit, and we turned the ball over way too many times. Overall, it’s just a game of heart.”
3A LaSalle-Peru Sectional
Sterling 81, Manual 78, 3OT
Star of the game: Aidan Shore, Sterling, 12 points, 12 blocks, 17 rebounds
Key performers: Sean Gingrich, Sterling, 26 points 11-for-11 FTs; Micah Kendrick, Sterling, 21 points, 7 rebounds; Rolando Brown, Manual, 23 points, 7 steals
Up next: 3A LaSalle-Peru Sectional final, Sterling vs. Dixon/Metamora winner, 7 p.m. Friday