PEORIA – Newman entered a Brave new world at the Class 1A Boys Basketball State Tournament on Friday, and it did not go well.
The Annawan Braves used a suffocating defense to hold the Comets to a season-low in points on their way to a 59-44 victory at Carver Arena at the Peoria Civic Center.
Newman (28-5) will take on Goreville (23-12) in the third-place game Saturday, while Annawan (31-3) meets Okawville (26-8) for the championship. Okawville beat Goreville 48-33 in the second semifinal.
The Comets, making their debut at the boys basketball state tournament, shot 34.1 percent (14-for-41) from the field and never got on track against an Annawan team that was equally effective defending on the perimeter and in the paint. Newman’s previous low-point total this season had been 46, in a sectional final win against East Dubuque.
“They were just ball-hawking the whole game,” Newman senior guard Cade Gorzny said. “They had good help defense, especially on me, Devon [House] and Travis [Williams]. It was hard to get shots up.”
“They are a great defensive team,” Newman coach Ray Sharp added. “We knew that, and we had heard that often from everybody that had seen them. They won the supersectional 39-32, and you could tell by their scores and what they hold other teams to how good they are defensively. They did a great job.”
The two main cogs in the Annawan D were senior guard Brendon Shaw and senior forward Ben Buresh.
The 5-foot-10 Shaw shadowed Newman point guard Gorzny and limited him to six points on 2-for-8 shooting, including 1-for-5 from 3-point range. Gorzny had scored 18 points with five 3s in a DeKalb Supersectional win against Providence St. Mel on Tuesday.
“Watching film, we definitely saw [Gorzny] was a great shooter,” Shaw said. “He’s a great contributor to their offense, and if we could take away him on the outside, it would be a lot easier for everybody else. I just had to make sure I had a hand up and contest his shots all night long.”
Buresh, a stout 6-3, 190-pounder, made life miserable for any Comet that ventured inside. He finished with five blocked shots, including three on Newman’s first three possessions of the second half, setting a tone that a Newman comeback from a 26-18 halftime deficit would be difficult.
“It was tough in there,” Buresh said, “but I had a lot of encouraging teammates that I could rely on; if I got beat, they would step up and help me.”
Newman big man House did have some decent
numbers (7-for-13 for 15 points, including a 3), but was unable to take over a game in which the Comets’ outside game (3-for-17 from long distance) was ineffective.
“Ben in the middle, he was blocking my shots, so I had to do a lot of ball fakes,” House said. “After that, they had double-teams and triple-teams coming at me, and I’d have to pass it out. Their guards were scrappy. They made it tough on everybody.”
Annawan’s biggest lead of the second half was 16 points (51-35) after Dante Weathersby dropped in a pair of free throws with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter, but Newman did put up a fight down the stretch.
A 3 by Gehrig Koerner, and two free throws and a three-point play by Williams got the Comets to within 52-43 at the 2:18 mark.
Newman had a chance to cut into the deficit further with 1:49 to go, but a 3 from Brycen Bartel went in and out, and House missed a putback.
“I thought it was in,” Bartel said of his 3 that would have cut the deficit to six points. “When I saw it go in, I got excited, but it popped out on me.”
The Braves closed the game on a 7-1 run the final 1:32, with reserves from both clubs finishing up.
Annawan shot a sizzling 62.1 percent (18-for-29) from the field. The Braves rarely fired away from 3-point range, where they were 2-for-6, instead picking apart the Newman D with drives for layups and open jumpers.
Senior guard Owen Landwehr was 5-for-5 from the field and 8-for-11 from the line for a game-high 19 points. Shaw finished with 12 points, and Buresh recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“We executed really well,” said Annawan coach Alex Coppejans, a star on the Annawan team that placed fourth at state in 2009. “I thought we got great looks around the rim, and that was really the goal for us. We wanted to get some easy ones. I know we shot a high percentage, and that’s not rare for us when we take a low number of shots. We were just really efficient on the offensive end.”
Class 1A state semifinal
Annawan 59, Newman 44
Star of the game: Owen Landwehr, Annawan, 19 points, 6 rebounds
Key performers: Ben Buresh, Annawan, 12 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocked shots; Devon House, Newman, 15 points, 7 rebounds
Up next: Class 1A third-place game, Newman vs. Goreville, 11 a.m. Saturday