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Patriots one step closer to TEC title

By Tyler Wittamore, Contributor

The stage is set to crown a 2018 Tri-Eastern Conference champion in varsity boys' basketball after the Union County Patriots defeated the Cambridge City Lincoln Golden Eagles, 77-56, on Saturday afternoon, February 12.

The Patriots remained perfect in the TEC with the home win, improving their league record to 6-0. Union County hosted the also-undefeated Northeastern Knights on Tuesday, February 5, with the winner taking firm control of the TEC.

“Every game in the (TEC) feels like a championship,” UC head coach Jesse Moses said after the game. “You have to go undefeated if you want a chance at it. Today's game reinforced what we need to do against Northeastern on Tuesday.”

The Golden Eagles of Lincoln are a decidedly youthful team, but that did not mean the Patriots took them lightly on Saturday afternoon. The Eagles are a great shooting team, especially from deep. The team came into the weekend contest shooting 47 percent from three-point range.

In the first half, Lincoln occasionally showed signs of being a deep threat. Junior guard Cameron Gwin came into the contest averaging 14.9 points per game, and the Eagle sharpshooter nailed a couple of big threes for his team, including a nothing-but-net shot from eight feet behind the three-point line.

Coach Moses and the Patriots were able to make the adjustments to keep Gwin wrapped up in the second half however. The junior scored all 11 of his points in the first two quarters.

“(Lincoln) hit five threes in the first half, and they were contested threes,” Coach Moses said. “I don't think we were doing a good job of getting a hand in (Gwin's) face in the first half, but Blake Fields and Nate Webb had his assignment in the second half, and they didn't give him any room to breathe.”

Union County always had an answer for any Lincoln score. Most of the time, that answer came in the form of a basket by Mook Shepler. The senior made it look like a Saturday afternoon shooting clinic, hitting 65 percent (11-for-17) of his shots. Shepler scored a game high 26 points and also pulled down eight rebounds.

“Mook's a heady player,” Coach Moses said. “What he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for it in floor sight. He makes others better, and he has poise when he's out there.”

While Lincoln likes to take its shots from outside, the team has little inside presence to turn to in games. That turned out to be a useful advantage for the Patriots, who out-rebounded the visitors by a 37-18. Second chance opportunities and easy rebounds allowed UC to earn a comfortable win.

The Patriots scored first and only trailed once (4-2) in the Saturday affair. The first eight minutes came to an end with UC leading 18-13. Despite a three-point shot at the buzzer, Lincoln was outscored by three in the second quarter, 19-16.

The Patriots came out of the halftime break and eventually led by double digits. A step-back jumper from Shepler at the end of the third kept UC in front, 54-44. The Patriots owned the final quarter, outscoring Lincoln by a 23-12 margin.

Cam Sanford and Ryan Hensley also scored in double digits for UC, with 10 and 13 points respectively. Hensley led all players with nine rebounds.

Lincoln was led in scoring and rebounding by Darian Bishop. The sophomore scored 16 points and pulled down six boards. Gwin scored 11 points, while Alex Bertsch scored nine points.

Coming up:

After facing Northeastern in the biggest game of the year on Tuesday, Feb. 5, the Patriots will play two games against non-conference opponents. UC will host North Decatur on Friday, Feb. 8. On the following Tuesday, Feb. 12, the Patriots visit East Central.

Box Score:

Union County 77,

CC-Lincoln 56

GOLDEN EAGLES (6-9, 2-3) -- A. Bertsch 3-6 0-0 9, Dalrymple 3-6, 0-0 6, Gwin 4-10 0-0 11, Bishop 7-13 2-2 16, Pennington 2-6 0-0 4, Southerland 0-1 1-2 1, Pierce 4-8 0-0 9. TOTALS -- 23-50 3-4 56.

PATRIOTS (11-7, 6-0) -- Sanford 4-12 0-0 10, VanWinkle 4-10 0-0 9, Fields 3-8 0-0 7, Alldredge 1-1 0-0 2, Hensley 6-8 1-2 13, Hornung 4-4 0-0 8, Shepler 11-17 0-0 26, Osborne 1-1 0-0 2. TOTALS -- 34-61 1-2 77.

Score by quarters:

CC 13 29 44 56

UC 18 37 54 77

3-point goals: CC 7-17 (Gwin 3-7, A. Bertsch 3-6, Pierce 1-2, Dalrymple 0-1, Bishop 0-1). UC 8-21 (Shepler 4-4, Sanford 2-9, VanWinkle 1-6, Fields 1-2). Total rebounds: CC 18 (Bishop 6, Pierce 4), UC 37 (Hensley 9, Shepler 8, Fields 6). Team rebounds: CC 3, UC 4. Steals: CC 2, UC 3. Turnovers: CC 6, UC 4. Total fouls: CC 6, UC 2. JV score: UC 47 (Alldredge 10, T. Swafford 10, Coyle 9, Bias 8), CC 32 (A. Bertsch 11, Asher 8, Ervin 6).