Playing close games is nothing new for Robinson High School's boys' basketball team, as they have been in them all season long.
The Maroons were locked up in another tight one Tuesday night with a berth in the Little Illini Conference Tournament championship game on the line, but could not get enough bounces to fall their way and came out on the short end of a 52-44 decision to Olney at Paris High School.
"We battled and had our chances, but they just got us tonight," RHS head coach Mack Thompson said. "We gave ourselves every opportunity, they just hit a couple more shots than we did."
It was punch, counter punch for most of the night, as the eight-point final margin was the largest of the game for either team.
After second-seeded Olney scored the first basket of the game, third-seeded Robinson answered with a three-pointer from Kade Lassen and a basket from Brayden Childress to give the Maroons a 5-2 lead at the 4:53 mark of the opening period. However, Olney responded with three consecutive three-pointers to take an 11-5 lead and the Tigers held a 12-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
Olney pushed its lead to as many as seven early in the second quarter, but Robinson battled back, using a 9-3 burst to pull within one. Trailing 18-11 with 5:04 to play, Ethan Shidler hit one free throw, then converted a layup following a feed from Wesley Jackson after he corralled a loose ball, making the score 18-14 with 3:53 remaining. After an Olney three, Jeffrey Goble scored inside, Nick Weber hit a three and Childress made one of two free throws following an intentional foul to draw RHS to within 21-20 with 1:07 left. However, Olney added a free throw with 56 seconds left and another with 8.3 seconds left following a RHS turnover to give the Tigers a 23-20 advantage at halftime.
Lassen drained a three to open the third quarter and tie the game, only for Olney's Braden Flanagan to sink a three of his own a minute later to put Olney back on top. Lassen countered with another three on the next possession, then Childress scored inside to give the Maroons a 28-26 lead with 4:50 to play.
Flanagan answered with a long three-pointer the next trip down, which ignited an 8-0 run by the Tigers to make the score 34-28 with 3:26 remaining. Jackson followed with a three-point play after a steal and Weber added a free throw to get the Maroons within 34-32 with 1:25 left, but Olney still managed a 38-35 lead heading into the final period.
The teams traded baskets to start the fourth quarter, then Lassen nailed a three from the left corner to tie the score at 40-40 with 5:32 remaining. However, the Maroons then went cold on the offensive end, going more than four minutes without scoring.
Following a lengthy possession, Olney's Drew Blank got an off-balance shot to fall in and put the Tigers back on top, starting a run of six straight points that made the score 46-40 with 1:08 remaining. Two free throws from Jackson pulled the Maroons to within four, but Olney was able to hit enough free throws down the stretch to keep the Maroons at bay.
"I was proud of our effort, but Olney did what they needed to do and we didn't," Thompson said. "I didn't think we finished well around the basket and didn't go as strong as we needed to."
Lassen led RHS with 14 points, two assists, one rebound and one blocked shot, while Childress posted 11 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists. Weber netted seven points and three rebounds, Jackson totaled five points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals, Goble collected two points, four rebounds and one assist and Rylan King contributed two points and three rebounds.
Chase Travis led Olney with 18 points, 11 rebounds, two steals, two assists and one blocked shot, while Flanagan posted 16 points, three rebounds and one steal.
In Tuesday's other semifinal, fourth-seeded Casey-Westfield knocked off top-seeded Marshall, 49-39.
2020 Little Illini Conference Boys Basketball Tournament