BOYS BASKETBALL: Manteno settles for second with loss in Kankakee Holiday Tournament
KANKAKEE — Manteno had hopes of winning its second tournament of the season Saturday, but then the Panthers were introduced to Chicago Christian’s Brian Anderson.
Anderson scored 33 points and snatched 13 rebounds to push the Knights past the Panthers 67-53 in the small school championship of the Kankakee Holiday Tournament on Saturday.
“We knew this was going to be a tough match to start, and we would need to have things go right for us,” Panthers coach Zack Myers said. “We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot with turnovers, knocking shots down and free-throws down the stretch; you can’t do that against good teams.”
Thanks to a 15-point outburst by the Knights’ Matt Sturrsma, with Anderson scoring the four other points, the Knights got out to an early 19-9 lead after a quarter, a deficit the Panthers never could recover from.
“We just didn’t have some things go well early; they did a good job covering Trevor [Moisant] and Robbie [Wesselhoff] and taking shots away from them,” Myers said. “We turned it around in the second half but just couldn’t get over that seven-point hump.
“It just wasn’t our night, and credit to Chicago Christian.”
During the next two quarters, the teams seemed to go blow-for-blow, with the Panthers outscoring Chicago Christian 29-28 in the two middle quarters. But Anderson took over in the fourth, scoring nearly half of his points in the final frame.
Knights coach Kevin Pittman, who was given the division’s Outstanding Coach award after the game, said Anderson has been asked to carry the load for his team all season and really rose to the occasion during the tournament in which he was named most valuable player.
“We ask Brian to do a whole lot of things for us — handle the ball a bit, rebound, defend the team’s best player, play inside, play outside,” Pittman said. “There’s not much we don’t ask him to do, and the past couple of weeks, he’s taken that to another level.”
Myers had some compliments for Anderson as well and said the Panthers will have to figure out how to defend do-it-all forwards quickly, as the Interstate Eight Conference slate heats up after the new year.
“He attacks the rim hard and shot well,” Myers said of Anderson. “We’re going to see players similar to that down the stretch, and we need to figure out how to guard that.”
The Knights won the tournament in their first year in it. And while the hour-long drive might not have been the most geographically pleasing week for the Knights, according to Pittman, they could be back to defend their crown after an enjoyable virgin voyage to Kankakee.
“We had a great time here; I wish it was closer or there was a monorail that we could hop on, but we absolutely loved it,” Pittman said. “It’s run phenomenally well; I love the competition; I love the officiating; it’s so hard to get good officials lined up every single game, and I thought the crews we had were outstanding.”
And for Myers and the Panthers, they will turn their attention to the Interstate Eight Conference. Although the Panthers have enjoyed a fruitful 8-4 start to their season, three of those losses came in conference play.
“We put ourselves behind the 8-ball with three straight [conference] losses,” Myers said. “Nothing in the Interstate Eight is easy; there are some good teams and good coaches out there.
“We just need to focus on getting better in conference games and get ourselves ready for the conference tournament.”
Moisant led the Panthers with 21 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals. Wesselhoff added 12 points and three assists. Tyler Irvin had seven points, 10 rebounds, three steals and three blocks.
The Panthers are off this week. They return Jan. 8 at Wilmington.