By DAN FOX
Silex, Elsberry and Winfield all have basketball teams attending the Clopton Invitational tourney this week, signaling a return to games for the teams after the winter break and informally marking the start of the season’s latter half.
Silex and Winfield last played each other before the Christmas break started on Dec. 20, which was a fast-paced match due to the similarity of each team’s high-tempo playstyle.
“We were tied at half, both teams had missed plenty of open shots and the second half we were going back and forth, bucket for bucket, for a couple of minutes,” Silex coach Aaron Henke said. “And then the floodgates kind of opened up.”
Winfield’s coach Bryan Keim said his team played with good energy the whole game, and that it was nice to finally build a solid point lead heading into the final quarter, with the Warriors keeping the lead through to a final score of 60-42.
“We’ve had a couple games this year and in the past where we’ve given up nice leads and let teams back into games,” Keim said.
“I was very happy with how we kept the hammer down, and I believe got up 30 at one point, before Silex made a little late run to finish it at an 18 point win.”
For Silex’s Owls, the game was a learning experience, Henke said, a chance to see another team playing with the same high-speed style that they use. On the Warriors’ side, it was a boost to the Winfield boys’ momentum and confidence heading into the Clopton tourney, which is a mental edge that may prove useful.
Keim said the Warriors’ first foe, Clopton itself, is a very tough first-round opponent that plays hard and is coached well.
“They will be a fun first round test,” Keim said.
Silex is squared up against the number one seed, Monroe City, in the first round. Depending on how matches go, Silex will move on to play either Clopton, or have a rematch against Winfield in the second round.
“Our goal is always to win two games in every tournament,” Henke said. “If you win two games, you’re coming away with something.”
Moving into the Clopton tourney, Henke said he’s expecting good things out of his players. Tommy Grote has been acclimating to the point guard position well, and Brian Henke – who’s returning from an injury – has started getting a better feel for the court.
“Scott Creech is shooting the ball pretty well and has been doing a good job scoring, Trey Mudd has come out a little bit and had a few double-digit ball games,” Henke said. “We’re getting more contribution from a lot of guys that, if we’d slow the pace down, wouldn’t get a whole lot of action. Everybody’s stepping up and that’s what we need.”
For Winfield, Ian Pruitt and Charlie Rhoades have been the most consistent players, Keim said, with Rhoades contributing better on the offensive end.
“The beauty of our team though is that we’ve got three or four other kids who can score in double figures on any given night,” Keim said. “This always gives us a chance in all our games.”