Knights lose 16th straight

By Isaac Trotter|For the Press

FARMER CITY – The Knights kept it close Tuesday night, but a 23-5 University High School second-half run was enough to propel the visitors to victory at Blue Ridge High School.

For much of the contest, the Knights were rolling, but the run allowed Uni High to come from behind to beat Blue Ridge 53-49. 

Just 15 seconds into the third quarter, Tim Crook buried his third three-pointer of the night to give the Knights a 33-25 advantage as Blue Ridge padded its lead, which was its first in the second half of a game since late November. 

The home crowd was roaring in approval. 

But Uni-High responded by clamping down defensively and held the Knights to just two field goals over the next 11 minutes, and the dry spell ultimately caused Blue Ridge to lose their 16th straight contest. 

“Our inability to put the ball in the hole has been our problem this entire year,” Coach Joe Sawyer said. “Our offense is a spread offense and our goal is to try and create mismatches. We had some good opportunities, but we couldn’t get a shot to fall.”

The extended run gave Uni-High a 48-38 advantage with just over three minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

The Knights refused to give up as Sam Duggins knocked down a three-pointer and Nick Homann nailed two short jumpers in the lane, which brought the Knights to within three points at 48-45. 

After two Uni-High free throws, Duggins drove the length of the floor, made a contested lay-up and drew a foul. But the officials waved off the basket and instead called a charge on Duggins.

Uni-High was able to salt the game away with free throws as they went 8-for-10 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter and were 20-for-29 from the line in the game.  

“We talked at halftime that they were going to attack us and we have to be ready to move our feet and have active hands,” Sawyer said. “We lapsed on that multiple times throughout the second half and let them have easy buckets.”

The Knights started fast behind a determined effort from Crook. His two left-corner threes bookended a 10-2 Blue Ridge run which forced Uni-High to call a timeout with 3:58 left in the first quarter.

The Knights seemed to be in control throughout much of the first half as they rode the inside presence of Homann and the frequent drives from junior Dane Houser. 

The duo each scored eight in the first half as Blue Ridge led at the break 30-25. It was only the third time all season that the Knights took a lead into halftime.

“Nick (Homann) played very strong for us tonight and had an extremely good first half,” Sawyer said. “He’s starting to become more vocal in practice because I think he realizes that he only has seven or eight games left in his career, so he’s really started to step up and be a great leader for us.”

Uni-High senior Varun Chopra — who has signed on to play golf at the University of Illinois next year — single-handedly kept his team in the game as he scored 13 of his game-high 21 points in the first half.

Chopra got help from juniors Paul D’Angelo and Van Gundersen who chipped in 13 and 11 points, respectively. The trio combined for all but eight points for Uni-High.

Homann’s 14 points were a team high while Houser added 13 points and Crook had 11 points and seven rebounds. Duggins scored just three points, but had six assists as he facilitated the offense well throughout the contest. Sawyer added that if the Knights want to be successful, they’ll need a little more scoring out of juniors Traycen Gilman and Trey Jamison. 

Gilman and Jamison each knocked down one three-pointer against Uni-High.

“I’d like to see Traycen Gilman and Trey Jamison give us a little more on the offensive end. Both of them are very solid defenders, but on the offensive end both of them can shoot and we could use some baskets from them,” Sawyer said.

The Knights will now prepare for a Friday night matchup at Eureka. The Hornets have won just two games this season, and the Knights are looking for their first Heart of Illinois Conference win. 

“We will not give up. We’ve been talking to the kids about getting a more positive attitude and going to every game believing that you’re going to win,” Sawyer said. “We’re not finished yet. We’re going to play as hard as we can for the rest of the season and hopefully scratch out a few wins.”

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Uni-High senior Varun Chopra — who has signed on to play golf at the University of Illinois next year — single-handedly kept his team in the game as he scored 13 of his game-high 21 points in the first half. gach bong cu gia re