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  • Writer's pictureDave McKenzie

What A Game! Carterville Lions Upset Centralia Orphans 27-26

If this were a normal year, this game probably wouldn't have been scheduled. I'm so glad it was.

Last night, the Carterville Lions were faced with a tough task, go on the road and face one of the most storied high school basketball teams in the country, the Centralia Orphans.

When you walk into the gym through the main entrance door, you are immediately reminded of where you are and who you about to face. There is a neon sign that shows the number of wins the home team has in their record book. It just so happens to be a huge big.

I know I saw it when we walked in the door, and Coach Shane Hawkins and his Carterville Lions had to have walked past this same sign. They had to have seen it.

Because of the pandemic, the Carterville Lions, like all of the high school teams, had to put together a basketball schedule in just a couple of days once they were released to start play in Illinois.

Of course you are going to schedule mostly conference games against teams you face twice a year every year. But, you also get the chance to schedule a team that you may not normally play and this was the case when Carterville AD Brett Dial and Lions head coach Shane Hawkins scheduled the Lions to hit the road and face Coach Lee Bennett and the Centralia Orphans.

The Lions came into the game with a 5-1 record so far this year. Centralia was a perfect 6-0 and were coming off a thirty point win over Carbondale the night before.

Yesterday, the Lions were named the 103.5 ESPN/1015 CIL-FM Team of the Week after upsetting the Pinckneyville Panthers last Saturday night in conference play.

I always try to stay optimistic when the the Lions are playing, but I have to admit, I was hoping the Lions could just give the Orphans a good game.

They did just that.

Centralia came into the game averaging just under sixty points a game. Carterville came in averaging forty three.. Neither team would come close to those averages in the game.

At the end of the first quarter, the Orphans led the Lions 8-3. At the half, Centralia was ahead by seven, 17-10, with neither team burning up the stat sheet in the first half. As a matter of fact I bet both head coaches would actually want to burn up the stat sheet, in a barrel, in an alley out back.

The Carterville Lions have done well this season coming out of the locker room at the half and tonight was no exception. They cranked up the defensive pressure and did a much better job of hanging on to the ball.

Toward the end of the third, Ben Haake got the ball on the right wing and buried a three pointer as time expired, and now the Lions and Orphans were tied 21-21.

This game had special meaning for Carterville senior guard Bryce Anderson. , You see, his parents both graduated from Centralia and are die hard Orphan alumni. In fact, because the Lions were playing at Centralia, his grandparents were actually in attendance to watch Bryce play while mom and dad stayed home and watched the game on the live stream. This would be the only game that they could actually attend due to attendance rules this year. Pretty special moment all around for the Anderson family.

If would get better!

Carterville would not shoot well in the final quarter. In fact, with 30 seconds remaining in the game, the Lions wouldn't even have a single field goal in the forth quarter. But that would soon change.

In the final half minute, the Lions would be trailing the Orphans 26-25. Caden Hawkins would drive down the lane as the clock continued to wind down, but his right hand runner wouldn't fall. The ball winds up laying on the floor, in the paint as there is a mad scramble by both teams to gain possession. Lions senior guard Bryce Anderson would pick it up and float a high arching shot that falls through the net with 2.3 seconds left in the game. Carterville takes the lead 27-26.

The Orphans had a chance to win it in the final two seconds, but the shot at the buzzer was too strong.

I hope when the team was walking out the door to board the bus to head home, that they took a moment to look at the neon sign in the lobby and take pride in the fact that for tonight at least, that number stayed exactly the same as when they walked in.

No, it wasn't a post season win, or even a tourney win. But for this Carterville Lions team it was a big win. One they had to fight for and give themselves a chance to walk away with the W... against one of the best teams in the state.

Since there will not be a post-season tourney, it's a win that for this team...this group of seniors...and more specifically Bryce Anderson and his family can remember for a long time.

Here are the game highlights and Coach Shane Hawkins post game comments.

What. A. Game.


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