Minooka hangs tough with Edwardsville before falling

MORRIS – Despite having just seven players suited up, the Minooka boys basketball team gave two-time defending Morris Shootout champion Edwardsville all it wanted Wednesday before eventually falling, 50-31.

It was one of those games that was closer than the final score indicated, and Minooka coach Scott Tanaka knew it.

“We played very well,” he said. “We didn’t make a lot of shots in the second half is all. We worked the ball around and got good looks all game. We made shots in the first half and didn’t make them in the second. You have to make your shots when you get good looks, especially against a team like Edwardsville. They were fourth in the state last year, and they have won this tournament two years in a row.

“Our kids competed well against them. It’s been this way all summer. We haven’t had all our guys, but the ones that have been able to show up have been playing hard and that’s all we ask for.”

The Indians, led by strong performances by Joe Butler and Larry Roberts, trailed just 22-18 at halftime. Both Butler and Roberts had five points each in the first half, with Kent Hudson scoring four and Zack Schultz and Blaine Meadows two apiece.

Edwardsville, however, used a quick 10-3 run to start the second half and opened up to a 32-21 lead. Minooka played evenly with the Tigers for the next 10 minutes, closing it to 40-31 on a 3-pointer by Schultz before Edwardsville scored the game’s final 10 points. The Tigers’ 6-foot-7 A.J. Epenesa scored six of the final 10, exploting the fact that Minooka had no player taller than 6-2 on the court.

Butler finished with eight points, while Roberts scored seven. Hudson scored six points, with Schultz adding five and Damon Hoffman three.

“Joe Butler is one talented player,” Tanaka said. “And Larry Roberts has really focused on his game and worked hard. He keeps getting better and is having a great summer.

“We graduated eight seniors from last year’s team, so this summer, any minutes for our guys are good. We are using the summer to try and improve, and we have a lot of kids that have been up to the challenge so far.”