CAMPBELL HILL -- The defending champions are still defending.
A quick start turned into an uncomfortable chess match, but Chester - like it had proven all week - let its bench depth eventually overwhelm Trico for a 58-37 win over the Pioneers on Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets swept the Trico Pioneer Invitational Tournament for the second year in a row and got three selections - including MVP Savion Smith - on the All-Tournament team.
"We tried to turn the tempo up a little bit," said Chester coach Brad Norman. "We tried to get into their bench. They"re struggling a little bit right now with injuries and they don"t go as deep as we do."
Chester held a slim 33-30 lead early in the third quarter, but the Yellow Jackets went on a 7-3 run to push the advantage to three possessions on a steal and layup by Jake Haberberger with 2:06 left in the frame.
Chester took a 43-35 advantage into the fourth quarter.
"We went through a stall there kind of in the middle of the game, but in the fourth quarter, we really turned it up again to a whole "nother level," Norman said. "Sometimes, playing five games in six days, you don"t have that kind of energy, but with our bench being so effective all week, it"s allowed our top five, six, seven guys to be fresh (Saturday)."
After spending a chunk of the fourth quarter playing keep-away with Trico"s zone defense, Chester turned on the jets once again, quickly building the lead to double digits.
A steal and layup from Josh Haberberger gave Chester a 49-37 lead and Demontae Martin added two free throws 31 seconds later for a 14-point lead with 2:24 remaining.
Smith led all scorers with 22 points for Chester and the senior capped off his night with a layup before the buzzer.
"It feels amazing, coming out here, going 5-0, the team did great," Smith said. "Day and night two-a-days, our coaches got us ready for it and we weren"t tired in the second half.
"I"ve just got to give (MVP honors) to my team and my coaches."
Chester"s strategy of constantly attacking the Trico defense paid off early, as Chester scored six points in a 37-second span in the first quarter to build a 16-6 advantage.
The Yellow Jackets took a 18-9 lead into the second quarter.
"Our coaches always tell us to put pressure on everything and push the tempo," Smith said. "Use our speed and everything else, so we just have to push the ball and that"s what we did."
Martin and Jack Weir - who both scored six points against the Pioneers - were named to the All-Tournament team.
Justin Bauersachs and Jarod Meyerhoff represented Trico, with Bauersachs scoring a team-high 15 points for the Pioneers in the loss.
Other All-Tournament team selections were Frederick Grohmann (Red Bud), Owen Gross (Steeleville), Dusty Sutton (Steeleville), Griffin Ziebold (Red Bud) and Naseur Hobbs (Sparta).
Steeleville took home the second place trophy thanks to the tiebreaker of free throw percentage.
Chester was scheduled to open Black Diamond Conference West Division play against Vienna on Wednesday before traveling to Sesser-Valier tonight.
"We try to have the philosophy that practices are so hard, when they step out onto the floor, it"ll be like it"s in slow motion. It"ll be like it"s kinda on a beach.
"That"s the comparison we have and I don"t think it"s that easy by any means, but we try to build the tempo of everything in practice where they"ve got to push themselves to another level."
With the five wins, Norman now has 90 for his Yellow Jacket career, three shy of tying Bill Brewer (1949-56) for the all-time lead. Should Chester keep winning, that would mean Norman could tie Brewer on Dec. 16 at home in a rematch with Trico.
• Chester 78, Shawnee 24
Chester raced out to a 25-5 lead to start the game, and held a 51-9 advantage at halftime, as the Yellow Jackets (2-0) routed Shawnee on Nov. 29.
Jake Golding led four players in double figures with 13 points, while Savion Smith (10), Josh Haberberger (11) and Nick Hefferan (12) all reached double digits.
• Chester 55, Red Bud 44
Trailing by a point, 23-22, at halftime, Chester outscored Red Bud 24-15 in the third quarter en route to a win over Red Bud on Nov. 30.
Demontae Martin led three players in double figures for Chester with 13 points, while Savion Smith added 11 points and Jake Golding contributed 10.
Jack Weir (7), Jake Haberberger (6), Josh Haberberger (5) and Drake Bollman (3) also scored for the Yellow Jackets.
• Chester 72, Sparta 48
Savion Smith scored 17 points and Chester outscored Sparta 18-7 in the second quarter to beat the Bulldogs and improve to 4-0 in the tournament.
Josh Haberberger (14) and Jack Weir (11) also reached double figures for the Yellow Jackets, who had 11 players score at least a point.