The Chester Yellowjackets went 3-1 at the highly-competitive Duster Thomas Tournament in Pinckneyville last week -- recovering quickly from a disputed loss in the opening game to win their next three games and take the consolation bracket championship.
Moreover, Chester's Keith Kiner III was named to the 2018 All-Tournament Team.
The 16-team tournament had eight seeded teams -- Olney-Richland Co. (1), Cissna Park (2), Pinckneyville (3), Benton (4), Jerseyville (5), Steeleville (6), Chester (7) and Union Co. (8) -- and eight non-seeded teams, Roxana, Du Quoin, Greenville, Trigg Co., Elverado, Salem, Wesclin and Trico.
In the opener, the Jackets fell to Salem 43-42 following a "no-call" at the buzzer. YellowJacket Keith Kiner III went up for a last-second shot to win the game, but appeared to take a beating under the basket. There was no foul called.
Coach Brad Norman protested and the Chester fans howled, but Salem got the final possession with .04 seconds remaining. The Wildcats got the ball in, held for .04 seconds and won.
"Salem got a foul call with 7.6 seconds left in the game and managed to take the lead with that made free throw," Norman said after the game. "It appeared as if our player got his arm ripped off, but we did not get a call."
The loss in the opening round threw Chester into the consolation bracket with no chance to compete for the tournament title. But the Jackets then rattled off wins over Elverado, Wesclin and Union County, Kentucky to claim the consolation title and improve their overall record to 12-5.
SALEM 43; CHS 42
The Jackets opened the tournament against non-seeded Salem on Dec. 27. Chester led 12-7 after the first quarter and held a one-point lead at halftime, 24-23.
Salem had a good 15-7 third quarter to take a 38-31 lead going into the final period. Down by seven, the Jackets outscored the Wildcats 11-5 in the fourth.
With just 1:26 to play, Chester had two opportunities to put the game away, but failed. Salem was tough on defense and held the Jackets scoreless down the stretch. CHS had the ball with 15 seconds remaining but threw it away with a sloppy pass, in which Salem's Eric Brubaker stole the ball and drove down the side and drew a foul with just 7.6 seconds remaining in the game.
Brubaker drained his first free throw to give Salem a one-point lead, 43-42. He missed the second shot and Chester got the rebound and drove to the frontcourt. Norman called a timeout with just 4.1 seconds to go.
The Jackets couldn't get the ball inbounded and had to call another timeout. This time Chester got the ball inbounded and Salem fouled immediately to stop the clock with 3 seconds left to play.
When the ball was inbounded for the final time a cross-court pass went to Keith Kiner III, who threw up a 5-foot jumper. On the shot, Kiner appeared to take contact and his shot missed the mark. The score was 43-42 with .04 seconds left on the clock.
Most Chester fans, players and coaches expected a foul to be called that would send Kiner to the free throw line for two free throws that could tie the game or win it for the Jackets. It didn't come.
"Our boys played well and I am proud of them," Norman said afterward. "The loss threw us in the consolation bracket with no chance to win the tournament. We were looking forward to facing some of the top-seeded teams (but) sometimes things just happen."
In the loss, Colin Wingerter led the Jackets with 12 points followed by Keith Kiner III (10), Drake Bollman (7), Ian Reith (6), Deondre Martin (3), Jakob Cushman (2), and Jordan Hughes (2).
CHS 53; ELVERADO 48
The Elverado Falcons led 14-9 after one quarter, but the YellowJackets outscored Elverado 15-10 in the second to tie the game 24-24 at halftime. The rest of the game was nip-and-tuck.
In the third quarter Chester outscored Elverado, 14-9, giving Chester a 38-33 lead heading into the final stretch.
Things got fierce in the fourth quarter. Both teams scored 15 points. Keith Kiner III got hot and knocked down four field goals in that stretch and Colin Wingerter drained a three-pointer. Drake Bollman also hit a key field goal to help seal the deal. The 5-point advantage gave Chester the victory, 53-48.
In the win, Keith Kiner III led the Jackets with 20 points followed by Drake Bollman (15), Ian Reith (10), and Jakob Cushman and Colin Wingerter with four points apiece.
Elverado was led by Aquntez Penn with 21 points, followed by Dawson White (17) and Isaac Floyd (4). Chester shot 48.9 percent for the game; 33.3 percent from three-point range and 62 percent from the free throw line.
The Jackets outrebounded the Falcons, 24-21, of which Kiner had eight boards. CHS recorded six steals to 8 turnovers.
CHS 56; WESCLIN 32
All teams played two games on Dec. 29, the last day of the tournament. Chester faced Wesclin at 10:30 a.m.; the winner would reach the consolation championship game.
The YellowJackets led 14-13 at the end of the first period, but broke it open in the second quarter with a 13-0 scoring drive, giving Chester a 27-13 lead at the popcorn break.
The Jackets came back from halftime with a roar, outscoring Wesclin, 22-9 in the third. Keith Kiner scored 10 points and Ian Reith added nine. Jakob Cushman completed the 22-point thrashing with a trey.
In the fourth quarter Coach Norman put in his bench, and Wesclin outscored the Jackets 10-7 down the stretch. But it was too little, too late.
In the win, Keith Kiner III went crazy on offense with 28 points and Ian Reith chipped in 17, followed by Jakob Cushman (5), Deondre Martin (3), Drake Bollman (2), and Jordan Hughes (1). CHS had 38 points in the paint and 16 points off turnovers. Twelve of Chester's points were second chance points.
Chester shot 44 percent from the field (22 of 50), and 90 percent from the free throw line (10 of 11). The Jackets grabbed 32 rebounds and had eight steals to go with five blocked shots. The score was only tied once and the lead changed just twice.
CHS 56; UNION COUNTY 48
Chester returned to the floor at 3:30 p.m. to face Union County in the consolation championship game. The game was competitive throughout all four quarters.
The YellowJackets had a nice nine-point lead after one quarter, 16-7. The second quarter went to Union County, who outscored the Jackets 11-8. CHS led 24-18 at halftime.
In the opening half the Jackets shot 50 percent from the field (8 of 17). From the three-point arc Chester was 5 of 12 on treys by Jakob Cushman (3) and Colin Wingerter (2). Chester made 3 of 7 free throws. The Jackets outrebounded Union County 12 to 5 and stole the ball five times.
The third quarter was a scoring frenzy, as Union County scoring 19 points and Chester 18 points. CHS maintained their lead, 42-37 after three periods of play. The YellowJackets took care of business down the stretch and outscored Union Co. 14-11 to win the game.
In the win Chester had four players in double figures: Jakob Cushman (13), Keith Kiner III (12), Ian Reith (12) and Colin Wingerter (10). Other contributors were Deondre Martin (5) and Drake Bollman (4).
Union County was led by Kale Gaither with 22 points, followed by Elex Dunford (15), Iverson King (7), and Lincoln Sisk and Cade Duncan with two points apiece.
Besides winning the consolation championship, Keith Kiner III was named to the 2018 Duster Thomas Hoops Classic All-Tournament Team. In the four-game event, Kiner scored 70 points, for an average of 17.5 points per game.