The Chester YellowJackets boys went into the Christmas break on a high note, winning two of three games to improve to 9-4 overall and 4-0 in the Black Diamond Conference.
Chester beat former River-to-River rival Anna-Jonesboro 66-57 on Dec. 18; clobbered Zeigler-Royalton 65-28 on Dec. 21 and fell 47-35 to a good Pinckneyville team on Dec. 22.
CHS, 66; A-J, 57
CHS beat the AJ Wildcats in a hard-fought, close game. Chester led 17-12 after one quarter, where all five starters scored: Drake Bollman and Jakob Cushman had six points each, Colin Wingerter adding five and Keith Kiner III had four. Ian Reith made two of two free throws.
Chester kept up the momentum in the second, and led 35-28 at halftime. Reith had 7 points; Wingerter knocked down a pair of treys, Bollman hit a three-pointer, and Kiner III scored 2.
The Wildcats picked up the pace to open the third, and outscored the Jackets, 16-12, closing the gap at the end of the period to 47-44. AJ's Blake Pena knocked down a pair of threes, Tyler Smith hit a couple of field goals, Zach Overstreet drained a three, Noah McFarland hit a field goal and Cameron Tweedy connected on 1-of-2 free throws.
The YellowJackets regained control in the fourth, making 11 of 14 free throws and outscoring the Wildcats 19-13 to secure the victory. Jakob Cushman made seven of eight free throws, Keith Kiner III was 2 for 2 and Colin Wingerter and Ian Reith each made 1. Bollman, Cushman, Kiner III and Reith each made field goals.
For the game, Ian Reith led the Jackets with 16 points followed by Keith Kiner III (14), Colin Wingerter (14), Jakob Cushman (12), Drake Bollman (8) and DeOndre Martin (2). Chester was 13-of-16 from the line (81 percent), and drained seven three-pointers and 16 two-point field goals.
Anna-Jonesboro was led by Pena with 17 points, followed by Smith (16), Tweedy (10), McFarland (8), Carson Reynolds (3) and Overstreet (3).
"It was a nice win for us," said Chester Coach Brad Norman said. "The boys executed well and we were hot shooting the ball. I was very pleased with our free throw shooting. Playing Anna-Jonesboro was fun too since we used to face them all the time in the River-to-River Conference."
CHS, 65; Z-R, 28
The night got off to a bad start as the Zeigler-Royalton bus driver got lost on his way to Chester. His GPS took him down an unfamiliar country road in Randolph County and in an attempt to back out of a narrow passageway, the bus got stuck in the mud. It took about two hours to get the bus unstuck, so the Tornadoes did not arrive at Colbert Gym until about 7:45 p.m. The JV game was canceled and the varsity game started about 30 minutes late.
Things didn't get better for Zeigler-Royalton, and with Chester up by 40 in the fourth quarter the "mercy" rule was invoked -- causing the clock to run continuously til the end.
The Jackets stormed out to a decisive 23-1 lead after the first quarter, playing stingy defense, connecting on most shots from the field and draining seven of 10 free throws.
In the second quarter Chester outscored the Tornadoes 16-10 to lead 39-11 at the half. Keith Kiner III was unstoppable -- scoring 10 points on five very artistic moves down low. Drake Bollman added two field goals and DeOndre Martin made both of his free throw attempts.
Already up by 28 points, Coach Norman began sitting his starters early in the third quarter. Despite that, nine different YellowJackets outscored ZR 21-9 in the third period for a 60-20 lead. Bollman had three points, Cushman (2), Kiner III (2), Wingerter (2), and Reith (2); from the bench Matt Korando had two, DeOndre Martin (3), junior Chett Andrews (3), and sophomore Jordan Hughes (2).
As the "mercy" rule took effect, Norman pulled all of his starters and played his bench till time ran out.
In the fourth period freshmen Aiden Jany, Jordan Meredith, Ethan Stump and Jared Landeros assisted Korando, Andrews, Jordan Hughes and Eli Hughes in sealing the win. Jany and Meredith each scored field goals and Korando made 1-of-2 free throws to add five more points to the YellowJackets' total.
For the game the Jackets were led in scoring by Kiner III with 15 points, followed by Bollman (12), Reith (10), Wingerter (7), Martin (5), Cushman (4), Korando (3) and Jordan Hughes, Eli Hughes and Jordan Meredith with two points apiece.
The Tornadoes had just four players score -- Gannon Dollins (13), Landen Bate (6), Rick Chekevdia (5), and David Eldridge (4).
PCHS, 47; CHS, 35
The next night the YellowJackets hit the road again to play the perennial powerhouse Pinckneyville Panthers.
The first quarter was Chester's wake-up call, which ended with CHS trailing 13-4. Keith Kiner got Chester's only points on a pair of field goals.
The second quarter was a wash as both CHS and PHS held each other to seven points apiece. Ian Reith scored five of those points while Kiner hit a field goal. Dawson Yates, Grant Tanner and Dre Scott each made field goals for Pinckneyville. At halftime, Pinckneyville's lead was down to nine points, 20-11.
After the break, the Jackets played with determination, holding the Panthers to a draw, with 13 points apiece. Reith again stood tall, scoring nine points on four field goals and a free throw. Bollman hit a pair of free throws and Kiner scored on a field goal. Hunter Riggins saved the day for the Panthers as he drained three 3-pointers for nine of Pinckneyville's 13 points. Tanner and Scott had a field goal apiece.
Still down by nine heading into the fourth quarter, the teams traded baskets. Pinckneyville ultimately outscored Chester 14-13, to win the game by 12 points.
In the loss, Ian Reith led the Jackets' offense with 20 points, followed by Keith Kiner (8) and Drake Bollman (7). The Jackets shot 60 percent from the free throw line (6-of-10). They also made just 13 two-pointers and one three-pointer for the game.
The Panthers had three players in double figures including H. Riggins (13), Yates (12) and Tanner (12). Other contributors included Scott (7) and Kelton Linze (6).