The Chester High School Yellow Jackets continued to roll last week with two more wins, improving to 21-5 on the season and 8-0 in the Black Diamond Conference.
One might forgive the players if they were to get a little giddy, but Coach Brad Norman has the team strictly focused on the prize ahead.
"We are taking one game at a time," Norman said, "and not looking too far ahead."
Chester beat a very good Goreville Blackcats team in Colbert Gym on Jan. 29, and then went on the road for a victory over Vienna on Feb. 1.
CHS 72; Goreville 48
The first quarter gave every indication that the close-fought game Chester expected would come to pass, and when it ended the Jackets led by just one point, 17-16. CHS struck first on a layup by Keith Kiner III just 13 seconds after the tipoff. Six seconds later, Kiner struck again, this time with a huge dunk which brought the Jacket faithful to their feet.
Goreville's Landon Albright put a halt to the Yellow Jacket run, scoring three points on a free throw followed by a two-pointer.
Chester's Drake Bollman then came alive, draining back-to-back treys, giving Chester a 10-4 lead at 5:19. Goreville's Albright fired back with a pair of free throws and Luke Brown connected for a trey and all of a sudden the Cats were back within one point, 10-9.
Coach Norman brought DeOndre Martin off the bench and he drained a 3-pointer. Colin Wingerter followed with a field goal and CHS led, 15-9 at 3:28.
Goreville responded with a 5-0 run -- a field goal by Trent Glidewell and a three-pointer by Kanon Webb. The teams they traded baskets: a two-pointer by Yellow Jacket Colin Wingerter and then a pair of free throws by Goreville's Albright, who was a perfect 6 for 6 from the free throw line in the opening quarter.
Whatever Norman said during the quarter break had an effect -- the Jackets stormed onto the court and dealt Goreville a decisive 23-8 second quarter thrashing. Wingerter scored 11 points on three 3-pointers and a field goal; Ian Reith hit three baskets, and Drake Bollman, Jakob Cushman and Keith Kiner each contributed a field goal apiece.
Goreville had a hard time dealing with a smothering Jacket defense. Logan Hankins drained a trey, Glidewell connected for a field goal, Brown made two free throws and Briley Dunn went 1 for 2 at the line. Chester led, 40-24, at the half.
After the popcorn break both teams came out of the locker room ready to play. Pointwise, the third quarter was a return to the first quarter, as the Jackets outscored the Blackcats by just one point, 17-16.
Kiner hit a pair of field goals and went 3 for 4 at the free throw line. Bollman, Cushman, Wingerter and Reith each added two points apiece and Wingerter was a perfect 2 for 2 from the free throw line.
Chester had a 12-2 run in the opening 3:30, but Goreville responded with an 11-3 run of its own, started by Landon Albright's three-pointer, and field goals by Logan Hankins, Albright and Kanon Webb. Logyn Frassato sank a pair of free throws, and the Blackcats trailed, 55-37, with .48 to play in the third.
To close out the period Chester's Reith connected for a field goal and Goreville's Briley Dunn drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Chester led 57-40 heading into the fourth quarter.
Keith Kiner came on strong to close out the game. He scored back-to-back layups in the opening 1:30 of the fourth quarter to give Chester a 61-40 lead. Goreville's Glidewell and Chester's Jakob Cushman traded baskets. Blackcat Albright sank a free throw and Yellow Jacket Reith scored on a field goal. Chester led, 65-43, with just 4:34 in the game.
Goreville wasn't ready to concede, as Kanon Webb drained a 3-pointer at 4:19. But Kiner pounded in two more short shots and Chester led, 69-46 at 2:22.
Coach Norman then substituted from his bench, putting in Matt Korando, DeOndre Martin, Chett Andrews, Aiden Jany and Jared Landeros to finish the game.
With 2:03 left, game Goreville's Albright scored what would be the Blackcats' final two points. Landeros, a freshman, drained a 3-pointer to end the game, giving the Yellow Jackets a definitive victory, 72-48.
In the win, Chester was led in scoring by Keith Kiner III with 21 points, followed by Colin Wingerter (19), Drake Bollman (10), Ian Reith (10), Jakob Cushman (6), DeOndre Martin (3), and Jared Landeros (3). From the free throw line the Jackets made 5 of 8 shots (63 percent).
"We had to make some adjustments early in the game defensively," Norman said. "Once we did that, it seemed to help get the offense going. Colin shot the ball great in the first half and carried us. In the second half we continued half court pressure and converted 68 percent from the field for the game."
During the game Keith Kiner III scored the 1,000th point of his high school career.
"Keith has been an amazing student-athlete at Chester," Norman added. "He is one of the strongest leaders on the floor and he plays hard for his teammates.
"Not only has he scored more than 1,000 points, he has also recorded over 120 blocks in his career. Keith is well-deserving of this milestone and we are very proud of him!"
The Blackcats were led by Landon Albright with 16 points, followed by Trent Glidewell and Kanon Webb (8), Luke Brown and Logan Hankins (5), Briley Dunn (4), and Logyn Frassato (2). The Cats shot 75 percent from the free throw line (12 of 16).
With the win the Yellow Jackets got their 20th win of the season, Norman's fourth 20-win season at Chester.
"We have had some very good teams come through Chester in the past eight years," he said. "We are very happy to have reached our 20th win, but we are not satisfied yet!"
CHS 60; Vienna 38
Norman warned his team ahead of time that the Eagles' 11-15 record belied how good they could be.
"We can't take them lightly," he said. "They are a good team and we play at their place."
The Yellow Jackets saw Vienna's potential in the first quarter as the Eagles outscored CHS 15-9. The Jackets got on track in the second period, outscoring Vienna, 20-6 to lead by eight points, 29-21, at the half.
In that first half Drake Bollman scored 13 of Chester's 29 points. He had only one field goal in the first period, but came on strong in the second with a pair of 3-pointers, two field goals and a free throw.
Ian Reith added a field goal and made 3 of 5 from the free throw line. DeOndre Martin added four points in the second and Keith Kiner III connected once each quarter for four points in the half.
The Eagles were paced by Lane Ross, a 5-9 sophomore who recorded seven points on a three ball and a pair of 2-pointers. Kyle Van Cleve added five points and Jeremy Pietrowski hit two field goals in the first period. Gabe Snell and Justin Casey rounded out the Eagle's first half with three and two points, respectively.
Both teams struggled a bit after halftime, but CHS managed to outscore Vienna, 9-5 to lead, 38-26 after three quarters of play.
The Jackets flew out of the hive in the final period behind huge play from Kiner and Colin Wingerter. Wingerter hit his third 3-pointer of the game down the stretch as well as three baskets.
Kiner put three shots in the basket in the fourth, and Drake Bollman drained a three ball and sank a two-pointer. Ian Reith also hit a basket, as Chester outscored Vienna 22-12 down the stretch.
For the game, four Yellow Jackets scored in double figures. Senior Drake Bollman paced the Jackets with 18 points followed by seniors Colin Wingerter (15), and Keith Kiner III (12) and junior Ian Reith (11). DeOndre Martin, a junior, added four points.
Vienna was led by Lane Ross and Gabe Snell who each scored 10. Justin Casey added seven points, followed by Kyle Van Cleve (5), Jeremy Pietrowski (4), and Zane Hutchinson (2).
For the week the Jackets were led in scoring by Colin Wingerter (34 points), followed by Keith Kiner III (33), Drake Bollman (28), Ian Reith (21), DeOndre Martin (7) Jakob Cushman (6) and Jared Landeros (3).
• Coming up: The Jackets played Christopher on Tuesday night; will be at Trico on Saturday and at Goreville on Feb. 12. They wrap up the regular season Feb. 15-16 at home, hosting Sesser-Valier on Friday and Sparta on Saturday.