Spartans scrap Rockets - Cain scores 15 for SJO

In the opening quarter of their Illini Prairie Conference game, Chance Izard sank three treys to help St. Joseph-Ogden establish a first half 26-20 lead over Unity at the Rocket Center on Tuesday. He would swish one more in the third period before falling silent for the remainder game as the Spartans persevered, surviving a battle royale with rowdy Rockets, 54-46.

"It was really a hard-fought game," Izard said. The senior, who was 4-for-7 from three point range, finished the night with 14 points. "Toward the end, down the stretch, we took care of things and ended up getting the win."

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SJO's Conner Hodge pulls down a rebound
Conner Hodge tries to snag a defensive rebound for the Spartans. Hodge finished the conference win with eight of SJO's 32 rebounds. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Committing nine turnovers didn't help the Spartans' cause. In most instances the possession changes offered opportunities for Unity's Jared Routh, who posted 18 points, to put the ball through the net.

Izard said one of things that he and his fellow teammates need to focus on is ball possession. In particular, he pointed out turnovers.

"That's pretty obvious," he said. "Ultimately, we just have to be more prepared mentally."

When they needed him most, Payton Cain stepped up to lead the Spartan offense finishing the away game with one point more than Izard behind a 63.3% shooting effort. The senior guard also had six boards and four steals.

One thing for sure, Unity's 4-14 record did not match their resolve or effort against the Spartans.

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Ty Pence blocks a shot
Ty Pence blocks a Unity's Nate Drennan. SJO's big man scored seven points. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

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Payton Grimsley dribbling the ball
Payton Grimsley drives to the paint during first half action. The senior finished the night with six points and five rebounds. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

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SJO dance team
A member of the SJO Dance team performs with her team and the Unity Rockettes during halftime. Both dance teams advanced out of the Effingham sectional to compete at this weekend's IHSA Competitive Dance State Finals. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

"We knew they wanted it and they played like it," Izard said about the coveted W between the two longtime rival programs.

Routh, who like Izard finished the night with four treys, was proud the way his fellow Rockets brought their A-game to the hardwood against the Spartans.

"I think we all stepped up in a major way," said Routh, one of four Unity seniors this season. Despite the loss and having yet to post a win in 2020, he was happy with the strides his teammates have made since the start of the season. "I believe we all took it to the next level."

Spartan senior Conner Hodge lead all players in rebounds, aggressively hauling in seven defensive ones and one offensive board. Drew Coursey snagged another five for SJO.

Next up, St. Joseph-Ogden hosts 18-5 Prairie Central on Friday. The Hawks suffered a snap in an eight-game win streak after losing to Pontiac on the road, 54-50. Tipoff for the conference showdown is scheduled for 7pm.

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Despite being knocked off his feet, Referee Keith Johnson keeps his eyes on the action during second half action between the Spartans and Rockets. Johnson quickly got back on his feet with no interruption to the flow of the game. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

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While trying to slash his way into the paint, Payton Cain loses control of the ball with a little help from Unity's Blake Kimball. Cain led the SJO scoring effort with 15 points. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Box Score
St. Joseph-Ogden 12 14 14 14 - 54
Team 2 10 10 16 10 - 46

St. Joseph-Ogden: Conner Hodge 3, Payton Cain 15, Jordan Kelly 5, Drew Coursey 4, Payton Grimsley 6, Chance Izard 14 and Ty Pence 7.

Unity: Blake Kimball 2, JP Bowers 3, Jared Routh 18, Nate Drennan 10, Jordan Clark 5 and Karson Ewerks 8.

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