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Spartans remain undefeated, Kimball a major threat for the Rockets

In game three of the season, the St. Joseph-Ogden boys basketball team was poked and prodded like a patient with a unexplained, sudden lump on their side by a 16th century physician. Despite giving Unity ample opportunities to end their Illini Prairie Conference contest with a loss, the Spartans hung on to win the thriller at the Rocket Center, 58-51.

The Rockets got the first basket of the game and enjoyed their only lead of the conference contest for a brief moment. It lasted until SJO's Ty Pence took control of the ball in Unity territory, dribbled it down the floor past two defenders to score on a layup making the score 2-all.

SJO went on a scoring spree tallying seven more points for 11-2 run before the Rockets' Austin Langendorf drilled a pair of free throws that marked the start of a short rally for his team.

Blake Kimball, the game's leading scorer, and Nate Drennen scored on the next two possessions to close the scoring deficit to three, 11-8. Kimball, whose was 9-for-18 overall performance proved to be a sharp thorn in the Spartans' side, finished the night with 22 points.

"He got in the lane almost every possession," said St. Joseph-Ogden head coach Kiel Duval about the junior guard's play. "We have to keep guys out of the paint because it never leads to good things for us. Kimball did a great job using his body and change of pace to put us on our heels. He was tough on Friday."

Late in the third quarter the Spartans doubled their five-point, 25-19 lead at half to eleven. Unity whittled it down to nine before the start of the final period of play.

He will not back down and he wants to hit the big shot.
The Rockets did a solid job of neutralizing SJO's primary offensive weapon Ty Pence.

The sophomore, in two games, has established himself as the defensive focal point for future opponent after scoring 24 points in his team's road season opener at Rantoul and easily collecting 40 against visiting Oakwood earlier in the week. He was big on the boards, too, securing 39 of them across two games.

But Friday, Unity head coach Matt Reed wisely chose to double team him, a move that limited Pence's output - he had just six first half points - to finish with a season-low 20 points.

Reed's strategy however, created an opportunity for SJO's Evan Ingram to step out of the shadows. The team's second leading scorer with 12 points, Duval says the junior guard has what it takes to be a top notch basketball player.

"I have said it from the beginning, I think Evan will be a very good high school basketball player. He has all the tools," Duval explained. Ingram was 2-for-2 from the charity stripe and hit two of his six shots in three-point territory. "Evan doesn't shy away from the big moment. He never has. He doesn't care if he is facing the #1 team in the state, all-state player, or a guy that is six inches taller than him. He will not back down and he wants to hit the big shot."

The coach added: "Those tools are starting to come together one at a time and that is why he is performing this year."

After starting the final quarter down 38-31, the Rockets made a gutsy come-from-behind effort behind Kimball and his two teammates Nate Drennan and Brady Porter. The trio positioned the team within range to tie the game score five times.

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Unfortunately, SJO rebuffed each attempt mainly behind draining 13 of the 19 free throw opportunities in waning minutes of the game. Pence made six of his 11 free throws, including the last four of the game, while teammate Andrew Beyers went 4-for-4 and Ingram, who was successful on both of his opportunities at the line in the fourth quarter.

Drennan finished with 11 points for Unity, and chalked three steals and nine rebounds. Porter rounded out the Rockets' top three scorers with nine points.

Box Score

Unity 8 11 10 22 - 51
St. Joseph-Ogden 17 8 13 20 - 58

Kimball 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Cowan 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Hensch 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Rawdin 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Rutledge 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Knoll 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Porter 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Drennan 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Page 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Langendorf 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Alt 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Jokisch 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0.

St. Joseph-Ogden
Brazelton 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Costa 0 (2) 0-0 -- 6, Hutcherson 2 (0) 0-0 -- 6, Smith 0 (0) 1-2 -- 1, Burch 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Grindley 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Wetzel 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Rydell 3 (0) 2-5 -- 8, Beyers 1 (0) 5-5 -- 7, Atwood 0 (0) 0-0 -- 0, Pence 4 (1) 9-14 -- 20, Ingram 2 (2) 2-2 -- 12.

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