Boys basketball: Serving up revenge
The Illineks continue a 15-game home-winning streak by getting even with crosstown rival St. Thomas More in a memorable rematch on Dec. 9
By Sergei Pourmal
Published Friday, Dec. 16, 2005, Gargoyle, sports
On Nov. 25, St. Thomas More upset the Uni boys varsity basketball team in a hard-fought 69-60 game that left most Illinek fans wondering, What happened? After all, Uni, with its hefty number of returning seniors, was supposed to be vying for first place in the Central Illinois Turkey Tourney not fifth, which is where the Illineks eventually placed.
Two weeks later, the boys got their chance at a rematch, except this time the scene was a bit more to their liking: The game was in Kenney Gym rather than at STM, the stands were packed with Illinek fans, and there were no questionable foul calls in sight. It was payback time.
The Illineks wasted no time in showing their true talent to STM, jumping straight into a 14-point lead in the first quarter. Feeling the pressure, the Sabers threatened to catch up in the second quarter, although Uni managed to stay about 10 points ahead for most of the first half.
The third quarter mirrored the start of the game, as the Illineks managed to shut down any offensive surges that STM mustered, while consistent scorers such as senior Al Renner and his sophomore brother, Mike, and seniors Austin Berger and Ben Sims went to work.
The Sabers comeback attempt in the fourth quarter was too little too late, as the Uni guys had already propelled themselves far enough ahead to clinch the win, 67-58.
“It was just a good feeling to beat them. They're our crosstown rivals, but it was also great to show them that their win against us was a fluke,” said senior Al Renner, who scored a team-high 17 points as the Illineks extended their home-winning streak to 15 games.
Unis next and most recent match was Tuesday on the road against the Fisher Bunnies, who, despite never taking the lead, proved to be a formidable opponent.
The Illineks started the game off in a fashion similar to their STM rematch, playing strong early defense and forming an offense that was quick to strike. It wasn't long before Uni's lead extended to 12, and the team was able to go into halftime comfortably ahead, 35-23.
The Bunnies came back strong in the third quarter, cutting Uni's lead to six as the Illineks started to lose momentum for the first time that night.
“We got sloppy. There were some turnovers, some bad decisions, and the game got a bit closer,” said senior guard Daniel Jacobs.
Uni's redemption came in the form of Mike Renner, who between hitting five of his six three-point shots and racking up six rebounds, was the main reason the guys recovered from their dwindling lead. By the end of the night, the younger Renner had dropped 25 points to solidify Uni's 61-50 win and raise the Illineks' record to 5-2.
“Mike did exactly what he was supposed to do. When we started to slow down, he stepped up,” said senior Austin Berger. “For a while it just seemed like the only person scoring on the court for either team was Mike.”
Meanwhile, Mike's older brother and Uni's lead scorer, Al Renner, continued to push his way toward breaking the school's career-scoring record of 1,113 points, set by 1963 graduate Doug Brown. After netting six points against Fisher, Al needs only nine more to dethrone Brown as the highest-scoring player in Uni history. He will likely break the record tonight at Oakwood.
The Illineks anticipate elevating their play during winter break at the Monticello Holiday Tournament, where they will be matched up against some of the strongest teams they will see during the regular season.
“Our regional seeding is dependent upon our play during this tournament, because we need to prove that we are one of the best teams in the area,” said Al Renner. “We didn't play well last year [in the Holiday Tournament], so we are eager to prove ourselves.”