GCMS boys basketball wins 75-66 in overtime over Chicago Corliss in IHSA Class 2A third-place game

PEORIA -- In the IHSA, there are four classes for its boys basketball postseason, and each qualifying school with a team gets to play in a regional.
Along with the four state champions, there are four other teams that have the opportunity end their season with a victory via a win in the state final tournament's third-place games. After losing in the Class 2A semifinals, the silver lining for Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley is that it had that opportunity.
"As soon as we lost last night, the first thing we saw on our text messages was that only eight teams get to finish with a win," GCMS senior forward Ryland Holt said. "That was the first thing that came to our minds. When we lost, our biggest key was to get back and get a win to finish it off."
The Falcons' loss to Nashville the previous Friday was their first in 32 games. For those who played for the school's football team, the 31-game winning streak that was snapped by Nashville followed a 14-0 run to the state football championship.
The GCMS boys basketball team needed to rally from an eight-point halftime deficit in Saturday's IHSA Class 2A third-place game -- and a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter -- but ended its season on a high note with a 75-66 overtime victory over Chicago Corliss.
"The coaches just kept telling us that -- 16 more minutes, this is it. You guys are done after this, so we all took that to heart," GCMS senior guard/forward Bryce Barnes said. "We knew we didn't want to end on a loss, so we all took that to heart. We knew we didn't want to end on a loss. We really wanted this win, and we just came out a little more hyped up and more controlled on possessions, and we knocked down shots.
"This team has a lot of heart. Everyone tells us and sees that we don't like to lose. We hate losing. In football, we didn't lose. In basketball, we didn't lose. We took that loss last night to heart, and we didn't want to have two losses in a row. We just came out fired up. Then it was only eight minutes left for our high school careers. We knew we had to do something big. Ryland (Holt) and (Connor) Birky got us going. Caleb (Bleich) and Ben (Freehill) found us. We just made plays and got the win. It was a team effort, and I'm really proud to call these guys my teammates."
The second rally
GCMS trailed Corliss 48-38 before Holt drew a foul on Dhashon Dyson as he made a layup with 4:07 left in regulation. He made the ensuing free-throw attempt to compete the three-point play.
After Holt made two more free throws and Mark Lewis Jr. tallied a foul shot for Corliss, Holt recorded one of his game-total five blocked shots before Bryce Barnes tallied a layup with 2:42 remaining in regulation to cut GCMS's deficit to 49-45. 
Dyson made 1-of-2 shots from the charity stripe with 2:25 left before a couple of offensive rebounds -- one by Holt and another by Short -- resulting in Birky scoring on a driving layup to cut the Falcons' deficit to 50-47 with 2:04 left in regulation.
After Dyson turned the ball over, Birky assisted Holt on a layup attempt with 1:49 remaining in regulation. Jadon Williams then made two free throws with 1:43 left in regulation for Corliss before Birky tallied two foul shots via a Dyson foul to make the score 52-51 with 1:39 remaining in regulation.
Lewis made a layup eight seconds later before Barnes tallied two free throws to cut GCMS's deficit to 54-53 with 1:02 left in regulation.
Lewis and Holt exchanged layups to make the score 56-55 before Ben Freehill made a diving defensive play to force a turnover, as an inbound pass went out of bounds off Dyson with 36 seconds left in regulation.
"I just saw that one of their players got trapped in the corner and was wide open, and I thought that was the only place that the guy who inbounded the ball was going to throw it, so I kind of just jumped up and tipped it away and tried to throw it. I wasn't trying to hit him," Freehill said. "I was just trying to keep the ball in. You get lucky sometimes."
"I think we got some confidence with their pressure," GCMS head coach Ryan Tompkins added. "We got some turnovers, and Ben Freehill had a tremendous play to create a turnover. I think the press gave us some energy and some confidence because we were able to turn them over a little bit. We were doing a really good job of stretching out and just trying to shorten the game out and get longer possessions. It also helps when you press becuase you have to score, and we were doing a good job of getting into things."
On GCMS's ensuing possession, Birky made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 31 seconds left in regulation to give the Falcons a 58-56 lead.
"I was pretty nervous, but when it went in, I just felt a big sigh of relief," Birky said.
Dyson -- who led Corliss in scoring with 19 points with four assists and five steals at the game's end -- forced overtime with a game-tying layup with nine seconds remaining in regulation.
"(GCMS) just wanted to win. Even though we wanted to win, they just showed it," Dyson said. "They played hard."
Holt -- who finished with 34 points on 12-of-19 shooting from the field along with a 10-for-10 effort from the charity stripe, along with 10 rebounds and four assists to go along with his five blocked shots -- started the overtime scoring with a layup that gave GCMS a 60-58 lead. With 2:03 left in the overtime period, Holt received a pass from Birky and converted a three-point play to extend the Falcons' lead to 63-58. 
After Dyson made a layup, Holt again made a layup while being fouled with 1:38 remaining in the overtime period before making the ensuing free-throw attempt to extend GCMS's lead to 66-60 with 1:38 left in overtime.
Holt tallied 12 points in overtime despite picking up his fourth foul with 1:39 left in the third quarter.
"Staying aggressive was the big key. I felt like I needed to do that to get my team back into the game. We didn't want to shy away from that just because I had four fouls," Holt said. "The guys got me the ball, and we found each other and we knocked down a lot of shots."
Dyson made a jump shot with 1:31 remaining in the overtime period before Holt made two free throws nine seconds later. Barnes tallied a foul shots with 1:13 left in overtime to extend GCMS's lead to 69-62. After Dyson missed a 3-point shot attempt, Barnes made two more shots from the charity stripe with 46 seconds left in overtime. 
Dyson made two free throws before Barnes made two foul shots. A layup by Corliss's Joshua Muhammad was followed by two free throws by Holt with nine seconds remaining.
"Those guys did a great job," Corliss head coach Harvey Jones said. "They came out and executed their game plan and followed it very well. They're a very good team."
The first rally
The Falcons started the third quarter with a 32-24 halftime deficit before Barnes -- who finished the game with 23 points along with nine rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal -- made two jump shots to cut his team's deficit to 32-28 with 6:45 left in the third quarter.
"Bryce had great touches in the first part of the second half and got two jump shots, and they had to come out and cover, and then we were able to get it inside, and Ryland was able to move to the basket late," Tompkins said. "It just kind of typified what type of kids these guys are and how they hung with it."
Dyson made a layup and Barnes made a free throw to make the score 34-29 before Dyson and Birky exchanged jump shots to make it 36-31 with 3:44 left in the third quarter. 
A layup by Holt was followed by an offensive rebound by Lane Short -- who finished the game with seven rebounds, five assists and one block -- that led to another layup by Holt that cut GCMS's deficit to 36-35 with 1:55 left in the third quarter. However, Holt picked up his fourth foul 16 seconds later.
That may have appeared to be good news for Corliss, but Jones knew better. Also, Williams missed both free throw attempts -- the Trojans would finish the game making only 14-of-21 from the charity stripe while shooting 24-for-61 from the field while GCMS made 24-of-53 field-goal attempts and 21-of-24 foul shots.
"(Holt's) been in that situation before. He's very intelligent. He knows how to play. He didn't let those four fouls affect him. He still played his game. He still was aggressive. We just weren't able to capitalize and get that fifth one," Jones said.
"We know they shot the ball well. We shot the ball well. Their shots fell. Ours didn't. Their free throws fell. Ours didn't. You've got to give it to GCMS. They came out and gave it their all, and they're the better team today."
Dyson made a layup with 1:05 left in the third quarter. After Barnes made a free throw, Lewis tallied a jump shot with three seconds remaining in the quarter to extend Corliss's lead to 40-36.
GCMS outscored Corliss 12-8 in the third quarter before gaining 22-18 and 17-8 advantages in the fourth quarter and overtime period, respectively.
"I just said less and did less and let them take care of it, but I felt we became much more aggressive," Tompkins said. "You're coming off a long weekend, so we knew we might be a little sluggish in spots, but once we got going and got the ball moving a little more against their pressure, we were able to get looks inside."
The Trojans started the fourth quarter on an 8-2 run, starting with a six-point spurt via a layup by Joseph Doyle and two free throws and a jump shot by Lewis. After Barnes made a layup via an assist by Freehill, Jadon Williams made a layup of his own with 4:19 left in regulation to make the score 48-38.
The first half
A steal by Dyson led to a dunk by Leondre Townsen -- via an assist by Dyson -- to give Corliss an early 2-0 lead. In the first half, GCMS committed 11 turnovers while the Trojans had 13 points off turnovers.
"At halftime, we talked about how we played really well when we didn't turn it over," Tompkins said. "We just had too many turnovers in the first half. In the second half, we did a much better job."
After Lewis and Barnes exchanged 3-pointers, a layup by Doyle extended Corliss's lead to 7-3. 
Birky -- who finished the game with 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 4-for-10 from beyond the arc, and 9-of-12 shooting from the charity stripe -- made the first of his three first-quarter 3-pointers to cut GCMS's deficit to 7-6.
"The coach said they were going to be pressing, so when you press, you take chances and you've got to move the ball, and I was fortunate to find the ball in open shots in the corner, and I just had to be confident and knock down shots," Birky said. "My teammates got it going. It was a good feeling."
A layup and a free throw by Jadon Williams and a dunk by Leondre Townsen, via an alley-oop lob by Lewis and a steal by Williams, extended Corliss's lead to 12-6 with 5:03 left in the first quarter.
Leondre Townsen further extended the lead with a 3-pointer before Birky countered with a trey of his own. After Doyle tallied two free throws with 3:15 left in the first quarter, Birky drained another 3-pointer 10 seconds later to cut GCMS's deficit to 17-12.
"Connor was able to knock down some shots early, so they had to cover a little bit more, and we were able to get it inside also," Tompkins said.
A free throw by Lewis was followed by a jump shot, a layup and a free throw by Holt that cut GCMS's deficit to 18-17 before Short assisted Holt on another layup that gave the Falcons a 19-18 lead. Lewis then made a go-ahead jump shot with eight seconds remaining in the first quarter.
A jump shot by Leondre Townsen extended Corliss's lead to 22-19 before Barnes tied the game with a 3-pointer with 6:42 left in the second quarter. A trey by Dyson gave Corliss a 25-22 lead before Holt made a layup with 3:02 left in the second quarter.
From there, both teams would be held scoreless for nearly two minutes before Corliss ended the second quarter on a 7-0 run.
Williams started the spurt with a layup via an assist by Williams before Dyson made a 3-pointer and Williams made two free throws with two seconds remaining in the first half.
The aftermath
Though Holt, Barnes and Birky accounted for all of GCMS's scoring, Freehill contributed eight rebounds and six assists while Nathan Garard had four rebounds.
With the win on Saturday, GCMS finished its season with a record of 33-3.
"It's amazing," Holt said.
Corliss, meanwhile, ended its season with a record of 20-10. Like GCMS, this is the Trojans' first final-four appearance just two seasons after playing only eight games.
"(Coach Harvey Jones) does a great job with his guys," Tompkins said. "I have great respect for him. It was a tremendous game."
Corliss reached the super-sectionals via wins over two of GCMS's Heart of Illinois Conference foes -- El Paso-Gridley and Fieldcrest -- in the Peotone Sectional.
"We love the HOIC," Tompkins said. "As coaches, we support each other pretty well through the season and kind talk about carrying the torch or flag of our conference when we play out of conference. Year-in and year-out, we've had a good showing out of the conference. It's nice to pick one up for our conference."
GCMS 75, Chicago Corliss 66 (OT)
GCMS 19   5   12   22   17   -- 75
CORL 20 12    8    18    8    -- 66
GCMS (33-3)
Caleb Bleich 0-3 0-0 0, Ryland Holt 12-19 10-10 34, Ben Freehill 0-1 0-0 0, Connor Birky 6-13 2-2 23, Bryce Barnes 6-13 9-12 23, Lane Short 0-3 0-0 0, Josh Bleich 0-0 0-0 0, Chris Hood 0-0 0-0 0, Nathan Garard 0-1 0-0 0, Jordan Blake 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-53 21-24 75.
Corliss (20-10)
Leondre Townsen 4-9 0-0 9, Joseph Doyle 2-3 2-2 6, Dhashon Dyson 7-18 3-4 19, Mark Lewis Jr. 6-16 4-6 17, Jadon Williams 4-5 5-7 13, Joshua Muhammad 1-4 0-0 2, Nashawn Townsen 0-4 0-0 0, Mikkel Rochelle 0-0 0-0 0, Tyrone Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Maurice Boston 0-0 0-0 0, Jamario Minnefield 0-2 0-2 0. Totals 24-61 14-21 66.
3-pointers -- GCMS 6-21 (Birky 4-10, Barnes 2-7). Corliss 4-13 (Dyson 2-4, Lewis Jr. 1-3, Townsen 1-3).
Rebounds -- GCMS 40 (Holt 10, Barnes 9, Freehill 8, Short 7, Garard 4). Corliss 31 (Doyle 11, Williams 8, Townsen 3).
Assists -- GCMS 21 (Freehill 6, Short 5, Holt 4, C. Bleich 2, Birky 2, Barnes 2). Corliss 10 (Dyson 4, N. Townsen 3, L. Townsen 2).
Steals -- GCMS 2 (Freehill, Barnes). Corliss 10 (Dyson 5, L. Townsen 2, Williams 2).
Blocks -- GCMS 9 (Holt 5, Barnes 2, Freehill, Short). Corliss 5 (Doyle 2, L. Townsen, Williams).


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