By FRANK CASH
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
CARTHAGE, Ill. -- John Hughs would love to see more performances like the one his Illini West boys basketball team put together during the third quarter Friday night.
The Chargers clung to a two-point lead early in the quarter but forced Sherrard to make 10 turnovers during the next six minutes while pulling away for a 61-47 West Central Conference North Division victory.
"Tonight, we looked really good in spurts and not as good in others," Hughs said. "The third quarter was one of those times when we looked really good."
Leading 33-31 after Sherrard's Jake Kissner made a free throw with 6 minutes, 1 second left in the third quarter, Illini West turned up the pressure.
The Chargers' defensive intensity made it hard for the Tigers to cross halfcourt. Illini West took advantage of Sherrard's miscues to go on a 20-0 run, taking a 53-31 lead after Brody Gronewold caught an outlet pass from Levi Kirby and sank a 3-pointer with 1:09 left in the third quarter.
Gronewold and sophomore guard Bryton Smith led the defensive push. On the offensive end, Gronewold scored nine of his game-high 23 points during the quarter.
"(Sherrard) was shooting a lot of threes and we made some adjustments at halftime," Gronewold said. "We started pressuring them a lot more on their shots and when they handled the ball. We did a good job of turning those into some quick runouts and some transition baskets."
That gave Illini West (6-4, 3-1) plenty of confidence.
"That's what we like to do," said Smith, a sophomore. "And on the other hand, we're handling other teams' pressure better now."
Illini West also did a solid job handling the ball in the third quarter. The Chargers made only two of their 15 turnovers in the third quarter.
In fact, the Chargers didn't turn the ball over until 4:53 remained in the first half. Illini West turned the ball over five times during the second quarter and eight more times in the fourth.
"It's pretty easy to see which quarters were the ones that didn't go so well," Hughs said. "There's a lot of things we'd like to get better in. But that's the nature of the game. Every coach wants to win them all but that's pretty hard considering the schedule we've played so far."
It was enough to keep Sherrard (4-12, 0-4) on the ropes although the Tigers eventually cut the lead to 58-46 after Clayton Bjustrom drained a 3-pointer with less than two minutes left.
"We'd get the ball to the sideline and then Illini West would push us to turn the ball over or we'd throw it out of bounds," Sherrard coach Barry Jackson said. "Illini West has too much quickness for us to be able to get away with that."
Illini West hopes there will be more performances like the one in the third quarter.
"It was a good quarter," Gronewold said. "It'd be nice to do that a few more times. I think we're getting there. Things are coming together."