By ANDRES MARTINEZHerald-Whig Sports Writer
WINCHESTER, Ill. -- Juniors Michael Blewett and Cody Hildebrand each took control of their respective teams in Saturday's championship of the 91st annual Winchester Invitational
Blewett scored two more points than his counterpart. As it turned out, that was the difference in the game.
Blewett's 22 points powered the Liberty boys basketball team to a 54-52 win over Payson Seymour.
"The coaches told me to be aggressive tonight," Blewett said. "I really listened to them, and I tried to attack the basket the best I could."
Liberty claimed the WIT title for the fifth time and first time since 2001. Payson battled back after trailing 30-18 at halftime.
The final quarter belonged to Payson senior Jake Voss, but his surge wasn't quite enough. He scored on four fast-break layups and then connected on a 3-pointer to cut Liberty's lead to 40-39. Liberty senior Tyler Ormond made a jumper with under two minutes to play to give the Eagles a 49-46 lead. Voss came right back and drove to the basket and to make it a one-point game.
Liberty junior Connor Wolf was fouled on the ensuing possession and one free throw to make it 50-48 for the Eagles. On Payson's ensuing possession, Wolf made a steal, attacked the basket and scored to make it a four-point game with 40 seconds to play.
"Coach always tells us to anticipate the pass," Wolf said. "I was just in the place to make the deflection and made them pay."
After an inbound, Hildebrand made a contested 3-pointer basket to trim Liberty's lead to 52-51 with 20.2 seconds to play. On the ensuing inbound, a Hildebrand foul gave the Eagles another inbound opportunity. Hildebrand fouled Liberty again on the following inbound, fouling out with 16.3 to play.
"I had no idea I had four (fouls)," Hildebrand said. "I just had to because the guy was on a breakaway."
Payson forced a jump ball on the inbound pass, with the possession arrow in its favor. Voss took the ball and was fouled going to the basket with 10.2 to play. Voss made 1 of 2, tying the game at 52. Ormond was fouled on the inbound pass, and made both free throws to make it a 54-52. On Payson's next possession, Voss drove to the basket, and had his shot blocked by Ormond.
"I was supposed to drive if it was there. If not I was supposed to kick it out," Voss said. "I (just) made a stupid play."
Winchester West Central's tough defense led to a 36-24 loss for Central in the fifth-place game. Taylor Heimann led Central (8-12) with nine points. Levi King and Dryden Craven scored 16 points apiece to lead Griggsville-Perry to a 48-32 victory over Jacksonville Routt in the consolation championship. Matthew Kennedy added nine points for the Tornadoes (8-10).