By ANDRES MARTINEZ
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
CARTHAGE, Ill. -- The Illini West boys basketball team experienced a 20-4 run during Tuesday's game against Unity. It's a good thing the Chargers had that to fall back on too, because the Mustangs didn't go down without a fight.
Unity trimmed a deficit that stood at 16 points a few minutes before halftime to just two points during the fourth quarter, but Illini West hung on for a 61-50 win.
"It all comes from our defense," Illini West coach John Hughs said. "We got stops, and we got out on transition. I thought we did a great job of moving the basketball."
The game turned into a battle down low between the two big men, junior Lane Davis of Unity, and Illini West's senior Levi Kirby. Both finished with a game-high 18 points.
Illini West played much of the game without senior Ethan Neally, who exited with an injury and didn't return.
"His mom and dad were taking him back to the hospital," Hughs said. "Hopefully he's better, because he had one of his better games on Saturday."
Illini West (11-7) and Unity (12-10) were tied at 10 late in the first quarter before the Chargers made some defensive changes and went on their 20-4 run to take a 30-14 lead midway through the second quarter.
"We did an exceptional job of sharing the basketball, and moving it from guy to guy, and making everyone be a threat," Hughs said.
The Chargers' run was aided by the Mustangs' sloppy play. Unity committed 11 turnovers in the first half alone.
"A majority of those (turnovers) came during that run," Unity coach Keith Carothers said. "We just got sloppy with the basketball, and they were able to turn it into points."
The Mustangs turned their play around, going on a 7-0 run to close out the half to go into the break trailing 30-21. It was the first time the Mustangs had trailed by single digits since they trailed 18-10 in the second quarter.
"We just played basic defense," Carothers said. "(We were) keeping guys in front and making them take tough shots."
The Mustangs chipped away at the lead in the second half, but every time they got close, the Chargers extended the lead a little.
"We came out ready to play in the first half," Kirby said. "I think we just let up in the third and fourth quarter."
Unity junior Reed Bentzinger made a three to cut Illini West's lead to 47-45. Chargers senior Brody Gronewold made two free throws on the ensuing possession and went 1 of 2 at the free-throw line on the following possession to stretch the lead to 50-45 with 1:40 to play.
On the following possession, Davis made a basket and was fouled on the play, but he missed the free throw to keep the score 50-47. The Mustangs never got any closer.
"We weren't very aggressive tonight," Carothers said. "We turned the ball over so many times we didn't have time to be aggressive."
Unity went 5 of 9 from the free-throw line, just days after going 23 of 24 against Central. The Chargers went 16 of 25 from the line.
"Most of our points we got off free throws last week," Davis said. "Today, we didn't get very many points off of it."