Titans bury Chargers from perimeter, win regional title

West Hancock's Paxton Harmon drives past Illini West's Levi Kirby and goes up for a layup during Friday night's regional title game at Warsaw. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: Feb. 23, 2013 12:59 am Updated: Mar. 9, 2013 2:15 am

Herald-Whig Sports Writer

WARSAW, Ill. -- Illini West wasn't ready for Devin Rings.

The 5-foot-11 West Hancock junior forward never missed Friday night, even in tough spots.

Having seen a 16-point lead whittled to eight by the end of the third quarter, the Titans needed a basket.

Rings buried a 3-pointer 22 seconds into the fourth quarter, sparking a 10-0 run that helped the Titans beat the Chargers 61-39 for the Class 2A Warsaw Regional title.

"Coach (Reno Pinkston) trusts me enough to put me in and I took advantage of it," said Rings, who added 13 points off the bench. "(When I took the shot) I just wanted to make sure it went in and I thought we were going to win."

Third-seeded Illini West (16-12) had cut the lead to 36-28 by the end of the third quarter when Rings opened the quarter with a trey. During the third quarter, turnovers and sloppy play bogged down the Titans' attack.

"They didn't count on that," Pinkston said about Rings' shooting. "He came in and played well. He defended well, he got some steals and defended (Illini West's Brody) Gronewold's drives. I was proud of him for giving us that lift when things weren't going well."

It was the first regional title for West Hancock since Hamilton High School joined the co-op for the 2008-09 season. Pinkston last coached Nauvoo-Colusa/Warsaw to a regional title in 2008.

West Hancock (26-5) will play North Mac at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Beardstown Sectional. The Panthers beat Pana 69-64 Friday to advance.

Coy Dorothy, who finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists, scored the next seven points after Rings' trey for top-seeded West Hancock. He buried a 3-pointer, stole the ball at mid-court and scored on a layup, capping the run on a jumper with 5:30 remaining to push the lead to 46-28.

"We started the fourth quarter and knew it was a beginning of a long season we had left," Dorothy said. "We knew we had to play hard and that this game wasn't going to be given to us. If we came up with big stops on defense like we did, we'd be put in the position that we got and we could finish the game."

Having trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half, the Chargers couldn't find extra energy in the fourth quarter.

"We had to expend so much in that third quarter just to get back to that fighting point that we ran out of gas," Illini West coach John Hughs said. "All night when we made a run at them, they had someone step up and make a big shot."

Defensively,the Titans limited Illini West to 13-of-42 shooting and forced 14 turnovers.

As a team, West Hancock didn't miss much. The Titans made their first two 3-pointers to open the game and were 8 of 14 from the perimeter in the first half and finished with 11 treys.

Leading 15-10 after Illini West's Ethan Neally made a free throw with 7:17 left in the second quarter, Rings entered the game and shifted the momentum. His first two shots of the game, both 3-pointers, went in. West Hancock used that momentum to take a 29-14 halftime lead.

"We just warm up," Rings said about the Titans' first-half shooting. "When we stroke it, we stroke it. It brings a lot of (energy), with the home crowd. It just pumps everybody up."

Paxton Harmon scored 17 points and had seven rebounds for West Hancock, while Austin Hardy also added 12 points. Brody Gronewold scored a game-high 18 points for the Chargers.

Winning exorcised some demons for Dorothy.

"It definitely feels special, since last year we had high expectations and came up short," Dorothy said. "Basically, we came in here with a chip on our shoulder and are ready to face whoever comes in front of us."


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