By RICHARD MARKEY
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
MOUNT STERLING, Ill. -- If patience is a virtue, the Unity boys basketball team was blessed in the fourth quarter Thursday night.
It's easy to be patient when you have the lead, no matter how slim it is.
Facing a hard-charging Kewanee Wethersfield team which had whittled the Mustangs' lead to a single digit in the fourth quarter of the Class 1A Mount Sterling Sectional, Unity turned to a patient spread offense that enabled the Mustangs to hold on for a 65-54 victory.
Unity entered the fourth quarter ready to put a 2-of-13 shooting performance in third quarter behind it. They did exactly that with a five-out offense, turning the ball over once while hitting 6 of 8 fourth-quarter field-goal attempts.
"We had the lead, so we basically ran our offense, executed and did what we had to do," Unity center Lane Davis said. "Since we had the lead, we could be patient. If we were down, it might have been a different story, but we had the lead."
Now, the Mustangs have an incredible opportunity to reach the elite eight and earn county bragging rights at the same time.
Unity (20-11) will face Payson Seymour (27-5) -- both are located in Adams County -- in the sectional championship at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The two teams split their regular-season meetings with Payson capturing the first game 46-44 and Unity claiming the second 56-55.
"It's going to be a heck of a rubber match," Unity coach Keith Carothers said. "I know our kids are pumped for it. I know (Payson coach Brian) Rea and I are both excited for it as well."
Unity's Andrew Doyle knows what is at stake.
"This is going to be the game," Doyle said. "We're going to see who can come out on top for the sectional championship."
If Unity can duplicate its patient approach, anything is possible.
Shot selection was part what helped the Mustangs Thursday night. After going 0 for 6 from beyond the arc in the third quarter, Unity didn't attempt a 3-pointer in the final quarter.
"For a little while in the third, we couldn't put it in the hole," Carothers said. "But once we spread it out, I felt like we could burn some clock and get some easy looks cutting to the basket. We told our guys, ‘Layups only,' and really chewed some clock and got some easy ones."
The Flying Geese did all they could, but were unable to overcome the Mustangs' patience.
"We trapped and got physical, but we just couldn't get the ball from them," Wethersfield coach Jeff Parsons said. "If we have the lead, we do the same thing. We've ran minutes off the clock."
The Mustangs' defense also clamped down, holding Wethersfield to 6 of 18 from the floor in the fourth.
Davis helped the Mustangs start off on the right foot, scoring 16 of his game-high 22 before the break. Unity led by as many as 13 and took a 35-28 lead into half.
"Lane is always a huge force for us," said Doyle, who chipped in with 14 points for the Mustangs. "We try finding him as much as possible. They really hunkered down on him a little bit and double teamed him ... We gave him the ball as much as possible, and he did good things with it."
Carothers agreed it's a luxury to have Davis as an offensive threat.
"That kid's a horse," Carothers said. "We know we can get him inside pretty much any time we want. We knew they didn't match up physically very well with us. That was the gameplan early on, try and be big inside, try and get the ball to Lane and let him work."