Payson's patient approach leads to first sectional title in program history

Members of the Payson Seymour boys basketball team celebrate their 50-43 victory over Unity in the championship game of the Class 1A Mount Sterling Sectional. It is the first sectional title in the history of the Payson program. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)
Posted: Mar. 2, 2013 12:53 am Updated: Mar. 23, 2013 3:15 am

Herald-Whig Sports Writer

MOUNT STERLING, Ill. -- The chants of "Boring, Boring!" rang out from the Unity student section as the Payson Seymour boys basketball team patiently passed the ball around the perimeter.

The chiding from the Mustang fans didn't speed up the Indians.

Finally, Lance Buhlig hit a 15-foot jumper with 2 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter to end the long possession and give the Indians an eight-point lead.

Never hurried, always under control.

That's the way Payson played throughout its 50-43 win in the championship of Friday's Class 1A Mount Sterling Sectional.

"We can win at any pace," said Buhlig, Payson's junior guard who tallied 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals. "Even if it's slowing down, we know how to do half-court offense. Tonight, we showed we can execute."

Known for their ability to play at an up-tempo pace and pour in 75-plus points at times, the Indians were content to hold out for good looks offensively against Unity if a fastbreak opportunity wasn't available. Payson never led by more than 12 points but also never trailed after Cody Hildebrand's layup put Payson ahead 12-11 with 7:43 remaining in the second quarter.

The Indians also limited Unity (20-12) to 33.3 percent shooting, and the Mustangs committed 21 turnovers.

"I think we're better on defense than anybody gives us credit for," Payson coach Brian Rea said. "We've continued since Christmas to keep teams to a low-scoring game, and we've been able to pull it out."

It all added up to Payson's first sectional title in boys basketball in school history.

"We just pushed as hard as we could, and we made history in our school," Buhlig said.

Payson also gained some more atonement. After Liberty beat Payson 54-52 in the championship of the Winchester Invitational Tournament, Payson beat the Eagles 63-57 in last Friday's regional title game. The win against Unity makes up for Payson's 56-55 loss to the Mustangs in the championship of the Mississippi Valley Invitational Tournament.

"It feels really good, because that (MVIT loss to Unity) really motivated us," said Hildebrand, Payson's junior guard who scored a game-high 24 points. "We actually watched that game film today just to get us pumped up for this game."

Payson will play No. 5-ranked Madison (19-10) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Jacksonville Super-Sectional. Madison beat Waterloo Gibault 51-49 on Friday to win the Okawville Sectional. Rea joked he only wishes that Madison also would have defeated Payson at some point during the regular season to give his team that extra motivation.

"We talked about it this morning. It's fate," Rea said of the chance to atone for the losses to Liberty and Unity. "Conference championship, regional championship, sectional championship, that's what you play for. Those holiday tournaments are great and all, but I'll take this every single day of the week and twice on Sundays."

Unity stayed close with timely 3-pointers. Reed Bentzinger drained a three-quarter-court heave at the end of the first half to send the Mustangs into the locker room with momentum despite trailing 26-19. Unity started the second half on a 6-0 run before a 3-pointer from Buhlig -- Payson's only trey of the game -- kick-started a 6-0 run for the Indians.

The Mustangs made three 3-pointers in a span of 3 1/2 minutes to trim Payson's lead from 38-26 to 42-37 with 4:22 to play.

Alex Blickhan made four 3-pointers and fueled Unity with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and teammate Lane Davis supplied 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Ultimately, though, the Mustangs' turnovers and Payson's offensive discipline were too much to overcome.

"We didn't take very good care of the ball," Unity coach Keith Carothers said. "Against (the zone), we were not aggressive like we should have been, and we didn't find the middle very well. They do a good job of getting out there and just getting a hand on the ball.

"Once we were able to get to the middle of that zone (early in the second half), we were able to make some things happen. But that didn't last long."




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