The Gibault Catholic High School boys basketball team picked up where it left off last year, marching through the field of competitors to take home the regional title for the second straight year.
In three games, the Hawks scored 179 points while allowing just 112 to advance to sectionals.
Gibault (23-8) started the run to the regional title last Tuesday against Marissa and wasted little time, jumping out to a 18-2 lead after the first period. The Hawks forced Marissa into 23 turnovers in the game on their way to a 62-25 win.
Wes Degener led the Hawks with 18 points and Nick Row added 14.
Next up for Gibault was New Athens, and the results were much the same as the night before. The Hawks jumped out to a big lead at the half, 48-22, en route to a 66-42 win and a berth in the regional championship game against Okawville.
The Gibault defense forced 20 turnovers against the Yellowjackets, while the offense did not turn the ball over once the entire game. Jacob Rueter led the team with 12 points. Degener added 10 and Mitch Meyer and Zack Neff chipped in 9 points apiece.
“We were able to jump on them early and keep the momentum going our way the whole game. It was a very balanced attack all night,” Gibault head coach Dennis Rueter said after the game.
Okawville stayed with Gibault in the first half of Friday night’s championship game, trailing by just four points after the first period. Then the Hawks found their groove, outscoring the Rockets 17-8 in the second period to take a 32-19 lead at the half.
Gibault extended the lead to 15 points heading into the final period, and then things got interesting.
Okawville quickly cut the lead to nine points early in the final period and closed the gap to just two before the Hawks pulled away late. Gibault hit some key free throws to take the game, and the regional title, 51-45.
“They got hot and it got more interesting than it should have at the end of the game,” Rueter said. “It’s a big thing to win the regional. It’s exciting for the fans and the community and fun for the kids, but can be very intense at the same time.”
Row scored 17 points; Degener added 16.
Gibault began sectional play Tuesday in Okawville, where they defeated Hardin-Calhoun 64-40 — a team they had never faced before.
The Hawks made it to the sectional championship game last season.
“We have a good chance at sectionals,” Rueter said. “We are a small team and we are going to be facing some teams with bigger kids — much like we have all year. We just need to shoot the ball well, make our shots and just try the best we can and try to win.”