The defending 2A State Champion Sacred Heart Knights began their quest to repeat with a 71-40 victory Tuesday evening over in-county rival Ell-Saline.
Early on, Ell-Saline (4-17) hung tough with the top seed in the Belleville – Republic County sub-state, trailing by just five points at 25-20 midway through the second quarter, but the Knights’ relentless full-court pressure fueled a 16-3 run to close out the first half leading 36-18.
In the third quarter, Sacred Heart (18-3) lit up the nets, pouring in 28 points to stretch their advantage to 64-32. Ell-Saline outscored Sacred Heart 8-7 over the final eight minutes leading to the final 31-point margin.
Sacred Heart received contributions from up and down the lineup in the win, with nine players putting points on the scoreboard. Junior Charlie Skidmore led the charge with 17 points on the night, including three first-half triples, while senior Grant Herrenbruck added 15 points in a stellar supporting effort.
Senior Mason Farrell turned in a fine performance in his final game for Ell-Saline, dropping 14 points to lead the Cardinal offense. Fellow seniors Hunter Kindlesparger and Tel Phelps each topped double-digits as well, finishing with 12 and ten points, respectively.
With the victory, the Knights move one step closer to a return trip to Manhattan. Sacred Heart will square off with fifth-seeded Smith Center on Friday night at 6:00pm in semifinal-round action from Republic County High School in Belleville. The Redmen advanced to the semifinals with a 41-38 upset victory over fourth-seeded Valley Heights Tuesday evening.