OKAWVILLE • To call what the Lovejoy boys basketball team faced in the fourth quarter on Wednesday night adversity would be an understatement.
The Wildcats had already lost two players to fouls, including leading scorer Antwan Glasper, and they faced a two-point deficit against Valmeyer, which had seized the momentum in the Class 1A Okawville regional semifinal by scoring the last 10 points of the third quarter.
But buoyed by a timely 3-point play by Jeremiah Perry, some clutch free throws from DeAngelo Eiland, and an aggressive defense, Lovejoy pulled out a 59-55 win.
“I just kept my team humble,” Eiland said. “I told them don’t worry about the (fouls), we’ve still got this.”
Lovejoy (17-13) will play top-seeded Okawville (21-8) in the championship game at 7 p.m. on Friday.
“Our kids continued to just work hard and continued to play team ball and play with each other,” Lovejoy coach Kim Haywood said. “They never got down. With the way the whistles went down there’s nothing they can do about that, but they didn’t get down.”
Perry’s hustle gave Lovejoy the lead for good with 2 minutes, 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter. He crashed the offensive boards on a miss, grabbed the rebound, and got the stick-back and foul to give Lovejoy a 52-51 lead.
“Just a strong move,” Perry said. “I was lucky to make the shot. I’ve been missing all my layups.”
Eiland’s free throws with 4 seconds left clinched the win.
“That’s my strong suit,” Eiland said. “I’m confident right there.”
Valmeyer (15-15) took control midway through the first quarter with a 9-0 run. Owen Miller added a traditional 3-point play and Michael Chism followed with a finger roll to give the Pirates a 9-2 lead.
Treys from Eiland and Khari Jackson to start the second quarter woke up the Lovejoy offense and four points in a nine-second span by Glasper gave the Wildcats a 19-17 lead. Glasper started the salvo with a jumper, got a steal and sank a pair of free throws.
Lovejoy scored the final eight points of the second quarter to take a 27-21 lead into the break. Jackson and D’Andre Loston each had four points during the spurt.
The Wildcats were more aggressive defensively and on the offensive glass in the second quarter, forcing five Valmeyer turnovers which led to several easy points.
Valmeyer finished the third quarter on a 10-0 run. Aided by a double-technical call against Lovejoy with 33 seconds left, the Pirates went 6-for-8 from the free-throw line and a Chism layup gave Valmeyer a 40-38 cushion.
Glasper’s night ended on the double technical. Haywood got the second one.
Lovejoy avenged an 81-77 overtime loss to Valmeyer eight days earlier.
“We came out hard,” Eiland said. “We had a chip on our shoulder from the beginning of the game.”
Loston led Lovejoy with 13 points and Eiland finished with 12.
Chism scored 29 points for Valmeyer and Philip Reinhardt scored 10.