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Hilltoppers hold off Paxton-Buckley-Loda in 2A Pontiac Sectional semifinal

On Monday night, the Joliet Catholic Academy traveled down I-55 to take on the Paxton-Buckley-Loda in an IHSA Class 2A Pontiac Sectional semifinal.

For 89 years, Pontiac High School has hosted the longest-running boys holiday basketball tournament in the United States.

Playing on the same court as multitudes of NBA and major college basketball stars had before them, the Hilltoppers were just hoping for their 15th win of the season.

PBL entered the game with a 27-4 record and were seeded No. 2 in the sectionals sub-sectional A.

The Hilltoppers garnered the No.7 seed in the sectionals sub-sectional B.

After missing a pair of front ends of one-and-ones, the Hilltoppers clung to a 46-44 lead with 45.8 seconds on the scoreboard clock.

Senior Jake Bumstead (10 points) converted on a the front-end but missed the second free-throw, but grabbed his own rebound and was fouled. Bumstead again converted on one of two free-throws for a 48-44 Hilltopper lead with 0:18.9.

PBL's Trey Van Winkle, who scored a game-high 29 points, buried a three-pointer with 5.3 seconds left to pull the Panthers within 48-47. Bumstead was fouled again.

The Hilltopper senior calmly sank both free-throws and a Panther rebound basket at the buzzer made the final score 50-49 in favor of JCA.

With the win, the Hilltoppers improve to 15-19, while PBL bows out at 27-5.

Ehrsam dropped four long-range bombs on PBL and pacedthe Hilltoppers with 17 points. Senior Chris Young knocked down three treys and finished with 12 points. Bumstead and junior Drew Buss chipped in with 10 points each.

PBL grabbed an 11-6 lead after one quarter. Ehrsam started dropping three-point bombs on the Panthers, who clung to a 23-19 lead at the half.

Ehrsam continued his long-range shooting as the Hilltoppers exploded out to a 36-29 lead with 2:25 left in the third quarter. After three quarters the Hillmen led 36-31.

Up next for coach Joe Gura and the Cinderella Hilltoppers is a sectional championship match-up with undefeated Bismark-Henning-Rossville-Alvin (33-0) at 7 p.m. Friday night.

The Blue Devils defeated Coal City (21-13) 59-49 in Tuesday night's, semifinal. On Feb.18 in Joliet, JCA routed Coal City 55-37.


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