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Conner wins MVP, Bulldogs finish 2nd at DuQuoin Tip-Off Classic

Kevin Wolff and the Carmi-White County Bulldogs traveled to DuQuoin for the 25th Annual DuQuoin Tip-Off Classic last week, in which the Bulldogs went 3-1, and had three players named to the All-Tournament Team.

The Bulldogs dominated their first two contests of the week, starting with a 63-52 win over the host Indians on Monday night. The final score made the game look a lot closer than what it really was, the Bulldogs led by 23 at one point in the 3rd quarter.

Bryce Conner led the Dogs in scoring with 23 points. Mitchel Edwards scored 14. Tyler Goemaat and Landon Driscoll both scored 10 points, Trey Dixon scored 4 and Gavin Holloman scored 2.

Then on Wednesday, the Dogs came back to DuQuoin and took care of business against a young, inexperienced Cairo squad, winning 76-42. It was all Bulldogs from the opening tip, and Carmi made their presence felt and put themselves in a position for a potential tournament championship.

Driscoll led the Dogs in scoring with 20 points, Conner scored 18, Goemaat scored 11, Edwards scored 7. Gavin Peyton, Tanner Spence and Kade Stockton all scored 4. Holloman, Macen Haywood, Connor Newell and Dixon all scored 2 points a piece.

With Carmi winning their first two games of the week, it set up a battle of the unbeatens Saturday afternoon when they squared off against the Herrin Tigers. Herrin, a 3A squad who won 20 games last season, including an EHT championship, was going to be a lot for the Bulldogs to handle.

In the first half, Carmi stood their ground. The Bulldogs used Herrin’s aggressive defense to draw fouls and get to the free throw line early. However, the fouls began to stack up on Carmi’s side as well. Edwards picked up two early fouls and both Conner and Goemaat ended the first half with two fouls a piece.

The Bulldogs and Tigers were tied at 15 at the end of the first quarter, and Carmi led 36-35 at the half.

In the 3rd quarter, Herrin caught fire. Herrin went 4-for-4 from 3-point range in the 3rd quarter to make a run, and the Tigers led 60-54 at the end of the 3rd. The fouls also caught up to Carmi in the 3rd quarter. Goemaat and Conner would both pick up their 3rd and 4th fouls, with Conner’s coming on a technical with just over a minute to play in the 3rd. With the two Carmi seniors on the bench, Herrin continued to run.

The Bulldogs were able to cut the Herrin lead down to 60-56, but the Tigers would then extend that lead to 68-58 and never look back. Herrin would hang on to win 77-67, staying undefeated and handing the Bulldogs their first loss of the season.

“I thought we fought hard,” said Carmi head coach Kevin Wolff. “I told the kids I hope this is the first of many big games we play in this season.”

“Herrin is a load,” Wolff added.

Wolff wasn’t wrong. Herrin brought back nearly their entire roster from last season, and it showed. The Tigers played a total of 11 players, and all 11 could score at will. The Tigers may very well be the toughest team Carmi sees all season, and they were right there until the final quarter. It will be interesting if these two possibly meet in the Eldorado Holiday Tournament.

Despite the tough loss, the Dogs had to play one more game before they could enjoy their weekend, that being against the one-win West Frankfort Redbirds.

On paper in a normal circumstance, this would probably be a 20+ point win for Carmi. On Friday night, Herrin defeated West Frankfort 82-24. On Wednesday, DuQuoin beat WF by 12. But this wasn’t a normal circumstance. The Bulldogs had just played four hard-fought quarters just 2 hours prior, and West Frankfort was well rested after their JV squad played most of the 2nd half in their early morning game against Cairo.

West Frankfort came to play, and they wouldn’t let Carmi walk in and get the win with ease.

Unlike the game against Herrin, this was a low-scoring defensive battle, with the Redbirds leading 10-9 after the first quarter.

The Dogs finally started to pick things up in the 2nd, outscoring West Frankfort 14-4 in the quarter, leading 25-14 at the half.

At the start of the 3rd, it felt as if Carmi was finally going to run away and put the game out of reach. The Dogs led by as much as 17 (35-18) midway through the 3rd, and led 39-25 going into the 4th. However, West Frankfort simply would not go away.

Carmi did their best to kill clock, and work the ball around until an open shot appeared, but the Redbirds would find ways to take the ball away and turn takeaways into baskets at the other end.

West Frankfort made it a 47-42 game with just over a minute to go. After a technical foul was called on Tyler Goemaat after he attempted to draw a charge, West Frankfort was given two free throws and the ball. To Carmi’s fortune, the Redbirds missed both free throws and missed a shot attempt afterwards, and Carmi held on to win it by a final of 48-42.

“It was a quick turnaround and we played a whale of a game, and we knew we’d be tired, but this was good for us,” said Wolff postgame.

“We found a way to win, and that is what’s most important,” Wolff added.

After the finale between Herrin and DuQuoin on Saturday night, Landon Driscoll, Mitchel Edwards and Bryce Conner were all named to the All-Tournament Team. Conner was named Tournament MVP for the 2nd straight year after averaging nearly 20 points per game.

After a long week of basketball, the 4-1 Bulldogs are back at home for two games this week. They will host NCOE on Tuesday Night and Flora on Friday Night. You can listen to and watch both of those games on 97.3 FM WRUL and on the WRUL Sports YouTube Channel.

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