WASHINGTON — Mendota coach Jan Thompson told his team if they were going to get beat, it was because they got beat by a better team.
Bartonville Limestone (22-9) proved to be that better team in Wednesday’s semifinal contest of the Peoria Sectional, scoring the first nine points of the game and taking a 31-16 halftime lead on the way to a 68-51 victory. Mendota pulled within eight points in the third and fourth quarter but got no closer.
“I told them I didn’t want to lose to a team we felt we were better than. Tonight, we got beat by a better team,” Thompson said.
“I’m so proud to be a Trojan,” Thompson said. “I saw something tonight. I saw that pride, that drive, that desire to not give up. They fought ‘til the end.”
Back-to-back threes by Jon Gehm got the Trojans (19-13) within 43-35 with one and one-half minute remaining in the third quarter. They made it an eight-point game again in the fourth quarter at 54-46 with 5:42 remaining on a hoop by James Carroll.
The Rockets then used a 19-3 run to put the game away.
Trae Blumhurst scored 19 points to lead the Trojans in scoring in his final game in Mendota purple and gold. He also had five assists and two steals.
Gehm added 16 points, and James Carroll had 14.
Mendota, which was bumped into 3A this season, won its first regional title since 1999, defeating the host Rockets in the semifinals and than neighbor LaSalle-Peru for the championship.
The Trojans also won the Colmone Classic at Hall.
Limestone, especially coach Eddie Mathews, and his son, Hank, played with a heavy heart Wednesday. Matthews’ mother, Hank’s grandmother, passed away Monday morning after a long illness and hadn’t been able to see them play in three years.
“I knew tonight was going to be the first time she was going to see us, and I didn’t want to disappoint,” Hank Matthews told the Peoria Journal Star. He didn’t, lead the Rockets with 22 points.
The Rockets met Peoria for the sectional championship Friday at Bradley University. Wednesday and Thursday games were both moved to Washington High School after Tuesday’s game was postponed by the weather.
Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.