The Shootin’ the Rock tournament title game here on Saturday night came down to protecting the rock and defending the shot.
Metamora did both better when it mattered most in a 48-45 victory over host Ottawa.
The tournament title is Metamora’s third in as many seasons under head coach Danny Grieves. The Redbirds are 12-0 in the tourney in that stretch.
“They’ve got a great atmosphere and a great tournament here,” Grieves said. “We love coming to Ottawa.”
Ottawa (3-1) took its largest lead at 29-24 on guard Brett Johnson’s 3-pointer midway through the third.
Metamora (4-0) used a 21-6 surge over parts of the third and fourth quarters to take a lasting lead.
Brothers Joe and Nate Kennell combined for 15 points during the spree. Joe’s kickout assist to his brother for a 3 gave the Redbirds their largest lead at 45-35 with 3:20 to play.
“We were getting open looks and we got a few to fall,” said Joe, a senior.
Metamora led by three and Ottawa had possession with 10.1 seconds left.
Ottawa senior John Carroll, covered by Nate Kennell, flipped the ball to teammate Chase Hill, whose hurried and off-balance shot from about 20 feet just before the horn hit glass only.
Carroll scored eight in the opening half. Guarded mostly by Nate Kennell, the 6-foot-5 senior, went without a field goal in the second half.
“We lost him a few times in the first half but Nate did a tremendous job,” Grieves said. “We put (Grant) Billimack on him for the final play, figuring they would run a pick, and when they did Nate ended up on him, which is exactly what we wanted.”
Nate Kennell, a sophomore, scored 17, and Joe Kennell had 15 points and five assists.
They combined to shoot 7-for-13 on 3s.
Billimack’s six rebounds eased a 22-20 disadvantage for Metamora.
Metamora’s five turnovers were six fewer than Ottawa. Merritt Stott and Billimack each had four steals.
Carroll scored 11 and Johnson 10 for Ottawa.
“We talked about needing to defend, rebound and shoot free throws to win,” Grieves said.
“We weren’t great in those last two but were pretty good defensively.”
Grieves said Metamora would return to Ottawa next season.
The boy’s team first went up against Yorkville which resulted in a 64-36 victory Nov. 25.
The Redbird defense only allowed Yorkville five points in the first quarter and gained 20 of their own. In the second, the Foxes etched in 13 more points on the board but could not surpass Metamora, which led 35-18 at the half.
Metamora put another 16 points up in the third over Yorkville’s four. Both teams posted 14 points in the fourth quarter to finish up the game.
Page 2 of 2 - Nate Kennell had a team high score of 20 and Joe was right behind at 19.
Metamora played Pontiac for the second game of the tournament for a 58-28 win Nov. 26.
The Redbirds put up 27 points by the half and gave up 11.
Metamora’s defense kept Pontiac in the single digits for scoring all four quarters.
The Kennell brothers totaled for 37 points in the game and Dixon contributed 10 for the win.
Against Streator, MTHS earned another victory before facing Ottawa in the title game.
The Redbird defense performed well again when only giving up 13 points to Streator in the first half. Streator had two points in the second quarter. Metamora posted 13 for the first and second.
The game-high quarter for the Redbirds came in the third with 19 points and then scored another eight in the fourth.
Streator had six points apiece for the last two periods.
The Kennell’s pulled through with 29 points in the game and Billimack posted 11 for the next highest to get the 53-25 win.
Drew Veskauf of TimesNewspapers contributed to the article.