Led by senior Ben Ryan’s 24 points and eight rebounds, Washington went into Metamora and came away with a convincing 61-47 win in a game with major Mid-Illini Conference implications.
The victory kept the Panthers in a tie with Morton (both were at 11-2 after Feb. 21) for first place in the conference, and dropped Metamora (19-7, 9-4) to two games back.
“Washington is a great team,” said Metamora coach Danny Grieves. “They’re well-coached, and they play hard. I have a lot of respect for what Coach (Kevin) Brown does. If you’re going to beat them, you have to play 40 minutes. We didn’t do that. Our effort in the first quarter was adequate, but it wasn’t great. It could have been better.”
Ryan scored seven points in the first quarter and juniors Alec Peters and Troy Adams each hit a 3-pointer (Adams hit a long one at the buzzer) to give the Panthers a 17-5 lead heading into the second quarter.
Peters hit another 3-pointer in the second quarter and Washington made six of eight free throws to lead 30-20 at halftime.
Metamora cut it to a seven-point game when senior Jared Dehm drove to the basket for a layup and was fouled (he made the free throw) with 5:41 left in the third quarter.
On Washington’s next possession, Peters (20 points) converted a three-point play when he was fouled after a made layup.
Metamora never got any closer.
Ryan scored six more points in the final three minutes of the third quarter.
“Ben Ryan is a beast,” said Washington coach Kevin Brown. “He knows one way to play. Hard. That’s how our whole team plays. I love this group. We rarely have to talk about effort. They always get after it.”
Ryan shot 10-for-14 from the field and dominated the paint. Washington shot 58-percent as a team.
Metamora shot 41 percent and was outrebounded 29-17.
Metamora was called for 21 fouls and the Panthers were called for 12. Grieves was unhappy with the officlas right from the start when defensive specialist David Gualandri was called for two blocking fouls in the first quarter.
Gualandri, who is known for his ability to take charges, appeared to be in set position on both calls.
“It’s frustrating when you work on defensive slide drills in practice, and then you don’t get the calls during a game,” said Grieves, who got a technical foul with 1:01 left in the game. “We were getting fouls like we were on the road. The fouls were one-sided early on.”
The game was a possible preview of the Class 3A Ottawa Regional, whish started Feb. 28.
Metamora, the No. 2 seed, opened with IVC in the semifinal. Washington, the No. 1 seed, would play the winner of the La-Salle Peru-Ottawa game in the seinfinals.
If the Panthers and Redbirds both win those games, they will play for the Regional title March 2.
“We have work to do before that,” Grieves said. “Washington is playing great right now, but our best basketball is still ahead of us. we need to get it together in the next week.”