Redbirds earn fourth consecutive tourney title

Drew Veskauf TimesNewspapers
Metamora’s Josh Dixon makes a drive last year against Morton.

Another year in the Dean Riley Shootin’ the Rock Thanksgiving Tournament in Ottawa gave the Metamora boys varsity basketball team its fourth consecutive title.

The Redbirds pushed for four wins over Pontiac, Streator, Yorkville and Marengo.

“They really battled. I was really proud of them because we were challenged in quite a few games,” coach Danny Grieves said.

“They were really fun to watch. I was real pleased with them.”

Metamora 65, Pontiac 50

In the opening game of the Thanksgiving tournament, the Redbirds were able to pull through with a 65-50 win over Pontiac Nov. 24.

Junior Nate Kennell opened the season strong with 30 points. Senior Josh Dixon clocked in 11 and senior Merritt Stott posted 10 to the board.

The Redbirds were able to command a 20-11 lead after the first quarter. 

Pontiac bounced back in the second to outscore Metamora, 18-4 and end the first half with a 29-24 lead.

“Pontiac is a team that has some really good shooters. When they’re on, they can shoot as well as anyone that we played,” Grieves said.

A counter attack by Metamora put 22 points on the board in the third quarter and held Pontiac to 11.

Outscoring the Indians again in the fourth quarter, 19-10, Metamora secured the win.

Kennell was 50 percent from the field to make nine of 18 shots.

Senior Michael Adams led Metamora with seven rebounds.

Metamora 79, Streator 55

For another win in the tourney, Metamora paced itself for a 79-55 win over Streator Nov. 25.

Kennell outdid himself once more to lead the ‘Birds again with 38 points, going 13-for-19 from the field and making all five free throws. He made five of his eight 3 attempts.

“(Streator) tried to do a run at us in the fourth quarter, but Nate (Kennell) sank 13 shots in the fourth,” Grieves said. “He had good shots and made good decisions.”

A 27-14 lead after the first quarter gave Metamora an early start, but were outscored by Streator, 13-11 in the second. Metamora still held onto the lead, 38-27, heading into the second half.

Streator’s 27 points in the last half wasn’t enough to edge out Metamora’s 41.

Dixon was second for scoring to go eight-for-14 from the field with 23 points.

Defensively, Adams led with three steals and two blocks.

Metamora 67, Yorkville 51

To earn a spot in the title match of the tourney, Metamora needed a win over Yorkville. The Redbirds pulled together and secured the victory, 67-51.

It was tied after the first at 19-19 and Metamora was down, 38-36, heading into the second half.

Metamora was outscored again in the third, 18-17, but rallied back in the fourth quarter with a 14-4 romp over Yorkville to secure a win.

Dixon was 69 percent from the field and was six-for-eight on free throws to lead the Redbirds with 27 points Kennell was limited to 15 points, but was team leader with nine rebounds.

Metamora 62, Marengo 51

The Redbirds then had to fight for their fourth straight title in a battle with Marengo Saturday.

Metamora was down, 26-23 after the first half, but came back to rally in the third quarter and led heading into the final frame, 40-35.

“We kind of got into foul trouble early. We 

got behind and they took the lead,” Grieves said. “Everybody hit some shots down the stretch which was really nice.”

A game-high quarter of 22 points by the Redbirds secured the win.

Kennell bounced back with another 30-point game from nine shots from the field and going 9-for-10 at the line.

Dixon posted nine points to the board after the final buzzer.

The Redbirds will open the Mid-Illini Conference season with a home game against Morton Saturday.

“We have a big game here at home Saturday night against Morton,” Grieves said.

“I think they’re one of the best teams in the conference, that’s no doubt. It’ll be a good challenge for us.”