MARSEILLES —— Donovan Oliver Jr.’s presence is undeniable.
Unfortunately for the Putnam County boys basketball team, his absence wasn’t detrimental.
In Monday’s Marseilles Holiday Tournament championship, the Panthers struggled to stay with Kewanee and its star sophomore, who scored 19 of his team-high 25 points in the first half.
However, in the third quarter, Oliver Jr. sat due to foul trouble, but PC was unable to take advantage as the Boilermakers actually extended their lead en route to an 84-69 tournament-winning victory over the Panthers.
“We were trying to (take advantage of his absence),” PC coach Josh Nauman said. “But it seemed like every time we’d get a little run we’d give up some easy baskets.”
In the end, Kewanee was too much for PC (12-2) as Oliver Jr. earned tournament MVP honors for a second straight year and the Boilermakers (9-3) won their first Marseilles Holiday Tournament title.
“When Donovan is out of the game, we’ve got some seniors who I can still play,” Kewanee coach Steve Salisbury said. “When he’s out of the game, we rely a little more on our defense and, when he was in foul trouble, we kept the lead and extended it by a couple of points, and that was huge.”
PC struggled to make stops as it allowed a season-high 84 points. In fact, the Panthers surrendered their season-average point total with 11 minutes still left in the game.
“We gave up 84 points, and that’s too many,” Nauman said. “I think we’re giving up 51 a game on the year coming into tonight, so that was the big difference.”
After a back-and-forth start, Kewanee took control midway through the first quarter as the Boilermakers built a 20-12 lead, but PC rallied to cut the deficit to 22-20 after the first quarter, and a basket by PC junior Nick DiazDeLeon seconds into the second quarter tied the game at 22-22.
However, that’s when Kewanee took over.
After the Panthers tied the game, the Boilermakers went on a 15-3 run to take a 37-25 lead.
“The second quarter we lost our composure for a few minutes,” Nauman said. “It seemed like we were rushing shots and we were scared of their shot blockers. They are so physical, but we knew that coming in and knew they were going to push, but (during that stretch) we started playing scared. We started rushing shots and made plays before the defenders got there. We just got into too big of a hurry and didn’t match them.”
PC hung around the rest of the way but was never able to get the deficit below nine points.
While Oliver Jr. had a strong showing, so did PC senior guard Harold Fay, who scored a game-high 28 points before he fouled out with 3:54 left in the game.
Junior teammate Austin Biagini added 14 points before he fouled out.
Oliver Jr. also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, while teammate Jared Nimrick added 24 points.
Dwight 75, Hall 54
The Red Devils were unable to keep pace with the Trojans in the third-place game.
After Hall cut the deficit to 9-8 early in the second quarter, Dwight went on a 16-4 run to take control and never gave back the momentum.
Ian Trevier and Miguel Villarreal both scored a team-high 16 points for the Red Devils (8-6).
Marquette 94, Reed-Custer 78
The Crusaders outlasted the Comets in a track meet in the fifth-place game.
Marquette scored 24 points in the first quarter, had 43 points at half and 73 points after three quarters.
Joe Garland scored a game-high 20 points for MA (6-5), which had five players finish in double figures, including Eddie Hettel, who added 16 points.
Serena 63, LaMoille-Ohio 54
The Lions scored 42 points over the middle two quarters but managed just 12 points combined in the first and fourth quarters as they suffered the defeat to their Little Ten Conference rival in the 13th-place game.
Brandon Morris and Josh Gross both tallied a team-high 13 points for L-O.
Leland-Earlville 40, Lexington 26
Despite scoring just two points in the first quarter, the Panthers scored double digits in the next three to salvage a win in the tournament.
Collin Bomstad finished with a game-high 17 points for L-E, while Nolan Baumbach chipped in 14 points.
While Oliver Jr. was named the tournament’s MVP, a handful of local players made the all-tournament team.
Making the squad were Hall’s A.J. Gaeta, PC’s Fay and Evan Kreiser, Marquette’s Michael Sypniewski and L-E’s Bomstad.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.