MAHOMET — The Bulldogs might only be 9-7 at this point, but Ryan Bosch has signed his team up for a brutal schedule. They’ve played barely any cupcakes this season. And that tough schedule is paying off.
The record might not be that gaudy, but M-S is playing some really good basketball right now. They are undefeated in conference play.
M-S 71, Effingham 67
The Bulldogs trailed by 13 points midway through the third quarter. However, Grant Coleman and Cole Lener weren’t going to let their team lose.
Coleman and Lener willed the Bulldogs to a come-from-behind 71-67 road victory over Effingham on Tuesday. Coleman scored a game-high 30 points. He knocked down a huge 3 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, and then his deflection led to the game-sealing steal down the stretch.
Lener scored just six points, but he also had four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“I’m so proud of our entire team and their resilience,” Bosch said. “We’ve been a very hard to team to put away when we play together and play hard. I was really pleased with our ability to work the ball inside and attack the glass.”
Coleman scored 13 of his 30 points at the charity stripe. His three 3s were also instrumental in the comeback.
Kobe Essien and Eli Warren were both 6-for-8 from the field. Warren poured in 15 points to go along with a team-high five dimes. Essien chipped in 13 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Luke Koller came off the bench to score four points and rip down five rebounds. Second-leading scorer Braden Finch could only manage three points, but he did have three assists and a steal during his 15 minutes of playing time.
Overall, the Bulldogs used a 17-2 run to complete the comeback. And it sets up one of the biggest games in awhile. M-S is now 4-0 in the Apollo Conference, and they’ll play Lincoln at home on Friday. The Railsplitters are also undefeated in the Apollo, so first place is on the line.
Normal West 70, M-S 59
A slow start hurt the Bulldogs in the Taylorville Shootout. Normal West came out guns blazing.
“Our strength had become our starts to games, and we were not ready to play,” Bosch said. “Credit to Normal West that they came out and hit some outside shots stretching our defense.”
Normal West led 39-33 at the half, but the Bulldogs finally woke up in the third quarter. At one point, M-S took the lead, but they couldn’t complete the comeback and Normal West pulled away for a 70-59 victory.
“We were forced to chase them a bit and could not make enough timely shots from behind,” Bosch said.
Normal West scored 30 of their 70 points thanks to their superb long-range shooting. They shot 43 percent from behind the arc and 52 percent for the game.
M-S was able to get to the free throw line 22 times, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the hot outside shooting. Coleman led the way offensively with 18 points and nine rebounds. He added three steals, two assists and one block. Coleman shot 5-for-19 from the field and knocked down 8-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Lener drained two 3s and scored 17 points. He also had nine rebounds, including five offensive boards. Lener dished out three assists.
Warren and Finch both had nine points. Essien couldn’t get much going offensively (three points), but he managed to contribute in other ways. He had four rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block.
Senior Nic Liagridonis had two points. Koller had one point.
M-S will host Lincoln on Jan. 10 at 7:30 p.m. Lincoln is one of the top teams in the Apollo Conference, so that’ll be a huge showdown. They’ll compete in the St. Joseph-Ogden shootout on Jan. 11, and they’ll travel to Mattoon for an Apollo Conference clash on Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m.