MAHOMET — Good teams start to click when the calendar flips to February. The Bulldogs have done just that. M-S has now won seven out of their last eight games. They sit at 16-10 and 7-2 in the Apollo Conference.
M-S is currently on a five-game winning streak.
Here’s how they did it.
M-S 76, Urbana 52
Ryan Bosch had gone over a little bit of zone defense with his team during practice. The plan was to stick with their patented man-to-man defense, but the zone was something they wanted to have in their back pocket.
Urbana jumped out to a 16-11 lead on Tuesday, and the Bulldogs decided to switch to the zone defense.
The Bulldogs were able to slow down Urbana just enough and Kobe Essien and Grant Coleman took over. Essien scored eight of his 13 points in the third quarter to help the Bulldogs blitz Urbana with a 25-8 run. M-S ended up cruising to a 76-52 win.
“Our kids executed the game plan great,” Bosch said.
Coleman finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds. He was very efficient too, shooting 11-for-18 from the floor. Essien’s 13 points were massive, and Luke Koller popped off the bench yet again and gave the Bulldogs 12 big-time points. Cole Lener was also terrific.
“Cole Lener who gave us unbelievable minutes on the backside of our zone,” Bosch said. “He finished with nine points, eight assists and 10 rebounds.”
Second-leading scorer Braden Finch only had six points, but he contributed two rebounds and two assists. Eli Warren scored four points. Quinton McCullough, Zach Carr and Nic Liagridonis all chipped in two points.
M-S 89, Effingham 81
Effingham’s Parker Wolfe erupted for 30 points in the second half and finished with 41 points, but the Bulldogs were able to eke out a monster 89-81 victory on Saturday for their fourth straight victory.
Wolfe went over 1,000 career points, as he brought Effingham back from an 18-point hole.
“He put on a scoring display as good as we’ve seen all year,” Bosch said. “We didn’t do a very good job of making someone else beat us. I tip my hat to an unbelievable performance and am really happy for the kid. He’s given us trouble in all four games we’ve had against him over the last couple of years.”
But the Bulldogs’ toughness really shined. Despite Wolfe’s brilliance, the Bulldogs had an answer for every run.
Coleman drained five 3-pointers and scored 31 points. Warren chipped in 19 points on just six shots. He nailed both of his 3-pointers and all nine of his free throws. Warren also dished out eight assists and ripped down six boards.
“I loved our kids’ play tonight,” Bosch said. “We were really well-balanced, shared the ball and were locked in. We’ve played really well over a very tough two-week stretch in which we’ve finished 5-1 with our lone loss being on the road at state-ranked Lincoln.”
Finch and Koller both reached double figures. Finch scored 18 points and shot 3-for-5 from downtown. Koller added 10 points.
“For the second straight game, Koller gave us great minutes off the bench,” Bosch said.
Lener was terrific, pouring in seven points to go along with nine assists and six rebounds. The senior point guard has been in the mix for a triple-double often this year.
M-S improved to 15-10 and 7-2 in the Apollo Conference. Their only two losses have been to Lincoln’s incredible squad.
M-S 71, Mt. Zion 58
Coleman scored 21 points and Koller popped off the bench to also score 21 points which helped the Bulldogs pull away from Mt. Zion 71-58.
Coleman shot 8-for-16 from the field and knocked down one 3-pointer. He also managed five rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks. Koller made all 10 of his field goals and added five rebounds in just 16 minutes of playing time.
“We played really well,” Bosch said. “(Koller) was a huge lift off the bench for us and provided an early spark. (Coleman) was guarded very physically and grinded his way to a very efficient night.”
M-S outscored Mt. Zion 40-25 in the second and third quarters. Finch scored seven points to go along with five steals and four assists. Lener scored just two points, but he dished out 13 assists to go along with eight rebounds and six steals.
Both Finch and Lener drew praise from Bosch.
“I’d like to highlight Braden Finch in a poor shooting night for finding a lot of other ways to affect the game with great passing, defense and a few key hustle plays for us,” Bosch said. “Cole Lener has been playing his best basketball of the season without scoring. He again was a monster on the glass and sharing the ball and led our Play Hard Chart.”
Essien was efficient offensively, scoring 10 points on just six shots. Warren (six points), Liagridonis (two points) and Zach Carr (two points) cracked the scorebook.
“We’re playing with real purpose and identity right now,” Bosch said. “Hopefully we can keep some momentum going with the postseason approaching.”
M-S will host Taylorville on Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. The girls’ game will start first as both squads will raise money for Coaches vs. Cancer. M-S will be back in action on Feb. 18 when they host Normal West before traveling to Charleston on Feb. 21 for their final road game of the regular season. Both games will start at 7:30 p.m.