April 7, 2020 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

On a roll: SJO boys’ basketball still unbeaten in league play as Pence, Izard shine

Eight straight wins.

A perfect record in Illini Prairie Conference play.

Right now, the St. Joseph-Ogden High School boys’ basketball team is playing like one of the top teams in the area.

SJO will look to keep the good vibes rolling at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Rantoul in Illini Prairie Conference play. The Spartans are fresh off three wins last week, defeating nonconference foe Auburn 71-47 last Saturday, winning 63-52 at Pontiac last Friday night in Illini Prairie action and topping Monticello 57-52 at home on Feb. 4 in a conference game.

SJO (18-6, 6-0 Illini Prairie) remained unbeaten in Illini Prairie play thanks to a big game from senior guard Chance Izard at Pontiac and a noteworthy game from freshman forward Ty Pence against Monticello.

Izard scored a game-high 26 points in the win at Pontiac, draining six three-pointers. Pence poured in a game-high 25 points and made four three-pointers in the win against Monticello.

SJO led Pontiac 11-8 at the end of the first quarter, 28-26 at halftime and 43-36 to start the fourth quarter before the Spartans helped seal the win by making 7 of 10 free throws in the final eight minutes. Senior guard Jordan Kelly added 10 points, with senior forward Conner Hodge (nine points) and Pence (eight points) also contributing offensively.

In a close game throughout against Monticello, SJO trailed 6-0 after first three minutes before trimming its deficit to 10-9 at the end of the first quarter. SJO found itself ahead 18-17 at halftime and outscored Monticello 12-5 in the third quarter to take a 30-22 lead into the fourth quarter.

SJO expanded its lead to 41-25 with just under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter before Monticello went on a late surge, cutting its deficit to as few as three points, 55-52, with less than 30 seconds left before SJO held on.

Izard (10 points), senior forward Payton Cain (eight points, eight rebounds) and Kelly (seven points) also contributed in the win for SJO.

The Spartans had an easier time during its win against Auburn at the Illini Prairie/Sangamo Challenge in Tolono. SJO led 17-9 at the end of the first quarter and went into halftime up 44-16 before taking a 52-31 lead into the fourth quarter.

Izard scored a game-high 18 points and handed out a game-high five assists, with Pence (15 points), Cain (10 points), senior guard Payton Grimsely (seven points), Hodge (six points) and senior forward Drew Coursey (seven rebounds) also contributing.

After Tuesday’s game at Rantoul, the Spartans will host Chillicothe IVC at 7 p.m. this Friday in the final home game of the regular season. SJO will then hit the road to play West Hancock at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Riverton Shootout.

SJO will find out its postseason draw later this week. Seeds for Class 2A will be unveiled on Thursday, with pairings set to be disclosed on Friday. SJO will host a regional that feeds into the Pontiac Sectional, with Paxton-Buckley-Loda the other school to host a regional in the sub-sectional. Other teams in the sub-sectional are Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin, Clifton Central, Georgetown-Ridge Farm, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Hoopeston Area, Oakwood, Tuscola, Unity, Villa Grove/Heritage, Watseka and Westville.

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