Whenever the St. Joseph-Ogden boys’ basketball team has needed a big basket this season, more often than not, the Spartans have turned to Ty Pence.
But don’t forget about Andrew Beyers and Evan Ingram, too.
The Spartans used a combination of steady scoring and rebounding from Pence, along with timely outside shooting and free throws from both Beyers and Ingram, to deliver a 58-50 win against Unity last Friday night and earn a Class 2A regional championship at the Rocket Center in Tolono.
Pence supplied a game-high 23 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, but Beyers and Ingram also played starring roles. Beyers finished with 14 points, including a pair of three-pointers, and Ingram scored all nine of his points in the fourth quarter as the Spartans (23-9) staved off a late rally by Unity (19-10).
The win is the first regional title since 2018 for SJO, and avenged a 67-44 loss the Spartans sustained at Unity only two weeks prior on Feb. 11.
“We changed our gameplan a little bit,” SJO coach Kiel Duval said. “We adjusted how we guarded. We did some things different, and we had some guys knock down some big shots.”
Along with contributions from its big three in Pence, Beyers and Ingram, Logan Smith came up with seven points and six rebounds. Coy Taylor rounded out the scoring for the Spartans with five points.
SJO led 13-11 at the end of a first quarter that featured seven lead changes. But the Spartans never trailed after the first quarter, slowly building their lead throughout the night. SJO led 25-17 at halftime, but saw its advantage trimmed to a 36-33 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Spartans will now turn their attention to El Paso-Gridley (27-2), who SJO plays at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in a 2A Clifton Central Sectional semifinal game. The two teams have already met this season, with El Paso-Gridley claiming a 60-36 win against the Spartans on Dec. 29 in the semifinals at the small-school State Farm Holiday Classic.
Much more is on the line Wednesday night when they meet again. The winner advances to the Sweet 16 to play Monticello (30-3) in a sectional championship game on Friday night in Clifton.
But before the Spartans and Titans tipped off, SJO made sure to enjoy its latest postseason accomplishment.
“It’s huge for these guys,” Duval said. “This is one of their goals, to not only play in this game, but to finish this thing. That’s a huge accomplishment for them.”