Southwestern’s Zach Cole (above, 20), Billy Eccles (middle) and Austin Kramer celebrate after a late bucket in the Rebels’ win. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Southwestern’s Zach Cole (above, 20), Billy Eccles (middle) and Austin Kramer celebrate after a late bucket in the Rebels’ win. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
With the game tied 61-61 with just 2:01 left, Wednesday’s much-anticipated boys basketball matchup between Madison and Southwestern had lived up to the hype. The score was the 12th tie of the night and six lead changes had highlighted a back-and-forth affair that had existed for 30 minutes.

In the end though, the host Rebels simply executed their game plan better and dominated the final two minutes, using a 14-0 run to push away from the Cubs 75-61 to capture their third-straight Old Oaken Bucket in the 53rd Annual Turkey Shootout.

“We knew it was going to be a great game,” Southwestern coach Jerry Bomholt said. “Madison has some really skilled players and Sherron (Wilkerson) has done a really, really good job with them. They are going to win a lot of games. We were very fortunate and did a lot of things at the end.”

The win marks just the second-time in the shootout’s history that Southwestern has won three-straight. The Rebels strung together three bucket victories from 1985 through 1987 and have now won 13 Turkey Shootout games.

Southwestern led 61-53 after a Foster Mefford layup at the 3:45 mark of the fourth quarter only to see Madison respond with an 8-0 run that included Luke Miller’s layup to tie the game. But Southwestern responded immediately on back-to-back buckets by Matthew Williams to kickstart the final run and Zach Cole’s lay-in stretched the lead to 67-61.

Cole then aided in the surge with a bucket that meshed with four free throws by Mefford for a 12-point advantage. Mefford’s final bucket, a breakaway layup with time expiring put the exclamation mark on the game, drawing a thunderous ovation from the hometown Rebel crowd at King Gymnasium.

“Coach puts us in a position late to where we are more mature and understand in last couple of minutes what we need to adapt to and how we should finish,” Mefford said. “I felt like we did a good job of that.”

Williams starting the run and Mefford finishing proved to be a formula for success throughout the game and the junior duo allowed their skill and experience to navigate the Rebels to a victory.

With Mefford facilitating in the first quarter, it was Williams who got off to a hot start, scoring 10 points in the first frame to combat the eight points put up by Madison’s Mason Welsh, who did his best to get the Cubs over the hump in the first quarter. Williams, a 6-foot-4 forward, kept the Rebels out in front however after a three-point play by Cole started the game, scoring on three separate occasions to keep Madison at-bay.

Madison threatened to trim that deficit on all three occasions with buckets by Welsh but Williams responded with a basket of his own and Southwestern led 18-14 with only seconds remaining in the first quarter. The Cubs thought they had the margin trimmed to just two points when Welsh’s heave at the end of the period swished through the net only to be waved off by the officials and keep the margin at four.

At the time, the negated bucket didn’t seem to slow the Cubs who started the second quarter on a 6-0 run to take its first lead of the night. Parker Jones came off the bench for a score and Welsh scored his 10th point to knot things 18-18 before Jones again came through with two more points and Madison led for the first time 20-18 midway through the quarter.

Williams went scoreless through the second and third quarters but Mefford took over. Mefford’s bucket and free throw gave Southwestern a 21-20 lead before Luke Ommen’s score and a free throw put Madison back up by two. Mefford answered with two more free throws and a bucket, both tying the game on separate possessions but Madison would knot the game by halftime. Billy Eccles gave Southwestern a brief 29-27 lead but Welsh again came up big and connected with 21 seconds remaining to tie the game 29-29 at halftime.

Madison managed to negate Mefford’s early six-point assault in the third quarter with buckets by Welsh, Ommen and Kaden Oliver and a layup by Nick Center put the Cubs in front 40-37. After an Eccles basket trimmed the deficit to one, Oliver hit again but Mefford drilled his ninth point of the quarter — his only 3-pointer of the game — for a 42-all tie that pumped life back into Southwestern.

By the end of the quarter, Cole and Austin Kramer each scored to push the Rebels out to a 48-47 lead and Southwestern never trailed again going into a fourth quarter that saw Mefford and Williams combine for 21 points.

“Coach and I talked about it at halftime, it’s a tie game and who wants it more,” Mefford said. “We came out and did the little things we had to do to win. We played much better in the second half, we rebounded, we played defense and we got ourselves to the free-throw line. My teammates were great.”

For a Madison team led by a head coach, Sherron Wilkerson, making his debut with the team, those trips to the free-throw line by Southwestern were a hard pill to swallow. The Cubs held advantages in nearly every statistical category except the final score and free throws. Madison was whistled for 20 fouls to Southwestern’s six and the Cubs shot just five free throws and made three to Southwestern’s 17 hits on 24 free throws.

“We outrebounded them, we had more assists, we outplayed them in every aspect, except for the officials,” Wilkerson said. “Let me say it like this, calls that referees make change momentum. You wouldn’t think referees wouldn’t impact the game like that. Certain times tonight, specifically at the end of a quarter when Mason (Welsh) made that shot and they waved it off, that’s a momentum shifter. We tried getting early help on the ball and taking charges and they call a block, that’s a momentum shift. Calls that go against you change momentum and unfortunately we weren’t very lucky with those tonight.”

Despite that frustration, Wilkerson was quick to point out how pleased he was with his team’s effort. Three players scored in double figures with Welsh leading with 21 points. Oliver, a freshman, and Center each had 11. The Cubs shot 52 percent from the field and throughout the game flashed the potential that many see in this Madison team as the season goes along.

“I’m so proud of my team I can’t see straight,” Wilkerson said. “We said in the beginning that we are trying to build the culture. I told the guys it wouldn’t be complete until we had a night like this. As a head coach when you see your players so upset it makes you upset. This is going to be a big test for us to see how we respond.”

On the Southwestern side, Mefford finished with 26 points on 9-of-10 shooting while Williams added 23 points on a 10-of-17 clip. Eccles and Cole each added 11 points for a Rebel team that shot 52 percent from the field including a 67 percent in the second half.

“When you’ve got two kids that are the caliber of Matthew (Williams) and Foster (Mefford) they’re going to make some plays for you because of the players that they are,” Bomholt said. “I thought we got good contributions from all six of our kids who came in tonight and each of them made a difference. I thought we did a much better job in the second half of doing some things that we talked about at halftime.”

Southwestern (1-0) makes its first-ever appearance in the Loughmiller Classic at Loogootee on Saturday, facing Rock Creek Academy in the classic’s second game. The first game features host Loogootee against Clarksville

Madison (0-1) travels to Trinity Lutheran on Saturday.



Boys Old Oaken Bucket Game

at Hanover


MADISON 14 15 18 14 — 61

S’WESTERN 18 11 19 27 — 75

MADISON (0-1) — Welsh 21, Oliver 11, Center 11, Ommen 9, Jones 6, Miller 3, Ferguson 0.

SOUTHWESTERN (1-0) — Mefford 26, Williams 23, Cole 11, Eccles 11, Kramer 4, Cline 0.

3-Point Goals — Madison 2 (Oliver 1, Welsh 1), Southwestern 2 (Mefford 1, Eccles 1). Rebounds — Madison 31 (Welsh 8, Center 6), Southwestern 24 (Williams 6, Mefford 5). Assists — Madison 15 (Oliver 4, Ommen 4), Southwestern 13 (Mefford 4, Cole 4). Turnovers — Madison 12, Southwestern 4. Total Fouls — Madison 20, Southwestern 6. Free Throws — Madison 3-5, Southwestern 17-24. Fouled Out — Madison: Center. Intentional Fouls — Southwestern: Cole. Technical Fouls — Madison: Ommen.