SULLY — Forget about the NCAA. It was Big Monday in the South Iowa Cedar League.
Facing a rematch with the team that had dealt it its only conference loss of the season, the Lynnville-Sully boys basketball team was in search of some redemption and a conference title.
Despite an effort that was grittier than eating sandpaper, the Hawks (16-3, 16-2) fell victim to a late run by Sigourney, which escaped with a 49-45 and the conference crown.
"It was a tough ballgame and we knew it was going to be that way coming in," Hawks coach Nick Harthoorn said. "We came up on the short end of the stick tonight, but those are the types of games we need this time of year."
The Hawks' main charge was stopping Sigourney senior Vaclav Bujnoch, a foreign exchange student from the Czech Republic that had a host of college scouts watching him in the stands. Although Lynnville-Sully junior TJ Cunningham scored the game's first four points and the Hawks kept Sigourney off the scoreboard until the 4:30 mark of the first, Bujnoch still managed eight first-quarter points and put his team up 11-7 after one.
The Hawks opened the second with a putback by freshman Connor Cullen and a 3-pointer from Cunningham, but both teams slowed down offensively over the next few minutes. Although the Hawks were having issues getting the ball inside, tough defense on Bujnoch and four late points from Cullen put the Hawks down only 19-18 going into halftime after Bujnoch hit a pair of free throws to end the half.
“Our approach was trying to make him beat us from the outside,” Harthoorn said of Bujnoch. “He can shoot the ball well from the arch, but when he’s penetrating and making plays at the rim, he’s truly tough to stop. He hit some big shots tonight, and I don’t think we could’ve done anything different defensively.”
Bujnoch opened the second half with a three, but Cunningham answered on the next possession to keep the crowd glued on the action. L-S senior Cale Van Wyk knocked down two free throws shortly after that, but the next few minutes belonged to Sigourney.
Another three from Bujnoch and some buckets from senior Brandon Stuhr extended the Savages’ lead to as many as six before Cunningham broke up the run with a jumper. However, Bujnoch then made one of his biggest plays of the game when he hit a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer, got fouled and knocked down the ensuing free throw to give Sigourney a 32-25 lead heading into the fourth.
“That’s one of those where we didn’t want to foul him on a tough shot like that, but again, that’s a great player making a great play,” Harthoorn said. “Sometimes there’s not a lot you can do defensively in that situation.”
The Hawks had apparently had enough and began their long comeback effort immediately in the fourth quarter. Threes by Cunningham and junior Darin Hofer and some free throws by senior Nathan Russell and Cullen shrunk the lead to 37-36 with about three minutes to go, but those three minutes would seemingly last a lifetime.
Both teams were in the bonus 30 seconds later, and thanks to some missed attempts at the line, the Hawks were able to take a brief lead at 42-41 with 1:01 remaining on the clock when Russell and Cunningham converted on four in a row.
“We extended our defensive pressure out to full-court and were able to create some tempo,” Harthoorn said. “We got them to play a little quicker than they wanted to down the stretch, and they missed a few shots. That gave us an opportunity, but they hung tough and they made their free throws when they needed them. This was just two good ball teams in a tough game.”
Bujnoch hit a three on the other end, which turned out to be the dagger in the long run. Lynnville-Sully wasn’t able to manage any points offensively, and in turn was forced to foul Sigourney over and over. Although the Savages weren’t perfect at the line, they were eventually able to hit enough free throws to put the game out of reach for the Hawks.
To no one’s surprise, Bujnoch led all scorers with 30 points, two more than he had in the first meeting with the Hawks. Cunningham finished with 17 to lead L-S, while Cullen joined him in double digits with 13. For all intents and purposes, the Savages locked up the South Iowa Cedar League with the victory due to them only having one game remaining.
Sigourney 49, Lynnville-Sully 45
S — 11 8 13 17 — 49
L — 7 11 7 20 — 45
S — Bujnoch 30, Stuhr 10, Denny 4, Davis 3, Grett 2
L — Cunningham 17, Cullen 13, Brady Van Wyk 6, Hofer 3, Russell 3, Cale Van Wyk 2