GRC basketball starts the new year undefeated

Published 10:01 am Monday, January 8, 2024

In a week that presented challenges for both squads, George Rogers Clark High School’s Cards and Lady Cards basketball teams sought to remain undefeated in the new year.

Through the first week of 2024, such desires came to fruition.

Both teams defeated Paris in their first 40th District matchups of 2024, then came away with victories through the weekend to each extend their records to 14-1.

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On Tuesday, Jan. 2nd, Paris High School’s teams visited Winchester.

A rebuilding Lady Greyhound team (2-11) was no match for the Lady Cards, who overwhelmed the squad en route to a 77-12 victory.

Their 65-point margin of victory is the biggest of the season.

Jailenn Green scored in double figures for the fourth consecutive game, garnering 11 points while sitting out much of the second half as reserves received playing time.

“I’ve actually been consistent in the gym. I’ve been working harder,” Green said, “I just try to apply as much [defensive] pressure as I can.”

The Cards had hoped for much the same.

However, with solid defense near the basket leading to several blocks and three players scoring double figures, the Greyhounds (4-10) had other plans – even taking a six-point lead into the halftime locker room.

Despite putting a scare into the faithful GRC crowd, the Cards – led by 27 points from Reshaun Hampton – overcame the deficit and pulled away in the second half for a 66-56 victory.

“We started off slow…we had to pick it up in the second half,” said freshman Montez Gay, who finished with 17 points, including 12 in the Cards’ 26-point third quarter. “All I could think about [was] just getting that win [and] doing whatever it takes.”

Hampton, who has started the last two seasons for the Cards after being a valuable sixth man off the bench in their state-championship-winning 2021-2022 season, scored his 1,000th point as a Cardinal.

“It felt good,” Hampton said. “I honestly didn’t think I was [going to] be able to get it until close to the end of the season, but I feel good just knowing I surpassed something I’ve been trying to do my whole high school career.”

Just days later, the Cards took part in a unique matchup as they hosted the Benton (IL) Rangers, a school located in the southern area of the Land of Lincoln.

Though GRC got a seven-point first-quarter lead, the Rangers (15-3) showed why they are one of Illinois’ most respected teams as they rallied to cut the deficit to one point halfway through the third quarter.

For a team whose offensive prowess has become well-known, the Cards’ defense made an impact.

Sophomore guard Malachi Ashford stole a pass on Benton’s ensuing possession and, though being well-defended, made an athletic reverse layup to add to the Cards’ lead.

Gay then blocked a Benton shot attempt, and Hampton connected on a three-point basket to build a six-point lead.

They rode their momentum through the end of the game, defeating the Rangers 69-53, with Hampton delivering 27 points.

“We don’t want to lose on our home court. We don’t want anybody to come in and just take over,” Hampton said. “What we wanted to key on [defensively] was their big man [Docker Tedeschi]. That’s probably one of the best big men we played.”

While the Rangers’ Isaac Billington and Evan Munoz tied with a team-leading 17 points, Tedeschi finished with eight.

On Saturday, Jan. 6th, an all-day annual event called the Tim Short Automotive Classic occurred at GRC Arena.

While other teams – including Madison Central and Pendleton County – participated, the Lady Cards and Cards took to the floor at 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., respectively.

In the first matchup, the Lady Cards took on rival Montgomery County (10-5) in the first game of the “War on I-64”, with many believing the two teams represented the best of the 40th District and 10th Region.

Though the Lady Cards jumped out to a 17-point lead, crisis seemed to be brewing with just under four minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter.

Junior superstar Ciara Byars, recruited by multiple Division 1 schools, went down with an apparent knee injury and would not return to the game.

Although many feared the Lady Cards would lose momentum, the team rallied, ending the half on an 11-3 run that included a steal and score at the buzzer by Anaya Chestnut.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Lady Cards built their lead to 35, eventually leaving the court with a convincing 68-34 victory.

Teigh Yeast led the team with 17 points, and Chestnut – who scored 9 of her 11 points in the first quarter – was named Player of the Game.

“I’m very honored and just feel excited”, Chestnut said. “I always feel so pumped up just to play these rival games.”

Prior to the game, Byars was honored for scoring her 1,500th career point, a feat that took place in a 52-51 victory on Saturday, Dec, 2nd, against Lawrence Central (IN).

At halftime, the 1988-89 Lady Cards’ squad that finished as state runner-up was honored as well.

Immediately following the Lady Cards’ game, the Cards suited up and prepared to play the Bulldogs (6-10) of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.

Although the Bulldogs, much like the Cards’ prior opponents, hoped for an upset, GRC ended such hopes quickly.

Leading by 15 points after one quarter, the team extended their lead en route to an 80-44 victory.

For his efforts, which included tying with Gay for a team-leading 16 points, Ashford was named Player of the Game.

“Our team came out with a good win. Without my teammates, I probably [couldn’t] do it,” he said.

Ashford was one of two players for the Cards on the night – and one of three for GRC total – to accomplish a unique feat.

With the clock running down before halftime, he stepped back and delivered an on-target three-point shot as the buzzer sounded.

To end the third quarter, fellow sophomore Eli Craig did the same.

The Lady Cards and Cards continue their seasons against the Bourbon County Lady Colonels (1-13) and Colonels (7-6) on Tuesday, Jan. 9th, with games at 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in GRC Arena.