It’s been a historic season for the Union basketball Wildcats as they ended another longtime losing streak Tuesday night.
Union (8-13, 3-1) used a big early lead to hold off visiting Sullivan (11-9, 2-1) for a Four Rivers Conference win, 59-54.
“I don’t know how long it has been since we beat Borgia, Washington and Sullivan in the same year but it feels great for these kids and they are really starting to feel confident,” Union Head Coach Chris Simmons said. “We are starting to figure out who we are and how we have to play to be successful.”
Union’s first win against Sullivan since 2016 came with the Wildcats jumping out to a 23-16 lead after one quarter. It was 29-22 at the half and 43-29 after three quarters.
The Wildcats were outscored in the final quarter, 25-16, but were able to hold on for the win, which was similar to the league victory over New Haven last Friday.
“Yes we were up by as many as 16 in the fourth quarter and we got a little sloppy against their pressure and they hit a couple shots in the last 30 seconds to cut it to 5,” Simmons said. “I know it’s tough.”
Union jumped out to a big lead early in the game thanks to outside shooting. Junior Jacob Towell knocked down six three-point shots in the first half alone (five in the first quarter) and was the game’s leading scorer with 23 points. Towell also had six rebounds and two steals.
For the game, Union hit 10 three-point shots. Sophomore Peyton Burke had the other three and ended with 11 points. He also added an assist and a rebound.
“I thought we did a really good job of finding and taking open shots,” Simmons said. “I thought our team did a great job of not getting caught up in the moment when it came to shooting the ball well. JT and Peyton did a great job of not taking selfish shots even though they were shooting it really well. They are both very good shooters and last night we rode them as long as we could.”
Junior Trevor Kelly orchestrated the Union offense and he had 18 points, six assists and five rebounds.
“Trevor showed great maturity and took what the defense gave him,” Simmons said. “He trusted his teammates and everybody stepped up to make the right play and hit shots.”
Junior Kale Crawford scored four points with eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
Sophomore Caleb Mabe had two points, five rebounds and an assist.
Blake Dickinson, a senior, had one point with five rebounds and a blocked shot.
Union was 13-18 from the free-throw line.
“Our bigs played really smart,” said Simmons. “They have made such a huge difference with the amount of screens they are setting. We have to get them more touches because they are making the right basketball play. We are a much better team when we play inside out.”
Junior Cody McKinney led Sullivan with 12 points and he hit one of the seven Sullivan three-point baskets. He also had 11 rebounds with five assists.
Austin Lewis, a junior, netted 11 points with three rebounds, two steals and an assist.
Junior Cameron Cunningham hit a pair of three-point baskets and scored 10 points with two rebounds, and assist and a steal.
Senior Caleb Todd scored eight points with two three-point baskets, two steals and a rebound.
Junior Jacob Rohrer scored seven points with three rebounds and a blocked shot.
Junior Landon Hoffman netted four points with four rebounds. Junior Austin Frye scored two points with one steal. Josh Wiese, a sophomore, added an assist and a blocked shot.
“I was most proud of how we played defensively,” Simmons said. “Our guys were on point when it came to their personnel. Our three guards made every shot for them a tough, contested shot. They didn’t shoot it really well, but I felt like our defense played a big part in that. Our biggest were excellent in help defense. Our team defense was locked in all night and that is what won the game for us.”
Simmons feels the defense has helped the team improve.
“Lately, our defense has been taken up a notch and that is why we are experiencing more success,” Simmons said. “We are playing tough D and seeking great, open shots. That is the essence of good basketball. I’m really proud of these kids for their perseverance. To continue to battle through a long season and to finally see some of those fruits says a lot about the character and “never-quit” mentality of this team. They love practice and that tells the whole story.”