When the Nokomis Redskins were upset by a young Central A&M Raiders team in the sectional championship last season, everyone knew it wouldn’t be the last time the two teams would duke it out in the years to come.
On Friday night, March 1, the Redskins took their turn playing the underdog role against the third-ranked Raiders but fell just short by a score of 63-57 in the championship of the Altamont Sectional.
Nokomis had not seen a team as big and athletic as A&M all year, as four of their starters were listed at six-foot-four or above. That height didn’t bother Carter Sabol early on though, as he dropped in nine points in the first quarter. Despite the early dominance from Sabol, Connor Heaton was just as dominant for the Raiders with ten points and the Skins found themselves down 15-12 after one.
From that point on, Nokomis really started to hurt the Raiders with the three-point shot. Sabol, Trevor Wright and Alex Tosetti would all make three-pointers early in the quarter, but with under a minute to play, the Skins found themselves down 31-21.
But as they did all game, the Skins answered when they needed to the most. With 40 seconds to play in the half, Tosetti drained another three to cut the lead to seven. The Redskins then forced a quick turnover and looked to hold for the last shot.
After passing the ball around for 30 seconds, the ball ended up in the hands of Tosetti again, who hit his fourth three of the game at the halftime buzzer to cut the A&M lead to 31-27.
Riding the momentum they built up in that first half, the Skins scored the first four points out of halftime and tied the score at 31. But A&M would go on a nice run of their own, opening up a 47-38 lead going into the final quarter of play.
After a strong start to the fourth quarter, A&M gained a 53-41 lead on the Redskins and looked to be walking away with their second straight sectional title. But with 5:44 to go in the game, a Central A&M player threw up on the court, forcing a timeout and a five-minute delay.
The stoppage seemed to stop the Raiders’ momentum, and the Redskins took advantage. Carter Sabol made two free throws, Evan Herpstrieth and Tosetti drained a three apiece, and the Skins were quickly back to within four points.
Following Tosetti’s three, the Skins stole the inbound pass and Herpstrieth got an offensive rebound put-back to cut the Raider lead to two points. Griffin Andricks missed a three on the other end, giving Nokomis a chance to tie or take the lead.
Riding all the momentum, Tosetti swished one from downtown, sending the Redskin crowd into a complete uproar. In a matter of minutes, the Skins scored 13 unanswered points and took the lead at 54-53.
After an A&M timeout, the Redskin momentum didn’t flinch as Isaiah Bruder stood in and took a charge with just over three minutes to play.
But just as they had done all game, the Raiders had an answer. Connor Heaton, A&M’s all-state guard, took over in the closing minutes, scoring eight of his teams’ final ten.
Tosetti would hit his seventh three of the night, but it wasn’t enough as the Redskins’ upset bid fell short at 63-57.
The Redskins shot the ball as well as anyone could ever hope for as they shot a 43 percent clip from the floor and 48 percent from downtown.
Alex Tosetti was a vital part of the three-point shooting success as he made seven of his 15 attempts for a team-high 21 points. Carter Sabol had a great all-around game, dropping in 20 points to go along with eight rebounds and five assists. Trevor Wright and Evan Herpstrieth both added eight points.
Connor Heaton scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Raiders. Central A&M moves on to play Sesser-Valier on Tuesday, March 5, in Carbondale for a trip to state.
And while the Raiders have knocked the Redskins out in back-to-back seasons, don’t count out a rematch next year as 103 of the 120 points in this game were scored by sophomores and juniors.
March 1 at Altamont
Class 1A Sectional Championship
Nokomis 12 15 11 19 - 57
Central A&M 15 16 16 16 - 63
Nokomis (57) - Alex Tosetti 21, Carter Sabol 20, Trevor Wright 8, Evan Herpstreith 8. Totals: 20-47 4-6 57.
Central A&M (63) - Connor Heaton 24, Bryce Burgener 12, Griffin Andricks 11, Austin Sloan 9, Jacob Paradee 7. Totals: 26-46 8-15 63.
Three-pont field goals: Nokomis 13 (Tosetti 7, Wright 2, Sabol 2, Herpstreith 2); Central A&M 3 (Paradee 1, Burgener 1, Sloan 1).
Records: Nokomis (28-7); Central A&M (31-3).