PEORIA, ILL. (AP) — Drew Gibson just couldn't get going against Okawville's nagging defense during Saturday's IHSA Class 1a state title game. Averaging 21 points a game entering the title match, Gibson had just 10 points during regulation of the Bulldogs' 49-46 overtime win.
But he shined when his team needed him the most.
Gibson hit an 8-foot jumper with 25 seconds left in overtime and then hit two free throws with 3.6 seconds left to lead St. Anthony to its first boys basketball state title.
"They did a great job of stopping up the middle and not letting me get inside," Gibson said. "My teammates hit some big shots and really helped us."
The Bulldogs initially pulled away over the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second. St. Anthony went on an 11-0, 6-minute run during that span, taking an 8-8 tie game to 19-8 Bulldogs. But Okawville only allowed two more points in the half and closed to 23-16 at the break.
The Bulldogs created 10 points off eight Rockets turnovers in the first half but it was the Rockets that took advantage of mistakes in the second half. Okawville had just four points off turnovers in the first half but created 11 in the second and held St. Anthony to none after the break.
"We did a better job dictating the game in the second half but it just wasn't quite enough," Okawville coach Jon Kraus said. "We just couldn't get a stop when we needed it. It's a shame someone had to lose that game."
Alex Beesley also scored 14, most in the first half, and Adam Levitt added 12 for the Bulldogs (31-5).
Noah Frederking scored 26 and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Okawville. Shane Ganz added nine points and handed out five assists for the Rockets (32-5) but was just 1-for-4 from the free throw line, including a missed front end of a one-and-one with 5 seconds to go in overtime that would have tied the game.
The IHSA boys basketball season begins Thanksgiving week as the state of Illinois will once again be loaded with talented players. NBC Sports Chicago presents the Chicagoland area's top 50 players to watch this season as the group features numerous Division I talents and exciting players.
For more information on each player, click on the hyperlink on their name, as we've tweeted about all 50 players during the week on our @NBCSPreps Twitter account. Be sure to check out many of these players this season on High School Lites as we switch from football to basketball beginning with the Nov. 30th episode.
Rashaun Agee, Bogan
Myles Baker, Whitney Young
Connor Barrett, Loyola
Ciaran Brayboy, New Trier (Harvard)
Bryant Brown, Waukegan
Trey Calvin, St. Viator (Wright State)
Kejuan Clements, Simeon
Fred Cleveland Jr., Leo (North Carolina A&T)
Tyler Cochran, Bolingbrook (Northern Illinois)
Keenon Cole, Streamwood (Northern Illinois)
Perry Cowan, DePaul Prep (Brown)
RayJ Dennis, Oswego East (Boise State)
Dashon Enoch, Oak Park-River Forest
Nate Ferguson, Lemont (Drake)
DaJuan Gordon, Curie (Kansas State)
Essam Hamwi, Maine South
Semaj Henderson, Downers North
Jeremiah Hernandez, St. Viator (Kent State)
Jaheim Holden, Evanston
Markese Jacobs, Uplift (DePaul)
Lance Jones, Evanston (Southern Illinois)
Marquise Kennedy, Brother Rice (Loyola)
Mitch Mascari, Geneva
Taeyon Neal, Providence-St. Mel (UIC)
Jeremiah Oden, St. Rita
Antonio Reeves, Simeon
Deng Reng, Wheaton North
Isaac Stanback, Homewood-Flossmoor
Artese Stapleton, Kenwood
Aaron Strong, Farragut
Evan Taylor, Glenbard West (Southern Illinois)
Kendrick Tchoua, Benet
Alex Timmerman, Crystal Lake Central (Bucknell)
Zach Toussaint, Johnsburg
Marquise Walker, West Aurora
Jeremiah Washington, Bogan
Tom Welch, Naperville North (Loyola)
Chris White, Marian Catholic
T.J. Wicks, Kankakee
Tujautae Williams, Orr
Joseph Yesufu, Bolingbrook (Drake)
Tyler Beard, Whitney Young
Seryee Lewis, Kenwood
Adam Miller, Morgan Park
D.J. Steward, Whitney Young
Ahron Ulis, Marian Catholic
Keshawn Williams, Bloom
Will Wolfe, Aurora Christian
Ahamed Bynum, Simeon
Max Christie, Rolling Meadows
2017-18 record: 29-4, 9-0 in Public League Red-South/Central
Postseason results: Lost to Whitney Young in Class 4A super-sectional.
Players to watch: Senior guard Kejuan Clements has been a consistent presence for the Wolverines the past few seasons. Transfer guard Antonio Reeves is a senior Division I prospect who started his career at Kenwood before moving to Arizona for his junior season. And Simeon's young trio of sophomore guard Ahamad Bynum and freshmen A.J. Casey and Jaylen Drane will all be players to track during the season.
Why they're in the power rankings: Simeon might have some growing pains to start the season with such a young team. But the Wolverines possess the talent to compete with anyone in the state. The key will be integrating Reeves seemlessly into the lineup while also developing the young trio that has so much promise and potential.
Did you know? The freshman duo of A.J. Casey and Jayeln Drane competed in the USA Basketball junior national minicamp during October as they were among the best high school players in the country.