Friday, March 1, 2019

Metamora falls to Manual in Regional Final

Metamora's Joe Nelan and Manual's Emaryon Byrd go for the opening tip of Friday night's Regional Championship game at East Peoria. The Rams would go on to win the game, 45-36. PHOTO / ALEX STAAB
East Peoria, Ill. - It didn't take long for the contingent of Metamora fans to being filing into East Peoria High School on Friday night, as a big game was on the horizon for the Redbirds (22-9). A familiar foe in the Peoria Manual Rams (15-12) was all that stood in the way of Metamora and another regional championship. 

Redbird head coach Danny Grieves said that the support from the fan base is some of the best.

"Our fans, in the eight years that I've been at Metamora, have been tremendous. I haven't seen anybody that's got better fans than we do."

Points came at a premium in this one, to say the least. Metamora was doing well on the boards in the early-going, with senior Joe Nelan bringing in five rebounds in just the opening eight minutes. Nelan also was the game's leading scorer after a quarter with six points. The only issue would be that there wasn't much scoring outside of Nelan, on either side, for that matter. 

Eight minutes into the game, and the score favored Metamora by the slightest of margins, 9-7. 

Jitters? Probably not. The teams still couldn't find a rhythm headed into the second quarter, with the Rams and Redbirds combining for three made field goals. 

The Redbirds did continue their rebounding efforts at a decent clip, but you have to score to win, and it seemed that low-scoring affair would continue. In fact, by the time halftime rolled around, the number of shots made versus free throws was 8-10. 

The winner of this game would get the winner of Rock Falls against Sterling. It's worth mentioning at this point because that game was 32-32 at halftime. Metamora went into the halftime locker room beating Manual, 16-12. 

Coming out of the break, something had to give, but the scoring pace continued for the most part. Manual did have a decent third quarter, getting a key three from Quintez Edwards that helped the Rams narrowly out-score Metamora in the third, 11-8. Collin Dietz did come up with some big rebounds, as the Redbirds would turn out to have 26 rebounds in 24 minutes. 

Three quarters, all with the lead. Metamora was just eight minutes away from potentially making a return trip to Renaissance Coliseum for the sectional, leading 24-23 after three. 

Neither team at 30 and there was only a quarter to go. So was it a tough, drag-it-out battle, or was it good defense. Grieves says it's the latter.

"It was a pretty well-defended game. They didn't have many open shots, and we didn't either."

In a win or go home scenario like the postseason, the adage of finishing strong is more important than ever. Unfortunately for the Redbirds, that didn't happen. 

Shots weren't falling. They weren't getting the rebounds that they had been getting to that point. In essence, they just didn't seem themselves.

Contrary to the first half, fouls started becoming an issue, and it wasn't until the truly later portions of the final frame that those fouls were intentional. The Rams, meanwhile, took complete advantage of the free opportunities created. 

Myriece Byrd seemingly couldn't miss from the line. One by one, they fell in the rim - all 10 of them. The Manual junior shot 10-12 on free throws in the fourth quarter, while the entire Metamora team would eventually total 8-18 for the game. The late-game shooting stats are something that Coach Grieves was not pleased with.

"We just didn't shoot very well. Didn't play very well, and we weren't very lucky. You go 8-18 from the line, that hurts. They (Manual) just made some shots down the stretch and we couldn't."

Dietz did his best to try and finish off the game strong and keep the Redbirds in it, with the senior having arguably the best individual performance in the fourth quarter. He'd score six of his team-high 11 points to go with a rebound and an assist. 

By game's end, the free throws were simply too much for the Redbirds to handle, as the Metamora foul count totaled 15 for the second half. Bearing in mind that Manual had 23 points after three quarters, the Rams almost exactly doubled their score, using Byrd's free throw efforts to power a 22-point final quarter. 

The final buzzer would sound, and the season would be over for the Metamora Redbirds. The final score favoring Peoria Manual was 45-36. 

Metamora graduates six seniors, all of whom Grieves says he "couldn't be more proud of". He went on to say that this group's effort as the season progressed was quite memorable.

"Our guys have done a tremendous job of just working their tails off, doing all the extra stuff, giving up of themselves to make the team better."

It'll be a tough loss to swallow for the Redbirds, but once that recovers, for some of the players, it gives way for spring sports, but for now, basketball is official over at Metamora High School for the 2018-2019 season. 

Bigger picture, it was a great overall year for Metamora basketball, both genders. The girls team had their best season in a decade, finishing (21-7) (10-4) and tied with Washington for second place in the conference. The boys now finish (22-9) (12-2), having won the outright Mid-Illini title. Both programs' seasons ended in the regional final. Until next winter.

Metamora Scoring:
Collin Dietz (11), Payton Havens (10), Joe Nelan (10), Thomas Hall (2), Caleb Kizer (2), Gabe Mason (1)

Metamora Team Stats (unofficial):
14 2's, 0 3's, 8-18 FTs, 32 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, 3 blocks, 16 turnovers, 19 fouls

Metamora Individual Leaders (unofficial):
2's | Havens / Dietz / Nelan (4 each)
Free Throws | Dietz (3-8)
Rebounds | Nelan (12)
Assists | Havens / Dietz (2 each)
Steals | Havens (4)
Blocks | Kizer (2)

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