Eagles Run Out Clock On Union

Sullivan proved Tuesday night that a ball control offense isn’t just useful in football.

With Landon Hoffman ailing, the Eagles turned to a tactic in the second half that elicited “boring” chants from an amped-up Union home crowd: pass the ball around and melt the clock.

By the end, Sullivan had dribbled the air out of the ball, Union and their fans. 

A shorthanded Eagles squad advanced to the Class 4 District 10 championship with a 51-40 victory against the second-seeded Wildcats.

Every inch of the half-court, every offensive rebound and every loose ball gobbled up proved instrumental in helping the Eagles silence a potent Union offense.

McKinney, who hasn’t had a team defeat Union on the road since 2014, noted that it’s a tough gymnasium to shoot in. After a sluggish first quarter, the Eagles came out firing in the second.

Union ran off six straight points to take an 11-5 lead with 1:22 left in the opening period. An inside basket by Cameron Cunningham and a drive by Hoffman drew the Eagles within two. 

That kickstarted a blistering 15-0 run for the Eagles.

McKinney knocked down his first 3-pointer at the 7:42 mark. Hoffman connected on back-to-back 3s, one a fallaway shot at the top of the key. Referees whistled a foul after the play, which gave Sullivan another possession. Hoffman gunned for another 3, but missed. Cunningham grabbed the offensive board and finished with a reverse scoop. Sullivan went up 20-11 and Union regrouped for a timeout.

Union would begin to make up the difference after the break. Jacob Towell hit a 3-pointer, but was matched on the other end by Hoffman. 

Trevor Kelly led a 7-0 run with a pair of 3s to pull the Wildcats within 23-21. Cunningham pushed it back to a two-possession game with his first 3-pointer. Carter Adams barreled to the rim for a drive that extended Sullivan’s lead to seven, but Towell answered with his second 3. 

McKinney rained a triple with 51 seconds left. Wil Strubberg — Union’s 6-8 center — was left alone at the key and he sank the 10th trey of the period between the two teams. Sullivan led 31-27 at halftime.

With Hoffman on the bench, Sullivan switched to their most conservative offense yet. The Eagles held the ball for nearly three minutes to start the third period. 

Sullivan had the first basket of the quarter — a 3 by McKinney — with 3:43 left to make it 34-27. Less than a minute later, Jacob Rohrer grabbed an offensive rebound and kicked it to Austin Lewis. Lewis found a wide-open McKinney waiting on the wing for a 3. 

Late in the quarter, with Union yet to score, Sullivan ran nearly two minutes off the clock. Another offensive rebound by Rohrer led to a 3-pointer by Adams, giving the Eagles a 40-27 lead. Union finally got on the board when Kelly drained a trey at the buzzer. 

Rohrer continued to grab every loose ball that came his way. He kept a possession alive early in the fourth when he stole the ball along the baseline after a Sullivan miss, allowing the Eagles to run off more time. He was later fouled on a put-back attempt and hit one of two shots to put Sullivan up 41-30.

Union would close the gap to four, boosted by a 3-pointer by Peyton Burke and an inside shot by Kale Crawford with 4:23 left.

McKinney inched the lead back to six with two free throws. Kelly was stripped trying to drive to the basket and turned the ball back to the Eagles, which led to a free throw by Hoffman, along with a 44-37 lead. Lewis knocked down a free throw and his miss was collected by Jacob Hatcher. McKinney followed with two more free throws to put the Eagles up 47-37. 

Strubberg’s 3-pointer cut the deficit back down to seven with 52 seconds, but Sullivan ran out the clock from there.

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