High school basketball fans from all over southern Illinois flocked to SIU Arena during the weekend for the second annual Saluki Shootout.
The shootout featured six girl teams and 12 boy teams from throughout the region, which competed in one game each against a local opponent. The event expanded from the 2011 inaugural edition with four more teams in this year’s competition, which consequently extended the shootout from one day to two.
The tournament kicked off Friday evening, when the Carterville Lions’ girls team defeated the Murphysboro Red Devils 65-35 in 2A play.
Okawville’s men won the next game as it downed the Trico Pilots 48-28 in a battle of 1A squads.
Friday’s action wrapped up with a boys’ 2A showdown between Mater Dei and Woodlawn, in which the Knights of Mater Dei fought off the Cardinals and won 41-25.
The Marion and Meridian girls teams started Saturday early at 9 a.m. The 3A Wildcats routed the 1A Meridian Bobcats 54-19.
After the SIU women lost to Marshall, the Alton Marquette girls narrowly defeated the hometown Carbondale Terriers 27-26 in a matchup of 3A teams.
Starting with a 1A game between Gallatin County and Goreville, the boys had the floor for the rest of the night. The Gallatin Hawks held on after blowing an 11-point third quarter lead to defeat the Blackcats 50-49.
The Carbondale boys basketball team was victorious against the Herrin Tigers in the next game, as the Terriers came away with a 53-31 win. The Terriers jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, while the Tigers managed to score only two points in the opening period.
Carbondale High School senior Jarron Warren said it was nice for his team to compete in the shootout again.
“It’s always special to play on SIU’s court,” he said. “It’s right down the street. I feel like this is our home court, too.”
The next game also featured a matchup of a Jackson and Williamson county team in the Red Devils of Murphysboro and the Marion Wildcats.
The Red Devils, who entered the fourth quarter with an 11-point lead, held on for a 46-44 victory after fending off a strong Wildcat rally.
While basketball spectators enjoyed a weekend of the sport, Saturday’s final game was one of the most anticipated of the whole event. The Alton Marquette Explorers, who recently were promoted to 3A, lost to 2A undefeated powerhouse Harrisburg 62-53. Senior Tyler Smithpeters led the way for Harrisburg with 26 points.
The Bulldogs, who are ranked no. 2 in 2A, pulled away at the end when they made 17 of 23 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter.
Alton Marquette head coach Steve Medford said the Saluki Shootout was a good opportunity for his players to see some teams that they might play later on in the playoffs. He said he enjoyed having his team there.
“This is great for the kids; they really like this,” he said. “It was a pretty long drive, but at the same time, we really do like it. Whenever we were asked to do this, we thought it would be a great experience for us knowing we got bumped up from 2A to 3A.”
John A. Logan head basketball coach Kyle Smithpeters, who is the son of Harrisburg coach Randy and brother of star senior Tyler, has his roots embedded in southern Illinois basketball. Smithpeters, who played for Harrisburg and then SIU in 2005, said the event was great for the region’s basketball players and fans.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the kids,” he said. “When I was playing at Southern Illinois, SIU was the hometown university for all of these teams that are playing here today.”
Smithpeters said he expects the shootout to be even better as the years go on.
“I think it’s a great event, and it’s only going to pick up steam,” he said. “It’s very well ran. Everything is on time and everything is done the right way. People will always come back to an event when it’s done like that.”