HOWARD — Caleb Sheriff did just about everything he could do to help the shorthanded Fredericktown boys basketball team on Saturday night.
The junior went for 21 points, nine rebounds, five assists and a pair of steals to lead the Freddies to a 47-39 win at East Knox in KMAC play.
The win completed a strong weekend for Fredericktown, which handed rival Centerburg its first league loss with a 54-44 win Friday night.
Already shorthanded, the Freddies were without Friday’s leading scorer Terry Fearn due to an illness.
“Sometimes you gotta go with what you have,” Fredericktown coach Derek Dibling said. “Guys did a good job of stepping up. It’s been that way all year. We haven’t been full strength since Game 1. It’s a next-guy up mentality and I think the guys embrace that.”
So, they went by committee for their scoring in the first half as Sheriff, Thomas Caputo and Ty Hatfield each had four points to help the Freddies take a 19-13 lead into the locker room. Sheriff also had four rebounds and four assists in the first half.
Fredericktown held a 19-8 lead before Weston Melick scored all six points in a 6-0 rally to help the Bulldogs pull closer.
Then Sheriff caught fire in the third quarter. He scored 10 points in the frame, including six points early as the Freddies (6-5, 4-3) pushed their lead to 29-18 near the midway point.
“We were just trying to move the ball around to get things going,” Sheriff said. “We just weren’t hitting shots in the first half. Then we just came out in the second half and relaxed a little bit. I started to relax and was able to get my shot down.”
Peyton Lester was fouled pulling down an offensive rebound and converted both free throws to spark a 7-0 Bulldog rally in the fourth quarter. Nathan Whitney knocked down a jumper from the left elbow on a run-out and Lester found Melick for a 3-pointer to tie the game 35-35 with 5:44 remaining.
But it was short-lived as Sheriff answered the trey with one of own to give the Freddies the lead for good.
“He’s a good shooter,” Dibling said. “When he gets hot and he gets in rhythm, he can knock down shots from anywhere. He’s a very confident shooter.”
The Bulldogs missed opportunities at the free-throw line, going 0-for-6 down the stretch as Fredericktown pulled away.
The Freddies also held a 40-21 advantage on the boards for the game. Mason Finnell finished with 11 rebounds, Lincoln Cunningham had nine and Ty Hatfield had five to lead the way.
Cunningham finished with 10 points and four assists, Caputo added eight points and Finnell had three steals for Fredericktown.
“We just have a great group of guys that play well together,” Dibling said. “They never really focus on who gets the credit. They just play hard and worry about getting better every day. They’re more worried about victories than who gets individual credit.”
The Bulldogs (4-5, 2-3) had 15 steals led by Shane Knepp with six and Gallwitz with four.
“Defensively, I thought we played well enough to win the game,” East Knox coach Ryan Powell said. “Our rebounding was terrible. We should not be getting outrebounded by anybody in my mind. I’m happy with holding them under 50 points, but we’ve gotta score a little better. We didn’t execute offensively very well.”
Melick scored 16 points and added five rebounds, Steinmetz had eight points and six boards, Knepp had three rebounds and a pair of assists and Lester had two blocks and a pair of steals to go with five points for East Knox.
“Our free-throw shooting let us down a couple of times in the second half,” Powell said. “We were being aggressive and taking it to the hoop. When we were fouled, we didn’t convert and that hurt our momentum and didn’t allow us to get into our traps (defensively).”
Both teams are back in action Tuesday night against non-league opponents. East Knox travels to Utica and Fredericktown visits Clear Fork. Both games are scheduled to tip off at 7:30 p.m.
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