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Blazers enjoy tourney experience despite outcome

ADDISON – The experience on the floor wasn’t the most successful, but the Centralia Holiday Tournament provided at atmosphere that may help the Addison Trail boys basketball team later on.

The Blazers went 0-3 at the tournament while playing against quality competition in a frenzied atmosphere. Despite the losses, AT coach Brendan Lyons thought it was a good experience.

“It was a fantastic tournament,” Lyons said. “It was a great trip. We didn’t do well. That was kind of the low point of it. Hopefully the experience of being down there and seeing some teams we don’t see will help us going forward.

“I think the first two days we were maybe taken a back by the atmosphere.”

The tournament featured teams from four different states and had all the hoopla of a major event thanks to the interest in the local team in Centralia.

AT (5-11) lost the opener against Alton, which entered the tournament with an undefeated record and made the final. The Blazers left at 5:30 a.m. to make a four-and-a-half hour bus drive to Centralia for a 12:30 p.m. game.

The Blazers then lost a pair of consolation games to Marist and Christian County, a Kentucky school, despite being in those games. AT trailed Marist by two at halftime before losing by 22 and took Christian County to overtime.

“We felt like we played some good competition,” Lyons said. “I’ve been to a lot of tournaments and that’s one of the best-run tournaments.

“It was an interesting experience because it is a high school gym, but the set up in there is fantastic. It kind of feels like the whole town stops.”

Starting guard Ronald Duling played through an injury that he suffered in the final of AT’s pre-holiday tournament on Dec. 21. He struggled in the first two games while playing fewer minutes and sat out the final game. Leading scorer James Pupillo turned his ankle early on in the finale and sat out the rest of the game. Pupillo scored in double figures the first two games.

In the final game, Joe Kurucar scored 29 points, but AT couldn’t close out Christian County down the stretch.

“I thought we just competed and played hard,” Lyons said. “We missed some free throws down the stretch that would have won the game for us.”

The individual highlight was the play of Joe Villasenor, who was 16-for-18 from the field during the tournament and averaged 11 points per game.

“He’s really starting to come into his own and give us a presence in the block area on the glass that was desperately needed,” Lyons said.

AT tournament results (in order)

• Alton 85, AT 60
• Marist 60, AT 38
• Christian County (Ky.) 67, AT 62 (OT)

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