PEORIA — Every Public League team going to state for the first time must always confront the great unknown. David Taylor’s greatest concern was how Uplift would react to the unfamiliar and the heightened stage.
The Titans had no issues in getting accustomed.
Jeremy Roscoe and Spencer Foley drilled five 3-pointers apiece as the No. 15 Titans thrashed Breese Mater Dei 72-50 in a Class 2A state semifinal at Carver Arena on Friday night to qualify for the first state title appearance in school history.
Uplift faces Decatur’s St. Teresa in Saturday night’s championship game.
Foley shot 5-for-10 on 3-pointers in scoring a game-high 19 points and Roscoe converted 5 of 8 from beyond the arc in registering a well-rounded 18 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals. Roscoe said he took confidence from Foley’s early shooting.
“They were giving me space to shoot the ball, and I’m a confident person,” Roscoe said. “I just started taking shots and making them.”
The Titans (27-5) hit their first five 3-pointers in bolting out to a 23-13 advantage early in the second quarter. Foley hit four 3-pointers in scoring 14 of his team’s first 25 points.
“Spencer is our deadeye,” Uplift coach Taylor said. “We thought if we could get him going early, it could pull them out of their zone and that’s exactly what happened.”
Uplift played its pace and space game to perfection, forcing the bigger yet less athletic Breese Mater Dei to cover wider floor. The outside shooting also nullified the Knight’s significant size advantage on the interior. Seven of the Titans’ first half field goals arrived from beyond the arc.
“We’re both really confident players, and we came out playing our games and doing what we do,” Foley said. “When I’m able to hit those threes, it opens things up for a lot of the other guys.”
Roscoe drilled a dramatic 3-pointer from the top of the key that closed out the third quarter for his team’s 44-33 advantage.
“I kind of felt like we needed that in the situation,” Roscoe said. “I had the defender backing up, and I had the confidence to shoot the ball.”
Deshon Fluckes scored 12 points and sophomore Demarius Jacobs contributed 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the floor. Daniel Soetan scored all eight of his points during a fourth quarter burst. His back-to-back dunks pushed the Titans to a 58-43 lead with 3:23 remaining.
Uplift shot 48 percent (10 of 21) on 3-pointers. The combination of outside shooting and disruptive defensive pressure turned the tide. The Titans forced 15 Breese Mater Dei turnovers. Uplift used its 15-2 advantage on points off turnovers in running out to the 30-21 lead at the break.
The Titans ended the game with a 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and 18-2 advantage in fast break points.
A Catholic power from suburban St. Louis, Mater Dei led only once, at 2-0. Foley responded with a beautiful 21-footer and the Titans were off and running. Nolan Gerling posted a double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Knights (24-11). Ben Lampe added 11 points, all in the second half.
Uplift savored the moment. “To put it in one word, this means everything,” Taylor said. “We’re only eight years old as a basketball program and 10 years as a school. We haven’t had enough opportunity do wonderful things like.
“Outside of sending kids to college this is by far the biggest, most exciting thing to happen to Uplift.”