SESSER -- It was the most uncomfortable of leads.
The Chester Yellow Jackets boys basketball team led Johnston City by 10 points twice, but the Indians refused to go away and managed to get within a bucket, 53-51, midway through the fourth quarter.
But Chester scored the next four points for a six-point cushion, and Johnston City never got closer than four the rest of the way as the Yellow Jackets took fifth place in the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament with a 66-60 win on Dec. 29.
"I think, overall, we were finishing at the rim, which was probably key in the fourth quarter," said Chester coach Brad Norman. "We came up with some defensive stops late, we forced them to shoot some uncomfortable shots, so I really think that's what closed it earlier in the game.
"I think it was our offensive execution that was helping us get the lead, but I don't think we rebounded very well and we turned the ball over too much."
Chester (10-4), got 24 points from All-Tournament Team selection Keith Kiner III, while Ian Reith poured in 15 of his 19 points in the second half.
"Just ball movement, you know," Reith said on what was key in the second half for Chester. "Working (the ball) in on passes led to good shots."
Johnston City's long-range game got the Indians back into it after Chester took a 45-36 lead on a layup by Kiner with 1:32 left in the third quarter. A trio of 3-pointers by Matt Campbell, sandwiched around a trey by Chester point guard Jake Haberberger, brought Johnston City within two points with 6:46 left in the game.
In total, the Indians swished eight 3-pointers in the loss.
"I knew coming in (Johnston City) didn't have the size we had in the post," Norman said. "But I just knew, being coached by (Scott) Burzynski, that they were going to be tough.
"And just kind of knowing and seeing them play a couple of games, I knew they were going to get to the 50-50 balls, they were going to create turnovers, they were going to get in your head and they were going to be physical."
Tyler Yotkewich led Johnston City with 23 points, while Campbell added 15 and Houston Hall contributed 11.
The Indians took a brief 7-6 advantage on a steal and layup by Campbell with 4:30 left in the first quarter, but Chester went on a 7-0 run to grab a lead it would never relinquish.
The Yellow Jackets held a 20-10 lead early in the second quarter, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Hall and Chase Selby brought Johnston City within a field goal at 20-18.
Chester took a 31-26 lead into the locker room at halftime after Colin Wingerter swished two free throws with 2.2 seconds left before the buzzer.
A 3-pointer from Reith pushed the Yellow Jackets' advantage to 36-26 with 6:43 left in the third quarter.
"I'm glad we came out with a win (Friday) and got a trophy, but we would have liked to have got first place," Reith said.
The Black Diamond Conference did well during the four-day tournament, with BDC teams taking five of the top six places. Goreville defeated tournament host Sesser-Valier, 65-63, in the title game.
"We've got to put a positive spin on it," Norman said of playing in the fifth place game. "We did get a trophy and we did end up 3-1.
"I don't think we're better than the four teams that are probably going to end up ahead of us, at all. I think if anything, these four games exposed some weaknesses that we have that we have to work on, which is a good thing."
Norman added he felt the trophy was the first Chester has won in the tournament.
"I don't think we've ever taken a trophy out of this tournament, so it may be the first trophy we've taken," he said. "Which is baby steps in the right direction."