It's Showtime!!!
Three weeks to determine the state champs; games start Monday

BY JACK BULLOCK - Last season two of the ABV teams, the two that were perched on the top of the 1A ABV rankings for most of the season (Okawville and Effingham St. Anthony), met in the state championship game.

It was the first time since the 1972 Class A state title game, the first of the two-class system championship contests, that two southern Illinois teams battled for the state crown.

Lawrenceville defeated Mounds Meridian 63-57 to capture the inaugural Class title 46 years ago.

Last March, Effingham St. Anthony edged Okawville 49-46 in overtime to win the school's first boy's basketball title.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs they were bumped up a class this season due to the “success factor” in place for private non-boundry schools.

So the Bulldogs won't be able to defend their championship.

Okawville, on the other hand, has a shot of making a return trip.

This program always is in the hunt for postseason hardware and they host a regional that will feed into the Jacksonville Super.

There are several other teams who look poised for potential playoff runs.

Cairo is finally getting some state-wide notoriety after being the ABV top-ranked club in the last month.

Mounds Meridian's tough schedule puts them in the hunt as one of the top seeds.

Perennial powers Woodlawn and Sesser-Valier are in the same regional (unfortunately) and will have to duke it out if they can wade through some good competition.

Christopher got the best setup of the top seeds as they head to Norris City-Omaha-Enfield for their regional.

Up North, Nokomis and Moweaqua Central A&M are looking like they could crash the party along with National Trail Conference champs Dieterich and conference mate Altamont.

In other words “hold on to your hat, the road to Peoria is usually a bit bumpy.”

Here is a quick look.

Carbondale 1A Supersectional
Hardin County 1A Sectional
Gallatin County 1A Regional

The top-seed and ABV #1 team Cairo is the favorite heading into this regional. The Pilots are 21-5 heading in after a 81-73 win at ABV ranked Woodlawn.

Coach Larry Wood's squad won the Du Quoin Tip-Off Classic early in the year and also have wins over 3A teams Herrin, Marion, Carterville along with several teams in Kentucky and Missouri.

Six-foot-one senior Damarius Taylor leads the Pilots with 26 points a game on average. He netted 32-points in the Woodlawn win on Friday and his team crashes the boards with a vengeance.

Cobden (15-12) and Gallatin County (17-9) are both looking to spring the upset this week to get to the sectional.The host Hawks eliminated Cairo last season in the regional final at Hardin County and Coach Doug Miller's club hosts this regional.

Audie Goebel, a 6-foot junior, just went over 1,000-points for his career recently. The Hawks went 7-0 in winning the Greater Egyptian Conference title.

Cobden is looking for their first boy's basketball regional championship since the Amazing Appleknockers made it the state championship game in 1964.

Coach Rhett Barke has a combination of youth and experience to work with and his club have wins over 2A Chester (to finish second at the Chester Invitational Tournament) and they hung in with Missouri small school power Saxony Lutheran in the CIT title game.

Crab Orchard and Hardin County play for the third time this season on Monday night's opener after the Trojans topped the Cougars on Friday night at home in the regular season finale.

The Cougars won the previous meeting in the semifinals of the annual conference tournament back in January.

The Pope County Pirates (17-10) have played well this season and are a threat to the hosts in Game 3 on Tuesday night.

Coach Jim Simmons squad holds a win over Gallatin County back in January in a non-conference matchup.

Carrier Mills is just 2-24 but ABV saw their second win of the season, a victory over Pope County at the league tourney.

Norris City-Omaha-Enfield 1A Regional
The top-seed in this sub-sectional is the Christopher Bearcats, a club that has a 19-8 mark.

Injuries and illness have hampered Coach Eric Stallman's crew this season and they were shellacked by second-seeded Sesser-Valier last Tuesday on the road (78-44).

The Bearcats will lean on 6-foot-6 senior guard Jared Curry and 6-foot-4 Bradley Young. Curry was hurt in the early part of the year (knee) and Young was part of the flu epidemic that hit the team back in late January.

Fourth-seed Webber Township (18-8) have a senior led group that have been at this for a long time wearing the Trojans' logo.

Coach Brad Beaty has his club playing well at the right time with recent wins to close out the regular season campaign.

Charles Neal, a 6-foot-4 senior, is one of the top scoring forwards in the 1A South.

Webber Township won the Wayne City Holiday Tournament back in December, beating the hosts in the final.

They lost a heartbreaking 66-60 overtime decision to Christopher at the Bearcats' Thanksgiving Tournament.

The Wayne City Indians are the fifth seed and they will likely get another game against the Trojans.

Webber has won two of the three previous meetings, but Coach Jeff Morris' Tribe won the most recent matchup, in the semifinals of the Midland Trail Conference Tournament.

Jayzale O'Neal is a junior guard that has helped the Indians to a 21-5 overall mark. Senior Jaxon King and sophomore Travis Dickey have contributed.

The losses have been to Woodlawn (2), Webber Township (2) and Christopher while topping Gallatin County, 2A teams Flora, Fairfield, Bridgeport Red Hill and Edwards County.

Galatia and the host Fighting Cardinals hook up in Game 1 of the regional. This will be the fourth game between the two teams, with the Bearcats holding a 2-1 advantage.

NCOE won the conference tournament matchup on the consolation side of the bracket.

Grayville has just two wins (2-16) with both coming over win-less Sandoval.

Mounds Meridian 1A Regional

The host Bobcats are the number two-seed in this sub and they look to be the favorites.

The 18-12 record simply means that Coach Erik Griffin has a team that have survived a lot of “wars” in 2017-18.

They have a big win over 2A top-ranked ABV Pinckneyville in double-overtime and they also beat 3A Murphysboro, 3A Carterville and battled some good teams close with narrow losses to 2A Harrisburg and 3A Herrin.

The Bobcats split two games with Saxony Lutheran, winning the regular season battle after losing at the Carbondale Holiday Tournament.

Meridian has four players averaging double-figures in scoring, led by 14.4 points a night from junior Eddie Robertson and 11 points each from senior forward Darnell Lowe and senior guard Ja'Quan Jones. Senior forward Demond Vasser adds 10 points a night for the Bobcats.

Coach Todd Tripp and his Goreville Blackcats have had a roller coaster of injuries and illness but everything appears ready for a run at the regional title.

The 'Cats (17-11) have some big wins this season, winning the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament championship and also a recent 20-point win over Woodlawn on the road.

Braden Webb, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, is now the school's all-time leading scorer as he went over 2,000-points.

The schedule featured a lot of tough games this season, all part of the plan to get the club ready for the postseason.

Tamms Egyptian (16-13) and Joppa (8-17) hook up on Monday night with a chance at Meridian on Wednesday for the victor.

The Pharaohs lost on Friday night to Meridian at home 67-49 and ended up with a 6-2 league mark in the South Egyptian Conference. Coach Allen Pearman saw his club pick up a big win over Cobden and the Pharaohs finished above .500 for the first time since 2012-13.

Century (8-16) has 5-foot-11 senior guard Marcus Davis who is the leading scorer for the Centurions.

Dongola and Shawnee have a combined three wins, all coming against each other with the Demons holding a 2-1 edge.

Zeigler-Royalton 1A Regional

Both Sesser-Valier (two-seed) and Woodlawn (three-seed) are familiar with each other as they have a long history of great contests in both the regular season and in the state tournament.

Besides the fact they play football together in a cooperative, the Cards and Red Devils have been joined at the hip for many years on different playing surfaces.

This season the two squads, who have multiple state tournament appearances in boy's basketball in the recent past, will have to earn their way into the sectional.

ABV believes this is the toughest of the sectional feeders as five of the seven teams have winning records.

Sesser-Valier and head coach Shane Garner are another of the teams that have battled against tough teams.

This is a veteran squad who won the Black Diamond Conference West Division with an 11-1 mark.

They dropped the last game of the season to 2A Chester but they vanquished rival Christopher the previous game, sending a message that perhaps the seedings this season were flawed.

Senior guard Lukas Gunter and junior guard Tyler Winchester have been the team scoring leaders on a team that has veterans and backup at every position.

This team has championship depth on the bench and they have worked well together against a tough slate of contests.

They narrowly lost to Goreville in their own tournament finale and they also went just 1-4 at the Benton Invitational Tournament back in January.

Woodlawn enters the fray at 19-8 as Coach Brian Gamber has a team that ran the table in the Midland Trail Conference; winning both the regular season and tournament championships without a loss.

Sophomore guard Blake McKay has put up some impressive numbers for the Cardinals, and he laid 36-points on Cairo last Friday.

They have wins over 2A Flora and 3A Herrin on the resume as well as a win at home over Metro-East Lutheran.

They are a young team with just a single senior on the squad; 6-foot-2 senior forward Blake Fewkes.

Junior guard Jackson Bennett, sophomore forward Ryan Rynski and sophomore guard Chase Hollenkamp round out the starting lineup.

They have been through a lot of close games this season, which should bode well for their chances this week.

Woodlawn has four trips to Peoria in 10 years in boy's 1A basketball, the most since the state switched to four-classes in 2007-08.

Steeleville at 15-11 is the sixth seed overall, a club that ABV believed should have been ranked much higher for the postseason.

The Warriors went 11-1 in the Cahokia Conference Kaskaskia Division and they won three of four games with 2A Red Bud while also forcing 1A Meridian into overtime at the Pinckneyville Showcase back in January.

Coach Aaron Fiene has some veteran players, including 6-foot-3 junior guard Owen Gross who is a three-year starter.

Seniors Nic Ebers and Noah Valleroy are both 6-foot-6 forwards that give the Warriors some size advantages.

Thompsonville (17-9) and Elverado (18-11) hook up in the first game of the regional on Monday.

The Tigers are the GEC tournament champs and have played well in spurts this season for head coach Pete Gordon.

Sophomore Corbin Fitch and junior Tyson Kessler form a solid backcourt along with 6-foot-7 junior forward Anthony Darge have led the way for Thompsonville.

The Falcons and head coach Jacob Emling have been a two season roll where they have some big wins.

Junior guard Aquntez Penn has been the best scoring threat for the club this season.

Thompsonville won the regular season meeting 52-51 on the road on December 16.

Waltonville (4-20) and the host Tornadoes (0-20) are the other entries in the regional.

Moweaqua Central A&M Sectional
Nokomis 1A Regional

The hosts are the top-seed in this sub-sectional and rightfully so.

The Redskins are 21-7 against arguably the strongest 1A team schedule in the South.

Coach Steve Kimbro is in his 37th year of coaching the boy's basketball program as is 785-289 overall. His teams have won 13 regional titles in his tenure.

He is also 2-0 in trips to the SIU Carbondale Supersectional having won in 2008 and 2013 on the way to a second place finish and a third place ending respectively in 1A.

Nokomis is 9-0 against 1A teams this year and they have a close loss to unbeaten 3A power Alton Marquette (39-36) back on December 1.

The seven losses have come to six 3A teams and one 4A squad (Granite City).

Six-foot-eight sophomore Carter Sabol tosses in 17-points a night while 6-foot-3 senior Austin McDowell adds 12 to the scoring.

Six-foot-two senior Hendrix Barnes, 6-foot-5 senior Brayden Sabol and 6-foot-3 senior Kamden Ransdell all are just under 10 points a game for Nokomis.

For long time high school hoops fans to remember, Austin McDowell is a cousin of former Nokomis girl's basketball standout Molly McDowell who led the school to back-to-back girl's Class A state titles in 1997-98 and 1998-99.

Neoga is the only non-double-digit seed in the regional (fourth-seed) as the Indians enter the postseason at 13-11.

All of the other teams in the regional have losing marks, including Egyptian Illini clubs Ramsey and Cowden-Herrick-Beecher City.

Patoka 1A Regional

The Dieterich Movin' Maroons have thrived for most of 2017-18 with some quality wins.

Coach Josh Krumwiede has led this club to a 21-6 mark while going 7-1 in the National Trail Conference.

One of the wins was an early season victory at home over defending 1A champion Effingham St. Anthony, 68-62 in overtime.

They lost the rematch in another close contest, 53-48, in the title game of the NTC Tournament.

Callaway Campton, a 6-foot senior guard, and classmate and backcourt associate Ryan Radloff, are the top guns on a club that can score at will from the 3-point arc.

Six-foot-three senior Tyler Higgs is also part of a team capable of putting up a lot of points.

Odin has been quite a surprise this season under new head coach Tyler Mitchell as the Eagles are sitting at 16-10 heading into the postseason.

Caleb Jourdan is a 6-foot-3 senior guard/forward for the Eagles.

Gage Roberts, a 6-foot junior, and 6-foot-3 sophomore Lucas Shaffer have been important to the Odin success this winter.

The Eagles finished third in the MTC tournament and they won the consolation title at the Metro-East Lutheran Thanksgiving Tournament last November.

Farina South Central is the fifth seed and the Cougars head in at 12-15 overall.

Seniors Trent Geiler and Ryan Matheny, along with junior guard Logan Lutz, have carried the load for most of the season for head coach Jamie VanScyoc.

Steve Britt is the coach of Christ Our Rock Lutheran (12-14) and these Silver Stallions have some decent wins this season, with one coming at Webber Township on January 2.

Five-foot-ten senior Tristan Britt, 6-foot-5 senior Jordan Bent, Tymar Offut, a 5-foot-6 guard, and 5-foot-8 Sam Britt all have been important.

Louisville North Clay (11-16) switched to the National Trail Conference this season and head coach Josh Zink and his Cardinals went 3-5 in their first year in the new league.

Five-foot-seven senior Aleon Rinehart (10 p.p.g.) , 5-foot-10 senior guard Quincy Aldrich (10 p.p.g.), 6-foot junior Reese Blank, 6-foot-2 junior Nick Miller and 6-foot Bryce Holkenbrink ( 9 p.p.g.) have played well of late, including a 49-48 win at Farina South Central on Friday.

Patoka is just 2-23 on the season while Sandoval is without a victory (0-22).

Windsor 1A Regional

Only two actual ABV teams are participants here, Windsor-Stewardson-Strasburg and Mulberry Grove and both are going to bring the A-Game to topple number-two seed Moweaqua Central A&M.

The Raiders are 18-8 on the season and they closed their regular season with a 73-58 road win at 2A Shelbyville on Friday night.

They are on a six-game winning streak heading into the regional and they are led in scoring and rebounding by 6-foot-4 sophomore Conner Heaton (20 points, 10.5 rebounds).

Senior guard 5-foot-10 Jameson Smith is the top outside bomber for the Raiders as he has hit 66-of-182, which is tops in the Decatur area for 3-pointers this season.

Griffin Andricks is a 6-foot-5 sophomore starter for head coach Rob Smith.

A&M lost to Patoka in the regional championship game last February 68-66 as they finished 17-11.

Mulberry Grove is 18-9 on the season as the Aces won the Egyptian Illini Conference championship.

Coach Mark Bollinger's club have wins over Vandalia and St. Elmo-Brownstown on the list of accomplishments this season.

The catalyst for MG is junior guard Courtlyn Latham, at 5-foot-7.

Joey Linnabary, a 6-foot-1 senior, and 6-foot-5 sophomore Wyatt Criner have also been good this season.

Windsor-Stewardson-Strasburg is 13-14 this year under new head coach Austin Robinson as the Hatchets will host the regional this week.

Six-foot-two Christian Kessler, 6-foot-3 Isaac Kramer, 5-foot-10 senior Gavin Bennett and 6-foot senior Chase Thies are the main cogs.

Bethany Okaw Valley (15-13) started off their season with five-consecutive losses to 2A and 3A schools but are 15-8 since, including wins over Windsor-Stewardson-Strasburg and Arcola who are in this regional.

Chrisman (6-20) and Arcola (5-18) have work to do while no info was available for the Hume-Shiloh-Oakland-Kansas Coop was available.

Hutsonville-Palestine 1A Regional

Altamont and St. Elmo-Brownstown are familiar foes who will have to drive a long way round trip to play in this regional.

The Eagles (162-miles) and Indians (150-miles) will travel past the roads to two different regionals (Patoka, Windsor) that would be much closer to reach.

The Indians are the two-seed in this sub-sectional while the Eagles check in at number three.

Coach John Niebrugge has this Tribe at Altamont playing well at the end of the year as they closed out the NTC season with a win over W-S-S at home.

Altamont finished the regular season at 17-10.

Mitchell Stevens, a 5-foot-10 senior guard, leads the way with 22 points a contest for his team.

Junior guard Alek Biggs has also played well for a team that won the consolation bracket title of the NTC tournament and they also possess wins over Woodlawn, 2A Newton and recently a 74-40 blowout win over St. Elmo-Brownstown on February 9.

Coach Greg Feezel will have to have his Eagles ready when they open to regional.

St. Elmo-Brownstown ended their season on a high note with a 60-34 win over Cowden-Herrick-Beecher City.

Guards Isaac Maxey and Lewis Brown along with sophomore Andy Goldsboro have led Coach Feezel's “Birds” to a 17-9 mark.

Hutsonville-Palestine and Oblong, are both from Crawford County and are both 10-17 on the season.

Cisne will also garner some frequent driver miles (160-miles) on its round trip.

Coach Kevin Bowen has his team improving after a 1-7 start to the season and are 7-16 overall.

Seniors Jordan Hosick and Blake Atwood have carried the torch for the Running Lions.

Jacksonville 1A Supersectional
White Hall-North Greene 1A Sectional
Okawville 1A Regional

The host Rockets are overwhelming favorites to win their own regional this week as head coach Jon Kraus would love for his program to make a return trip to Peoria after last year's runner up finish.

Again this team took on all comers when it came to the regular season contests.

The Rockets ended up 20-8 on the year will head into the regional with five consecutive wins.

They picked up a key win over 3A Breese Central to close the regular slate.

Okawville only played five games against 1A schools and they won all five.

Six-foot-seven senior Luke Hensler is at 14-points a game for the Rockets while guard Peyten Harre adds 9.6 p.p.g.

There other starters; Will Aubel, Caleb Frederking and Wyatt Krohne all toss in around nine-points a night.

If you are looking for potential upset teams, Brooklyn Lovejoy sits a 16-13 on the season with quality wins over Madison, Jacksonville Routt along with winning the Egyptian Invitational Tournament in January.

Five-foot-seven junior Antwan Glasper averages 19-points a game for the Wildcats while D'Andre Loston adds 10.

The other four teams in the regional are Cahokia Conference Kaskaskia Division brothers Valmeyer, Lebanon, Marissa-Coulterville and New Athens.

Valmeyer is the only one of the quartet at .500 (14-14) after picking up a win over Lovejoy on Friday night, 81-77, and then losing a makeup game to Gibault on Saturday 68-55.

Three Pirates average double-figures in points; 6-foot-3 senior Michael Chism (16.6 p.p.g., 7.8 r.p.g.), 5-foot-10 sophomore Philip Reinhardt (11.4 p.p.g.) and 6-foot-3 senior Owen Miller (11.1 p.p.g.).

Marissa-Coulterville (10-17) and head coach Scott Wine have some good wins this season, including a recent triumph over Valmeyer.

The Meteors get 14.2 points a night from 6-foot junior Cameron Bowlby and 12.2 points a game from 6-foot sophomore Logan Jones.

Coach Conrad Widdersheim and his New Athens team (5-19) have lost 13 consecutive games after a 5-6 beginning.

The Yellow Jackets can score points with Landon Deutschman, Joe Range and Jaxon Heintz all over 13-points a game each.

They have just allowed too many points this season.

Lebanon (11-18) has David Krumsieg, who averages 15.3 points a night for the Greyhounds.