Strong teams enter 2A Sectionals
Six top seeds survived regionals; Pana, WF crashed the party

On the 2A side of the ABV postseason ledger, there was only one example of what would be considered a major upset in the regionals that feed into the Du Quoin and Vandalia Sectionals.

Highly regarded and ABV ranked Casey-Westfield lost its first game of the Shelbyville Regional to a surging Pana team, 70-67, which ended the Warriors' splendid season at 25-4.

The Panthers followed that win up with a 72-71 overtime victory over Marshall to nab the regional title.

On the seeding side, the West Frankfort win over host Chester to win the regional would be considered a mild upset as the Redbirds led from start to finish in a 54-38 win.

The rest of the regional titles in this complex were won by the “chalk” as Nashville, Pinckneyville, Alton Marquette, Mt. Carmel, Fairfield and Teutopolis each held serve to reach the Round of 32 in the state.

This week has some interesting matchups and potential scenarios for an exciting Friday night of sectional title games.



The Pana Panthers had a lackluster first two thirds of a season for head coach Adam Metzger to say the least.

The wins were against 1A teams and not so strong 2A teams.

They even lost to 3A Taylorville's junior varsity at the Litchfield Invitational Tournament back in January.

However something clicked in the first part of February and the Panthers have been “purring” along ever since.

Pana is now back to .500 at 17-17 as Coach Metzger has his team riding a six-game winning streak.

The points come from four kids who are all right at or over double-figures in scoring for the season.

Jack Armstrong is a 6-foot-1 senior who leads the team with 12.9 points a game while grabbing 5.4 rebounds.

Six-foot-three junior Jonah Lauff is at 12.4 p.p.g. while Jared Beyers, a 5-foot-11 senior, added 10.2 p.p.g.

Drew Ambrose, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, brings 9.7 points and 5.5 boards to the table.

Five-foot-eleven junior Wes Kile adds a bit over six points a game.

In their last four games, the Panthers averaged 76.5 points per contest.

The Panthers will need to continue playing at a high level if they are going to get past the state-ranked Fairfield Mules.

The Mules shattered the previous school record for wins as they now sit at 31-2 overall for head coach Scott McElravy.

Fairfield has just two losses; an overtime defeat to Casey-Westfield back on December 21st and then a January 54-34 drubbing at the hands of 3A Olney Richland County.

Since the loss to the Tigers, the Mules are 15-0 with regional wins over Harrisburg and Carmi-White County last week to win the Harrisburg Regional.

Six-foot-six senior forward Brian Estes is leading the statistics for the Mules with 18.7 points a game so far.

Senior guard Jayzale O'Neal, who transferred into the program from nearby Wayne City last summer, has been a great addition to the club.

O'Neal adds 12.5 points to an already good lineup.

He led the Mules with 19-points in the 70-56 regional title win over CWC.

Six-foot-three sophomore Landon Zurliene is posting 10.5 p.p.g. and 6-foot-3 junior Kane Hixenbaugh is at 8.3 points per game.

Senior Reese Lee and juinor Wyatt Gilbert are backcourt aces that produce points and solidify an already strong defense.

Lee averages 6.3 points while Gilbert adds just over five a game.

Both are capable of more as Gilbert scored 15 in the regional finale.

Fairfield's resume has some significant triumphs with Teutopolis, 3A Salem, 3A Herrin and Mt. Carmel on the list.

The Mules beat the Wooden Shoes back on November 24th 74-64 to win the annual Lawrence County Capital Classic.

They also have a win over 3A Effingham back in January and have an average margin of victory at 22-points.

Don't let the won-loss mark of the Mt. Carmel Golden Aces fool you into thinking that they weren't supposed to get to this sectional.

Coach Tyler Buss played their first six games without one of their top players and it showed with an 0-6 start.

Since then they are 14-9 against a difficult schedule and now have yet another regional title on the hardware shelf after taking care of Red Hill on the Hilltop last Friday night.

Six-foot-four sophomore Kaleb Applebey was the missing piece of the Aces' pie back in November and December.

The forward averages 10.3 points and a team-high 8.4 rebounds a contest.

It seems like Austin Rager has been around forever for the Aces as this senior has played a lot of meaningful games in Maroon and Gold.

Rager averages 20.3 points and 7.8 rebounds a game.

Rager has been an important player for Coach Buss in the last three seasons as Mt. Carmel made two long postseason runs to reach Peoria for a second place finish in 2016-17 and to the Carbondale Supersectional last March.

A third trip to SIU and a second run to Carver Arena wouldn't be a stretch for this club.

Bret Doan, a 6-foot-3 senior, is also a vet for the Aces as he adds to the production with 9.4 points while handing out assists at four a night.

Those four scored all of the Aces' points in the 53-36 win Friday night.

Others who contribute include 6-foot-2 Luke Gould and 5-foot-9 junior Aden Gill.

Playing in the Indiana based Big Eight Conference, the Aces are tested each night when they cross the Wabash River.

The Teutopolis Wooden Shoes have now won 10 straight regional championships with a 58-33 romp over Effingham St. Anthony last Friday.

The 'Shoes are now 27-5 under first year head coach Chet Reeder and they face a team in Mt. Carmel on Wednesday night that has eliminated them the last two seasons in the sectionals.

Teutopolis has been led in scoring by a pair of seniors; 6-foot-6 swingman Dawson Smith and 6-foot-7 senior Clint Weber.

Those two combined for 78 points in two games at the regional last weeks in wins over Robinson and St. Anthony.

Mitch Hardiek, a 6-foot-3 guard/forward and 5-foot-10 Luke Ungrund are juniors who are starters for Coach Reeder.

Sophomore Evan Wermert also is part of the contention heading into the sectional.


The Nashville Hornets are in a familiar spot after winning their fourth straight regional title with a 45-30 win over Trenton-Wesclin to win the 2A Carlyle Regional.

Coach Wayne Harre has a team that has been state ranked and ABV #1 for most of the season and are now 31-2 overall.

They dropped a decision to Briarcrest (TN.) in the title game of the Mater Dei Holiday Tournament and to rival Pinckneyville.

The loss to the rival Panthers was 31-29 on the road on January 4th.

The Hornets haven't tasted defeat since having won their last 16-games.

Included in the victims are 2A Teutopolis at the Benton Shootout and 3A teams Mascoutah (3), Breese Central, Columbia and Effingham.

Nashville is 10-0 against larger schools.

They also topped Washington County rival 1A Okawville.

As of this writing all of those schools are still alive in the postseason.

Six-foot-five bookend guard Bryson Bultman and Carson Parker are the mainstays on a team has won two regular season tournament titles (Nashville and Wesclin Invitationals).

Bultman is a senior who nets 15.2 points and 6.1 rebounds a game while Parker added 14.1 and 7.2 to the totals each night.

Tristen Hercules, a 5-foot-11 junior guard, 5-foot-11 senior guard Kelton Harre, 6-foot-3 junior Matt Anderson, 6-foot-6 senior Tanner Bergmann and 6-foot-6 junior Terry Pelczynski are all in the four to five points per game mix and all are capable of more if needed.

The size and depth make the Hornets a difficult matchup.

West Frankfort and first year head coach with the program Evan Wyllie, gets the first crack at the Hornets after the Redbirds dispatched top-seeded Chester on the Yellow Jackets' home floor last Friday night, 54-38, in a game they never trailed.

WF had sort of a roller coaster ride early in the season but the sailing got much smoother late in the year.

Against a tough schedule, the Redbirds are still alive at 21-10 overall.

Three of the losses came to 3A Herrin but they also have big wins over Pinckneyville, 3A Massac County, 3A Salem and 3A Benton.

Both of their regional wins were by a combined 28-points.

Six-foot-five senior CJ Johnson is at the head of the class with 16.6 points a game for his club while also hauling in 6.5 rebounds.

Josh Melvin, a 6-foot-3 junior forward, is next on the list with 10.8 points and 6.6 rebounds while senior guard, 6-foot Kyle Hammers averages 8.1 points and 3.5 assists for the Redbirds.

Pinckneyville, despite injuries this season, managed to get everything put together to win yet another regional championship with a victory over host Anna-Jonesboro last Friday night, 55-39.

This regional crown was the “mind boggling” 54th regional championship in boy's basketball for this program.

Coach Waggoner has now won eight of those titles in his tenure.

The key piece to the puzzle for the Panthers is 6-foot-2 junior guard Dawson Yates, who has battle back issues in the second half of the season and missed games late in the regular season.

But Yates stepped off the shelf on Friday night and led the Panthers to the regional title with 22-points.

He is a very important part to the Panthers' chances at winning the sectional and getting back to SIU Arena for the third time since four-class basketball began in 2007-08.

Yates will need continued scoring help from his teammates.

Six-foot junior Hunter Riggins has averaged 9.3 points for the Panthers while 6-foot-3 junior Grant Tanner adds 9.6 p.p.g.

Six-foot-three senior Dylan Houghland and 6-foot-3 sophomore Dre Scott are right near the seven points a game mark.

However the Panthers win their games on the defensive end of the floor as they have held opponents to just 41 points a night on average this year while scoring 58.

For the ABV fans that are not familiar with the Alton Marquette Explorers, Coach Steve Medford has done a fine job at this school that has bounced from 2A to 3A in boy's basketball in the past few years due to the private school success factor.

The Explorers were undefeated and ranked #1 in the state in 3A last season before losing in a regional title game to Columbia.

After losing a bunch from last year, Coach Medford got his youngsters to step up and they enter the sectional at 29-3.

The Explorers losses were to 1A Madison on the road and also 3A Breese Mater Dei and 3A Murphysboro.

The won tournament titles at Metro-East Lutheran and Freeburg/Columbia and they are riding a 13-game win streak.

Marquette edged Greenville 44-40 to win the 2A Piasa Southwestern Regional on Friday night.

In coach Medford's eight seasons running things, the Explorers have six regional championships.

They also have a starting five in which every player averages at 7 p.p.g or higher.

Five-foot-eleven senior guard Chris Hartrich and 6-foot-6 senior Nich Hemann are both over 11 points a night.

Six-foot junior Spencer Cox, 6-foot-1 junior Brett Terry and 6-foot-1 junior Jack Rice are all three at that seven spot on the book.