NCOE, C-W host sectionals
Eight teams have a combined record of 216-40
NORRIS CITY - A long time basketball coach once told me something that has stuck in my hard drive when it comes to analyzing the state tournament.

“It is better to be lucky than good. But I find the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

On the other hand I have always looked at sports luck coming “when preparation meets opportunity.”

Last Friday night in the ABV 1A area regional championships, eight teams advanced into the two sectionals that feed into the 1A Carbondale SIU Arena Supersectional.

Some might have had some luck on their side but most assuredly they worked hard to get there.

With the sub-sectionals being seeded as a group, none of the survivors of last week's regional battles were lower than a #2 seed, meaning that the ones who stepped up were expected to do so.

The top-seeds in each of the regionals advanced.

When looking at the teams remaining, all have the things in common that make champions.

They all played schedules that were at times demanding; they all at some point won games when they didn't bring the A-Game and they all got peak performances in the week that really counted.

The months it took to get ready was a roller coaster ride of “peaks and valley's.”

After all of the games, the wins and losses, the teams now have their sights set on a trip to the Big House.

One plaque in the case, two more and a big trophy waiting to be taken home.

Only one of the 1A clubs will make it up north and it will take two wins this week and one more next Tuesday to get the bags packed for a weekend in Peoria.

Most of the teams that remain have the postseason experience that comes with winning in the recent history.

However one hasn't been this far since the The Beatles were four young lads from Liverpool who landed in America to play on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Nevertheless, all have something else in common.

On the brightest stage in the first week of the only tournament that matters, they "stepped it up."

While the others are getting ready for spring sports, these teams get to play on.

Here is a brief look at what to look for this coming week. (continued below)

1A Norris City-Omaha-Enfield Sectional.

It can't really be a postseason in southern Illinois in the four-class era without Woodlawn, right?

The Woodlawn Cardinals have been as successful as any in the now 13 seasons of the 1A state tournament.

With Coach Brian Gamber taking over from Coach Shane Witzel, this Jefferson County program has raised up a lot of plaques since 2007-08.

Behind 2K career scorer Blake McKay, the Cardinals head into the sectional with a 30-3 record.

The 30 wins ties the 2008-09 and 2010-11 squads for most wins in a season in the program's history.

McKay will now play in his third sectional, after being part of the varsity and seeing minutes in the Cardinals 2017 run to the supersectional, a loss to eventual 1A champions Effingham St. Anthony and last season's Gallatin County Sectional..

Senior's Race Rynski, Chase Hollenkamp, Alec Fewkes along with juniors Jackson Tiemann, Hayden England and Hunter England have all contributed to the success story of the Midland Trail Conference champions.

The three losses have come to Pinckneyville (twice) and Okawville.

The Cardinals and Rockets split two games with Woodlawn winning the first matchup, 55-43, at the Carlyle Kaskaskian Tournament on December 5th and Okawville beating Woodlawn, 47-45, on the Cardinals' floor back on January 17th.

A win by each in the sectional semifinals will give the teams a rubber game.

Woodlawn has quality wins over other regional champions Altamont, Goreville, Teutopolis and Mt. Carmel, regional finalists North Clay and Dieterich, 3A Olney Richland and Wayne City three times, including a 52-32 win in the regional title game at Albion Edwards County.

McKay, who along with some of his teammates, has battled illness this week.

They survived a scare from Norris City-Omaha-Enfield in the regional semifinals.

However he led all scorers with 23 points, grabbed five rebounds and made five steals as Woodlawn eliminated the Wayne City on Friday night.

The Cobden Appleknockers had the longest drought of any of the regional winners, having last tasted victory back in 1964.

Those Appleknockers became folk heroes for many southern Illinoisan's as they nearly became the second smallest school to win the then one-class state title.

This season the 24-8 club, champions of the South Egyptian Conference, put things together late in the year and are currently riding a nine-game winning streak.

The team leaders for Cobden and head coach Wendell Wheeler are 6-foot-6 junior Noah Franklin and 6-foot-5 senior Joe Brumleve.

Brumleve was a difference maker in Cobden's 55-43 regional championship game victory as he netted a game-high 26 points.

Franklin added 12 points for the Appleknockers in the win.

Guards senior Dylan Lewey and freshman Tyler Franklin have also played well for Coach Wheeler as has senior Jose Lopez.

Of the eight defeats, only two were by 10 points or more (Massac County, Charleston (MO.)).

The Goreville Blackcats have also set a record for single season wins as they won the Crab Orchard Regional with a 66-37 win over Pope County Friday night.

Coach Todd Tripp has his team sitting at 32-2 overall.

They have quality wins over regional winner's Altamont and Benton, both in championship games of regular season tournaments.

Goreville beat Benton early in the year in the final game at the Goreville Invitational, 47-35, and they defeated Altamont, 75-65 to take home the title at the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament.

The two losses have come against good ones.

Charleston (MO.), who eventually won the Massac County “Superman Classic”, beat the Blackcats 83-70 in the semifinals.

Woodlawn topped Goreville, 72-67 back on February 1st at Woodlawn.

They ran the table to win the Black Diamond Conference West Division title (12-0) and are on an 11 game win streak.

Some of the good victories this season came against 2A teams (Harrisburg, Carterville, Hamilton County, Carmi-White County, Trico, Anna-Jonesboro and West Frankfort) along with triumphs over Sesser-Valier twice and Christopher twice.

Coach Tripp has a deep team that includes seniors Nick Compton, Landon Albright and Trent Glidewell.

They have averaged over 70 points a game for the season.

The team that plays the most brutal schedule, arguably, in the 1A Deep South is Okawville.

The Okawville Rockets line up against some “tough hombres” every season and they are prepared each year for this postseason.

Coach Jon Kraus and his program was shifted south for the postseason, after spending a few year going northwest to the Jacksonville Supersectional.

The Rockets won an elusive state championship two seasons ago by beating Annawan, 59-48.

That was one year removed from a heartbreaking loss to Effingham St. Anthony in overtime in the 2017 title tilt.

In other words, this program lives for the calendar to turn from February to March.

In Friday night's 52-33 win, the program's sixth consecutive regional title, Coach Kraus got great guard play from his junior veterans Jacksen Harre and Lucas Frederking.

Harre scored 20 points while Frederking added 13 in the win in which the Rockets never trailed in beating Marissa-Coulterville at the 1A Steeleville Regional finale.

Six-foot-eight senior Jackson Heckert is a space eater that can be tough to handle.

Mason Meyer, a 6-foot-7 junior, also contributes and give Okawville even more size.

At 22-8, Okawville ran a regular season gauntlet of quality opponents which included regional winners Nashville and Breese Mater Dei.

The Rockets lost two close games to the Knights and Hornets.

They also have wins over 2A teams Roxana, Breese Central, Columbia, Hillsboro and Carlyle.

They have three common opponents with Goreville.

Both beat Sesser-Valier and Marissa-Coulterville while Goreville lost to Woodlawn.

The Rockets, as mentioned earlier, split two contests with the Cardinals.

1A Casey-Westfield Sectional

When you look at this sectional, you will find four teams that have all been impressive during the season.

The ABV 1A Preseason #1, the Moweaqua Central A&M Raiders, are itching to get back to SIU Arena.

The Raiders have played in the last two supersectionals in 1A, losing to Goreville in 2018 and winning last year, 79-69, over Sesser-Valier.

After losing just one starter from last season's third place finish, Coach Rob Smith and his squad have managed "the bull's eye" quite well in 2019-20.

The Raiders head to Casey-Westfield for a Tuesday night matchup with Altamont at 28-3 after winning the 1A Macon Meridian Regional title on Friday night.

Central A&M, for the third consecutive year, ended the season of Nokomis.

The 58-43 win was never really close as the Raiders jumped out to an early lead and cruised home.

The loss by the Redskins ended the storied career of Nokomis mentor Steve Kimbro, who announced his retirement earlier this school year.

Central A&M has weapons all over the floor, led by a veteran group of seniors.

Six-foot-four senior guard Conner Heaton, 6-foot-6 senior forward Griffin Andricks and 5-foot-11 senior guard Jacob Paradee.

That trio combined for 49 of the 58 points scored in the regional title game triumph.

Andricks nailed down four 3-pointers in scoring 22 points while Paradee added two 3-pointers and 19 points.

Heaton added eight in the win while another senior, 6-foot-3 senior Brycen Burgener chipped in seven points.

Heaton is also a member of the 2,000 point club having surpassed that mark in January.

All four of those kids played prominent roles in the 32-3 squad that finished third at Peoria a year ago.

The Raiders' three losses have been to good teams.

Coach Smith's club dropped two games at the tough Effingham/Teutopolis Holiday Tournament back in December.

They lost to 3A Champaign Centennial and 2A powerhouse Pleasant Plains.

The third loss came at the Teutopolis Shootout to another club in this sectional; Effingham St. Anthony.

The 50-49 defeat was as close as the score.

Central A&M missed three shots in the final seconds, any of which would have given them a victory.

If both teams take care of semifinal business, they could meet again on Friday night.

The first roadblock for A&M is the Altamont Indians and head coach John Niebrugge.

The Tribe took care of things this past week at home in winning a regional title, beating Dieterich 64-44 in the championship game.

Coach Niebrugge has his team sitting at 28-6 on the season.

The top guns for Altamont reside in the backcourt.

Five-foot-ten senior Aiden Jahraus and 6-foot-2 junior Kaden Eirhart have led the team this season.

Jahraus scored 15 and Eirhart 13 in the victory Friday night.

Altamont has some other kids who can score; most notably 6-foot-1 senior Noah Teasley and 6-foot-3 senior Jared Kollmann are both capable.

Teasley (13) and Kollman (12) added points in the regional title game, a contest that they led 37-20 at halftime.

Denver Duckwitz, a 5-foot-10 senior, and 5-foot-11 sophomore Noah Klimpel are also part of the plan.

A look at the resume shows they were second in both tournaments they played in, losing to Goreville, 75-65, in the title game at the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament and to Effingham St. Anthony, 62-45, in the finale of the National Trail Conference Tournament.

The six losses were all to quality teams; St. Anthony (2), Central A&M, Woodlawn, Goreville, and 2A Tuscola.

The 1A teams they lost to are all regional winners from Friday night.

The last time Effingham St. Anthony played in a 1A state tournament the Bulldogs, and their fan base, had a lot of fun.

The 2016-17 club won the 1A state title with an overtime win over Okawville, 49-46.

After two seasons of being bumped up to 2A, Coach Cody Rincker and his Bulldogs are back in the hunt for a 1A championship.

This season St. Anthony got to the 1A Casey-Westfield Sectional on the strength of a 69-54 win over North Clay to take home the regional title at Bridgeport Red Hill.

Jaccob Dust, a 6-foot-7 senior center, has been a force inside for the 28-3 Bulldogs.

The backcourt has also been prominent in all of the St. A wins this year.

Six-foot junior Logan Antrim scored 23 points in the win over North Clay while 6-foot senior Jack Hoene and 5-foot-11 senior Aaron Webb each scored nine.

Dust hit for 19 in the victory as Effingham St. Anthony led 37-22 at halftime.

The three losses came to 2A Teutopolis, a rival they split two games with, 2A Pleasant Plains and 2A Breese Mater Dei.

All three of those squads are in sectionals this week.

If you look at the wins and losses of all of their opponents, the Bulldogs have faced a tough group and that proved valuable as they eye another trip to Peoria.

Head coach Tom Brannan has his Casey-Westfield Warriors right where they want to be.

Another of the IHSA class droppers, C-W went from 2A down to 1A for the next two seasons and this coach is hoping for some postseason success.

This team has also faced some good opponents this season and they have the bruises to prove it.

At 24-7, C-W earned a high seed and it proved worthy as they dispatched Bethany Okaw Valley on the Timberwolves home floor, 57-37 Friday night.

Coach Brannan has a pair of backcourt specialists that have led the Warriors to this moment of time.

Six-foot-one junior Noah Livingston and 6-foot Dawson Dallape have experience and skill and it showed Friday night in the 20 point win.

Livingston scored 16 points and Dallape 12 in the victory.

Six-foot-six sophomore Jackson Hills has been a big part of the success this season and the forward hit for 18 points Friday night.

The only 1A loss was to St. Anthony, 48-42 on February 21 at home in the two school's annual season ending scrum.

The other six losses have come to large schools 3A Charleston and Effingham, 2A Robinson and Fairfield along with two losses to Indiana teams at the Wabash Classic in Terre Haute.

Two of the best wins of the season came against Coach Brannan's old school, the Marshall Lions.

Once in the regular season and again in the Little Illini Conference Tournament back in January.

The Warriors also conquered 3A Olney Richland twice and 2A Teutopolis.

Marshall and Teutopolis both won regional titles on Friday night.