Webber, Nashville set for 'Super' Battle
Trojans hope 'Cinderella Ride' continues; Hornets look for another Peoria trip


On Tuesday night, the Carbondale Class A Supersectional will pit upstart Webber Township, owners of a 28-3 record, against perennial powerhouse Nashville in what some people would think is a mismatch.

Winners of the SIRR Mississippi Division with a 10-0 record, the 27-5 Hornets have been in the state-ranked for most of the season and were the ABV Preseason choice to reach Peoria.

Although Webber Township has gotten some respect from 'A Baseline View' (ranked as high as fourth during the season) the Trojans have went unnoticed for most of the season.

These two teams are set to play Tuesday night at SIU Arena.

Nashville, while playing a demanding schedule, has five losses on the resume all to good teams.

A 52-38 loss to Red Bud in the final game of the Lebanon Thanksgiving Tournament and a 56-51 loss to Waterloo Gibault on the road had the Hornets reeling early in the season.

Probably the low point of the campaign was a 61-29 beating laid on them by Breese Central in the title game of the Mater Dei Holiday Tournament.

Losses to Class AA Murphysboro and Mascoutah during the season showed that Nashville still needed work.

But as the season wore on, the Hornets got improvement from their backcourt that was considered a liability in big games in the first half of the season.

Since the 50-40 loss to Mascoutah in the title game of their own invitational tournament, Nashville has won 11-straight games.

While Lucas O'Rear, Andrew Wilson and Calvin O'Rear have been steady all season, the sudden improvement of the backcourt, including Scott Forys, Stefan Price, Clint Harre and Todd Kostecki has triggered this postseason run.

"We played nine guys Friday night and they gave us a big lift," said Nashville Coach Darin Lee, who is 3-0 in Carbondale Supersectional games and is 322-104 at Nashville. "Our backcourt has gotten a lot better from earlier in the season."

Lucas O'Rear and Wilson are the top scorers for Coach Darin Lee's team.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore O'Rear just continues to get better by the game.

His 18-points on Friday night helped Nashville top Steeleville 62-59 for the sectional crown.

Wilson is the teams' top defender and at 6-foot-5 this senior causes problems to whomever he guards.

He backed up O'Rear on Friday night with 17-points.

Both players were members of the ABV 'Deep South' team for 2004-05. O'Rear on the first team and Wilson on the second squad.

The Hornets have been in this situation before, having been to Peoria three times.

Most recently in 2000 when they topped Massac County 58-49 to advance to the finals.

While Nashville (547 enrollment) was taking care of small school post-season victims Valmeyer, Red Bud, Goreville and Steeleville; Webber Township with just 191 students tackled the big boys in its ride to SIU Arena.

Wins over Mount Carmel on the Aces home floor, Fairfield in the Mount Carmel Class A Regional final, Eldorado and state-ranked West Frankfort at the NCOE Sectional has Coach Clarence Gross' club on the verge of sending a Mid-South Conference team to the state finals for the first time since NCOE finished third in 1990.

Webber's loses have been heartbreaking to say the least.

While 9-0 back in December, the Trojans had a poor shooting performance in losing to Cisne 60-51 in the title game at the Wayne City Holiday Tournament.

After a 17-day layoff, Webber was crusing against Galatia with three minutes to play in the third quarter at home on January 5, only to give up a 13-0 run to the Bearcats in a 56-44 loss, which left the Trojans at 9-2.

Following that loss Coach Gross' club turned things around in a big way.

Twelve consecutive wins, including four straight to win the Carmi-White County Invitational was the best week of the season.

The Trojans had one hiccup in the last two weeks, a unexpected loss to New Harmony, Indiana on the road.

However they finished the season strong and are currently on a seven-game winning streak.

"The Galatia game was a real wakeup call for the kids," said Coach Gross back in January. "I got their attention in practice and they kids responded for me."

Six-foot-four senior Joey Ullery and 6-foot-3 classmate Jabe Michel are the top scorers for Webber Township.

When it comes to matchup problems, Ullery and Michel are tough for opponents to deal with. Ullery is a load on the outside. Having the ability to hit from 'downtown' or driving to the basket, Ullery has earned his status as one of the top guard/forwards in the Deep South. He joined Nashville's Wilson on the ABV Second Team.

Michel has been tough on opposing defenses.

Bigger kids haven't been able to slow him down on the outside and smaller kids get posted up.

Michel has led the postseason run for Webber with 20 p.p.g. while Ullery is at 18.5 p.p.g. in the four game run. Michel is five points higher on his season average of 15 for the season.

"Ullery and Michel are good players and I knew they were going to be good when those seniors were sophomores and I saw them take Woodlawn into overtime at Christopher in the regional," said Coach Lee.

But while most teams in Southern Illinois have one or two major contributors offensively, Webber Township is blessed with all five starters capable of leading the team with points.

Bryce McKenzie is a 5-foot-10 junior guard that can shoot and handle the ball.

He has had several games in a row in which he made key plays to allow the Trojans' season to continue. He scored nine of the Trojans' final 13 points in their 58-51 win over Mount Carmel in the regional opener.

Cody Swartz is a 6-foot-3 junior that has had his moments as well.

His seven early points in the 58-50 regional title victory over Fairfield kept the Trojans afloat when his teammates struggled.

Five-foot-ten senior Brad Porter has been a stabilizing presence on the floor for Coach Gross. Whether he is stepping out to hit a big 3-pointer or diving on the court for a loose ball, Porter is a supplier of spark for Webber.

Cody Braden, a 5-foot-10 senior reserve steps off the Trojans' bench each night to give quality minutes.

His nine points against Eldorado were a great bonus.

"They (Webber) are quick and they beat us to the ball all night long," said Fairfield coach Tim Pearison after his teams' loss in the regional title game. "Whether is was on an offensive rebound or a lose ball they just beat us to every basketball that was out there tonight."

In their four postseason wins, the Trojans have been outstanding from the foul line as they hit 66-of-80 attempts.

They have also owned the fourth quarter having outscored their four victims 80-42.

Only Breese Central and Seneca (with 29) have more wins that Webber Township.

"We will have our hands full with the (Lucas) O'Rear kid but I think we can cause some matchup problems for them, too," said Coach Gross, who was named the ABV 'Deep South' Coach of the Year.