The madness begins in February
The Bureau Valley Storm get to start out at home. The Princeton Tigers hope to make it home. All of the six area boys’ basketball teams will tip off the postseason tournament trail this week.
Here’s a regional rundown:
At Bureau Valley: The 2A field at Manlius will be a familiar one with the field of six made up of all Three Rivers Conference teams. League leader Port Byron Riverdale (24-3, 12-1) is the top seed with the host Storm (11-12, 8-5) checking in as the second seed.
The action tips off Monday with No. 4 Kewanee (9-17, 4-9) facing No. 5 Morrison (6-20, 3-10) at 6 p.m. followed by No. 3 Prophetstown (16-12, 7-6) vs. No. 6 Fulton (6-20, 3-11).
After a day off, Riverdale awaits the Kewanee/Morrison winner with the Storm drawing the Prophetstown/Fulton winner. Both BV coach Eric Lawson and Riverdale counterpart Jason Hendrix are leery of having to play a TRAC opponent for the third time. The Rams would have to beat two teams for the third time to take the title.
“Never easy to play anybody three times ... especially a week after you play them last. Possibility with both Kewanee and BV,” Hendrix said. “Not sure how much seeds matter in this regional ... They will all be tough games and close.”
“We are certainly familiar with our upcoming opponent. I feel it is always tough to beat a team three times,” Lawson said. “We will certainly have to play well to have a chance to compete for a regional championship.”
With a win, the Storm would likely have to go through Riverdale, which swept its series over the Storm with a win Friday night in Port Byron. That will be the time Lawson hopes the third time does prove to be the charm.
At Putnam County: Princeton captured the regional championship in Spring Valley last year on an exciting full-court, last-second layup by Michael Murray to beat Fieldcrest 42-40. With the same field nearly intact moving south to Granville, this year’s regional week could prove to be just as exciting.
“This is obviously a loaded field. I think any of the seven teams could win it. I don’t ever remember a No. 7 team as good as Princeton in a small-school regional,” said PC coach Josh Nauman, whose Panthers finished as co-champs in the Tri-County Conference with Hall. “This regional should be extremely competitive with no easy games. Whichever team can keep their composure, execute and make plays will win it.”
“This is a very tough regional. I really think any of the seven teams could win it if they get hot,” PHS coach Jesse Brandt said.
Hall coach Mike Filippini said the regional winner will earn a sense of accomplishment.
“Three 20 wins teams and the seventh seed is at least .500 or better. Every game will be difficult. Fans will get their money’s worth watching this regional,” he said.
Fieldcrest brings in the No. 1 seed, as it did a year ago. The Knights will face strong challenges by No. 2 St. Bede and No. 3 Putnam County, which will play with all the comforts of home.
No. 4 Hall gets the regional underway at 7:30 p.m. Monday against No. 5 Eureka (10-14), a young outfit which starts just one senior. Their winner moves on to face Fieldcrest Wednesday.
“They play in a very good conference which is why their record is very misleading,” Filippini said of the Hornets. “We will have to play well to have a chance to win. I know our kids are ready because we have played so many close games all year. I hope that pays off for us.”
Princeton (13-14) is the three-time defending champion but finds itself in the underdog role. While Brandt says the Tigers haven’t discussed it much, they have added incentive to try to make it home for the Princeton Sectional.
“I hope the kids are excited to try and get four in a row and get a chance to come home for sectionals,” he said. “We have played better lately, but we have a tough road with St. Bede to start. Hopefully we can play well and give them a battle.”
At Sterling: LaMoille/Ohio meets the host Newman Comets, the second seed, at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Erie (22-7) is the No. 1 seed in the field of six.
At Streator: No. 2 Henry-Senachwine awaits No. 7 DePue at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Midland takes in the No. 1 seed.
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