Jan. 25 Prep Sports Chat

Jan. 25 Prep Sports Chat

Thursday, January 25, 2018 - 12:30pm

Every week, prep sports coordinator Colin Likas answers your burning questions about the local high school scene. Submit them anytime ahead of 12:30 p.m. Thursday,

Colin Likas wrote on January 25, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Good afternoon, prep sports fans. Time for another chat to discuss the east central Illinois high school athletics scene.

Several conference basketball tournaments were decided last weekend, while we're getting awfully close to the girls' basketball and wrestling postseasons. In fact, the girls' hoops playoff seeds will be released later today.

I also witnessed my first swimming and diving meet in person Tuesday, heading to the Twin City Meet at Unit 4 Pool. The coaches and athletes from Centennial, Champaign Central and Urbana could not have been more welcoming and accommodating.

We've got some fun stuff coming up this weekend as well, including Danville athlete Caleb Griffin's college decision Friday and a girls' basketball showdown between Monticello and Schlarman on Saturday.

With all that said, let's get to some questions.

Anonymous Dan wrote on January 25, 2018 at 12:01 pm

What area girls' hoops teams might be able to make a run to Redbird Arena next month? How do you see the regional seeds playing out when the small-school pairings are revealed this week?

Colin Likas wrote on January 25, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Thanks for the question, Anonymous Dan.

This is a fun thing to consider, as we have so many teams in our coverage area that we're almost bound to see at least one qualify for the state semifinals. With the seedings due out around 4 p.m. today, we should gain a little clearer picture of how things could pan out for local teams.

But I'll do my best to offer some guesses ahead of time. My first team to watch in this regard would be Schlarman. Hard not to pick the Hilltoppers as a possible Class 1A state contender, considering their only loss so far is to the reigning 1A state titlist, Annawan.

Schlarman has a serious shot at making the state semifinals and finals regardless of the draw. Coach Keith Peoples has been challenging his girls with Class 3A and 4A competition, as well as some great 1A and 2A foes. Monticello falls into the latter category Saturday.

Only a couple things can stop the Hilltoppers right now, in my mind: 1) a really hot team and 2) themselves. Seeing Schlarman play Annawan in person, I think the Hilltoppers can defeat the Bravettes. But I've also seen Schlarman beat itself throughout the season while trying to adjust to a college-style offense.

Next on my list would be Tri-County, Oakwood and Monticello.

The Titans, like the Hilltoppers, have set up some tough competition throughout the year to bulk up for the 1A playoffs. However, unlike Schlarman, Tri-County struggled against some of those opponents. Still, the Titans are proving to be among the best in 1A, so a good draw could send them soaring.

The Comets aren't just defined by super-sophomore Katelyn Young, who tallied her 1,000th career point Wednesday. They have a bevy of scoring options inside and out and can play within seemingly any type of opponent strategy. (Take BHRA's defensive stalemate efforts last week as an example).

Though the Sages have struggled of late, they're still an extremely dangerous team in 2A. With the scoring of Zanna Myers and Tatum McCall, as well as stifling defense, Monticello can hang with the best of them.

Should also mention Watseka, St. Joseph-Ogden, Tuscola and Danville. Each of these teams has some quaity victories, but also something to prove still. The postseason is a good time for that. I'm also really curious to see how St. Thomas More fares. The Sabers' 13-9 record is very deceiving and could well be near 20 wins under different circumstances.

Hoops fan wrote on January 25, 2018 at 12:01 pm

What kind of dent do you think the Champaign Central boys' basketball team can make in Class 3A? Their record isn't that great, but it seems like the Maroons have plenty of talent.

Colin Likas wrote on January 25, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Thanks for the question, Hoops fan.

I've said all season that coach Jeff Finke's team is our toughest to judge simply because of how difficult he schedules for the Maroons.

Let's start with the facts. Central has lost to just one Class 3A opponent this season. That'd be the reigning state champion, Morgan Park. The Maroons' other six losses are to 4A schools (Eisenhower, Bloomington and Belleville West twice) and out-of-state programs (Vashon and St. Mary's, both of Missouri).

So while Central's record is not great, it's also indicative of playing a wildly competitive schedule. I'm sure the Maroons could be 17-1 if they switched up their schedule (the Bloomington game would still be there). But that's not how Finke wants his team to operate.

There's no doubt the Maroons have talent. Grand Canyon signee Tim Finke can single-handedly take over a game. Fellow seniors A'Kieon Gill, Jonte Coleman and Jaden Aikens are all extremely talented in their own ways. Freshman Khailieo Terry is a terror at the rim.

So the mission for Central is to play to its ability level throughout the postseason. Such events as blowing a 10-point lead against St. Mary's won't cut it in the playoffs. Guys are also going to have to stay healthy (Tim Finke) and out of foul trouble (Terry), because while the Maroons have a talented bench, it's not the same as their starters.

I'd say regional and sectional titles are well within reach for the Maroons. After that, you're down to the best of the best. And in Class 3A, that's typically going to be a stout group. That's where Jeff Finke's tough scheduling could become a critical tool.

Colin Likas wrote on January 25, 2018 at 1:01 pm

I'm going to wrap up the chat for this week. Thanks again for the questions, and I hope to receive more moving forward.

Feel free to ask about anything going on in the local high school sports scene. I'm willing to go far and wide to dig up and answer and have some discussion about the topic.

Until next time, prep sports fans.