The first boys’ and girls’ basketball rankings were released Wednesday, with many area teams making the cut. Here’s what prep sports coordinator Fred Kroner is thinking after studying the results:
Preseason and early-season polls — whatever the sport — are usually folly and based on how a particular program fared the previous year. That may well prove to be the case for the first Associated Press rankings. However, one point should not be disputed. The St. Thomas More program is good. Very good. Perhaps Final Four good.
The third-ranked Class 2A Sabers (6-1) have a strong nucleus of talented veterans, led by guards Jade Brinkoetter and Randa Harshbarger along with the Wallen sisters, Erica and Lexi.
In that mix is the addition of a 6-foot-4 freshman, Tori McCoy, who had Division I scholarship offers before she ever suited up for St. Thomas More. In her first two prep games, McCoy put up double-doubles.
The supporting cast includes Courtney Wax, one of the area’s most improved players, along with seniors Elayna Kramer and Hadley Murray.
Coach Chris Mennig doesn’t shy away from competition. In the Blue Star Tournament, Mennig scheduled his 2A Sabers against five 3A foes, including Centennial (a 48-43 loss), Champaign Central (a 67-29 win) and Springfield Southeast (a 65-63 win). If healthy, don’t be surprised to see this team make a deep postseason run.
The Centennial and Monticello teams are in excellent position. The Chargers in 3A and the Sages in 2A were on the cusp of the state’s Top 10. Each landed 11th in the first poll of statewide media.
It’s a good spot for both of the talented programs (which were rated first and second, respectively, in the initial News-Gazette area rankings last week) because it gives each room to grow. I believe they are Top 10 teams. Maybe this will fuel the drive to make a statement before the rankings start coming out weekly in early January.
A little surprised there wasn’t more support for the St. Joseph-Ogden team in Class 2A. The Spartans are highly skilled. Perhaps it’s better to be underrated now than to have a prominent target like any of the schools in the top three or four possess.
After a one-year bump into Class 2A, Salt Fork returns to 1A for first-year coach Andrew Johnson — a former Storm player — and his squad comes into the polls at No. 6. Class 1A appears overall to be wide open. Five schools received at least one first-place vote.
Arthur-Lovington (10th) is another nice choice in 1A after returning everyone from a sectional finals entry.