Comets shooting for more county success

Comets shooting for more county success

They're simply producing

Early in the season, St. Thomas More senior guard Riley Morris displayed his penchant for big scoring performances.

That hasn't changed. He's still regularly exceeding 20 points a night for the Sabers.

Cases like Morris' have been few and far between where local boys' programs are concerned, though. Balance has been the code word for many teams.

You can find that throughout the area girls' scene, too. But there are some youngsters who are roaring along when it comes to putting the ball through the cylinder — and it's guaranteeing them nightly top scoring honors.

Three girls who especially stand out are all juniors: Unity's Elyce Knudsen, Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin's Emily Meidel and Paxton-Buckley-Loda's Mackenzie Bruns.

Highlighting these girls isn't meant to take away from their teammates. Basketball is never a one-person game.

But looking at them in particular because each player was the only person on her squad averaging more than 10 points a game while also netting upward of 15 a night.

Knudsen broke out as a sophomore and continues to shine presently. She was averaging 17.5 points — fifth-best locally — on the back of 27 three-pointers entering the week. She also pulls down about six rebounds per game to go with 2.1 assists and 4.1 steals.

Meidel was a shade below Knudsen at 17.2 points per tilt, but gets a little more traction in the paint with 6.3 boards per game. She adds three assists and 4.1 steals nightly.

Bruns might not be as heralded, but her numbers are nothing to sneeze at — 15.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game for the Panthers.

If you're at a game and one of these girls walks onto the hardwood, be ready to be dazzled.

Storied event set to begin

DANVILLE — The Vermilion County basketball tournament is one of the more widely recognized annual events in the area.

That's so much the case that almost a year to this day, I wrote a column sharing the stories of some folks with longstanding ties to the event.

It's time to get ready for another batch of games at David S. Palmer Arena in Danville, kicking off Saturday morning and running through the following Saturday, Jan. 19.

Your defending titlists are both Oakwood programs, with the Comet girls having won two straight and the Comet boys winning their first title last year since 2004.

It's safe to say first-year Oakwood girls' coach Stephanie Marsh and her Comets have a fair shot at snagging a third consecutive championship, sitting at 16-5 right now. But Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin will have something to say about that, resting at 18-4 despite losing to Oakwood in December.

On the boys' side, things aren't so clear.

None of the involved teams has as impressive a ledger as those aforementioned girls' groups. Both BHRA and Oakwood are 10-7, Hoopeston Area is 10-8 and Salt Fork is 9-6. This is the definition of anyone's tournament.

Palmer Arena is a fun place to take in this showcase as well. It's a bigger arena, but it still gets plenty loud. The hockey end boards that are left standing around the court provide a nice touch.

The tournament tips off Saturday with six games — three girls and three boys — before three pool-play games on Monday and Wednesday nights for the girls, while three boys' pool-play games take place Tuesday and Thursday nights.

That all leads up to next Friday night and next Saturday night, with the girls' title game at 8 p.m. on Jan. 18 and the boys' title game tipping off at 8 p.m. on Jan. 19.

Panthers coach offers friendly reminder

CHAMPAIGN — The weekly 'Dick Van Dyke Appliance World Prep Basketball Confidential' radio show that airs every Monday from 6-7 p.m. on WDWS 1400-AM, WHMS 97.5-FM and Facebook Live offers me ample valuable opportunities.

I get to learn more about local programs, talk with individuals I otherwise haven't yet and keep fans abreast of what our area teams are doing on the hardwood.

It also provides moments like the one I experienced this week, with LeRoy boys' coach Mark Edmundson on the show.

I'm not bringing this up to call out Edmundson in any way. On the contrary, I found it worth a laugh and very useful in the long run.

One of my questions for Edmundson centered around his Panthers' recent record of success. I had his program listed for one loss in its last eight games at that point.

After I'd completed my query, Edmundson was quick to point out we had transposed the lone losing score.

While a brief embarrassment for me — no one likes to be wrong in their line of work — at least Edmundson didn't go along letting me believe something untrue. Now, I have an accurate record for his team, which is led by senior guard Nick Perry, the lone remaining contributor from the 2016 Class 1A state champions.

LeRoy saw its eight-game winning streak end with a 72-66 loss at Tremont on Tuesday night, but the Panthers are still a respectable 9-4 on the season, including 6-1 in Heart of Illinois Conference play, heading into today's 7 p.m. home game against Blue Ridge. And before long, LeRoy will tip off its stay at the McLean County/HOIC Tournament that starts on Jan. 19.

"The conference tournament is a big deal around this area, but even more important to me, our conference really prepares us for the postseason," Edmundson said. "It makes our regionals look very winnable, and the sectionals possible. The strength of our conference is not fun during the year, but it helps us in the postseason."