And, there were three: Central, M-S, Ridgeview alive in playoffs

And, there were three: Central, M-S, Ridgeview alive in playoffs

Only three area boys' basketball teams still have a chance to reach the state tournament. Preps coordinator Colin Likas breaks down the trio, with Champaign Central and Ridgeview tipping off tonight and Mahomet-Seymour doing so on Wednesday:

Class 3A Eisenhower Sectional semifinal

Champaign Central (20-8) vs. Springfield Lanphier (25-3) 7 p.m., today

WHO TO WATCH: For Champaign Central, it starts and ends with Tim Finke. The Grand Canyon signee is only five points away from reaching 2,000 for his career, and the 6-foot-7 wing averages 21.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists for the Maroons. But he didn't even lead Central in scoring during its 76-45 win against Effingham last Friday night in the Paris Regional championship game. That distinction fell to senior guard A'Kieon Gill. Though he often passes up shot attempts to feed any one of his talented teammates, Gill had no problem carrying the offensive load Friday to the tune of 24 points. Gill averages 4.9 assists per tilt in addition to 12.5 points, so he's a threat regardless of what he decides to do with the ball. ... Also critical to the Maroons' success this season are freshman Khailieo Terry and senior Jonte Coleman. The two average 12.8 and 11.6 points per contest, respectively. Terry provides another post presence for Central and has a magical on-court connection with his cousin, Gill. The two have come together for numerous alley-oop dunks. Coleman is the three-point specialist who will bury an opponent if ignored in favor of Finke, Gill and/or Terry, having made 72 from beyond the arc this season. ... For Lanphier, the offense runs through senior point guard Cardell McGee. The 6-foot athlete averages 16.1 points per event and is the only Lion to have started all 28 of the team's games. McGee also averages 3.5 steals and 5.3 rebounds. .... Senior James Jones (10.9 ppg) and junior Karl Wright (7.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 97 blocked shots) also provide important statistical lifts for the Associated Press' sixth-rated 3A squad.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: For Central, it's a chance to avenge some negative recent history against Lanphier. Last season, the Lions dumped the Maroons 82-59 in a sectional semifinal. Central's deficit to Lanphier in the sectional semis was 68-61 in 2016. This has to be personal for the elder Maroons and coach Jeff Finke, who helmed the club during both of those setbacks.

WHO WINS: Central 69, Lanphier 65. This is exactly the moment for which Jeff Finke created his squad's uber-difficult schedule. The Maroons haven't lost to a 3A opponent the entire campaign, and while Lanphier will be among Central's biggest challenges this season, it's not an insurmountable one. Tim Finke will overcome some extra attention from the Lions to pile up more than 20 points and key the Maroons to success.

Class 3A Eisenhower Sectional semifinal

Mahomet-Seymour (21-10) vs. Springfield Southeast (25-3), 7 p.m., Wednesday

WHO TO WATCH: There's a reason Cory Noe was able to tab 36 points in Friday's Mahomet-Seymour Regional final victory against Urbana. Well, at least one reason — the senior is really good at putting the ball through the twine. But another factor is his Bulldog teammates trust him implicitly, no matter how close or far he is to or from the rim. Noe connected from deep, midrange and via the layup against the Tigers, easily surpassing his 21.1 points per game production average. ... If an opposing team finds a way to limit Noe, it can be difficult for M-S to respond. This wasn't the case Friday, however. Urbana successfully prevented Noe from getting clean looks, as he had just two points through eight minutes. But fellow senior Noah Benedict potted a quick 10 in the same time frame, inching past his 9.7 ppg average. Other guys who can step up in a pinch on the offensive end are sophomore Grant Coleman (10.9 ppg) and senior Holt Campion (6.0 ppg). Benedict also hauls down 6.6 rebounds per affair, while Noe adds another 5.4 boards per contest. ... The main storyline for the Bulldogs is this: Beyond Noe's scoring, pretty much everything is a full team effort. And for a club that has seen just one athlete — Benedict — start all 31 games, that makes plenty of sense. ... For Southeast, three players tally at least 12 points per game, while five have knocked down 20 or more points at least once this campaign. ... The main catalyst is Anthony Fairlee, a junior who nets 15.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per tilt while shooting better than 56 percent from the field. Senior Kobe Medley (12.6 ppg) and junior Terrion Murdix (12.1 ppg) also are reliable scoring options.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: A chance for Bulldogs coach Chad Benedict's second sectional championship. Also, a bid for M-S to knock off the AP's second-ranked 3A program in Southeast. And on top of that, there's room for the Bulldogs to get a measure of revenge for a 2016 sectional semifinal loss to the Spartans, which arrived by a 59-46 score.

WHO WINS: Southeast 80, Mahomet-Seymour 71. The Bulldogs always step up their collective game during the biggest moments, but this is an opponent that will prove too much, even for Noe and his scoring prowess. Scott Burgess of the "Prep Hoops" website describes Southeast's Fairlee as "a complete freak athlete." Urbana had plenty of athleticism to challenge M-S, but Fairlee's talent is much more refined and, presently, more dangerous.


Ridgeview (28-4) vs. Annawan (29-3), 7 p.m., today

WHO TO WATCH: Justin Myers and Jacob Donaldson combine to form a potent attack for Ridgeview.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: The Mustangs' second-ever state semis qualification under coach Rodney Kellar.

WHO WINS: Ridgeview 55, Annawan 50. Either Myers or Donaldson will eclipse 25 points tonight.