A pair of Southern Illinois boys basketball teams have a chance to advance to the state tournament in Peoria when they compete in the SIU Class 1A and 2A Super-Sectional games at SIU Arena tonight.
Goreville takes on Central A&M in the 1A contest at 6 p.m. Pinckneyville battles Mount Carmel in the 2A game at around 7:30 p.m.
The Blackcats (22-11) defeated Sesser-Valier, 48-44, in the title game of the Hardin County Sectional.
"We feel like we've been playing better now than we had all year," said Goreville coach Todd Tripp. "When you've got Braden Webb on the floor, he's somebody who will get attention from everybody else. He can get to the rim, and he can hit a three. He has tried to do less for us lately, and that has translated into him doing more, if that makes sense. He's not forcing shots, and he's playing within the offense and giving the ball up."
Webb, who averages 19 points per game, is Goreville's all-time leading scorer. But Tanner Dunn, a forward, is enjoying a big postseason as well.
"Dunn had 18 rebounds in each game at the sectional," Tripp said. "We all know what Webb can do, but we all felt like if Tanner Dunn comes to play, it's going to be a difference-maker for us."
Central A&M (22-8), which is located in Moweaqua, defeated Nokomis, 69-56, in its sectional championship game. Griffin Andricks scored 23 points for the Raiders in that contest.
"They can all shoot it," Tripp said of Central A&M. "The coach's son (Jameson Smith) has over 80 threes on the year. They've got a point guard, a 6-4 sophomore (Connor Heaton), that can really play. He can jam it down your throat or step back and hit a three. They're a good team, and they like to get up and go. We will want to control the pace to our tempo, though."
Pinckneyville (30-3) looks to advance and hopefully win a state championship for the fourth time in school history. The Panthers rolled through the Wesclin Sectional in blowout fashion for both games.
The Panthers topped Wesclin, 56-37, in the finale.
"I just think the fact that we're still fresh has been big," said Pinckneyville coach Bob Waggoner. "Right now, some teams are running out of energy and losing their focus. You can kind of feel like the season is winding down. I felt like the final two weeks of the regular season and heading into the playoffs our energy level has increased. Our guys have really been waiting for the postseason."
Grant Jausel, J.C. Moll & Dawson Yates all average in double figures for the Panthers. Mount Carmel (20-11) defeated Teutopolis, 48-47, in the championship game of the Robinson Sectional.
The Golden Aces finished second in the state last season and return four starters from that squad, including 6-foot-8 forward Jackson Marcotte.
"They have experience and size and a lot of kids that made it to state last year," Waggoner said. "Their physicality is a huge challenge for us. They play in a very tough conference, so their level of play is very good."
Sometimes going from a high school gym to a Division I college arena can present problems for outside shooters because of the added depth perception. Waggoner doesn't believe that will be an issue.
"The rim is still 10 feet and the ball still weighs the same," Waggoner said. "I still think shooting is shooting. Our team is going to go in there confident, and we're going to be ready to play. Players can make shots in the wind outside if they're good players, and they can make them inside at the arena if given the opportunity. And we're just looking forward to the opportunity."
The Panthers got to enjoy a big crowd lining the streets of Pinckneyville when their bus drove through town after winning the sectional title.
"We just have the best fans in high school sports, and our people are loyal," Waggoner said. "They travel and they reward our kids and appreciate our effort. We're just appreciative of them. It was a great feeling when we went back and had a reception at the high school. It was a really good evening. Monday night, our gym was full watching practice. It has been an exciting time."
Tickets cost $10 and include admission to both games.
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