On Friday, the IHSA announces its pairings for Class 1A and 2A boys basketball’s postseason. The Yankees and Red Sox of Southern Illinois – a.k.a. Pinckneyville and Nashville – are headed for separate regional brackets.
But one will likely get a top seed and a potentially easier path to the Hamilton County Sectional through the Red Bud Regional, while the other faces the real possibility of having to win a de facto road game in a regional final at Murphysboro.
And how that gets decided is anyone’s guess between now and Friday. The Panthers and Hornets each possess sterling records at 24-3 and 23-5, respectively, against good schedules. Both own multiple in-season tournament titles, and they have been regulars in the Associated Press’ Top 10 poll this year.
But only one can get the overall top seed in Sub-Sectional A. Only one can dodge a regional championship game at Murphysboro against a Red Devil team with loads of experience and the knowledge of what it takes to play for a title. Or have you already forgotten about their football team reaching the 4A finals in November?
Regardless of who emerges from a regional, one thing is for certain in the 2A ranks: You’ll have to earn any championship this year. With the likes of Massac County, Benton, Carterville and Freeburg dropping down from 3A, the competition is stiffer than Jon Koncak.
And to win a Super to earn the right to visit Peoria in mid-March, it’s likely you’ll have to get through Mater Dei. Les Winkeler’s alma mater is presently ranked No. 2 in 2A and sure passed this columnist’s eye test earlier this month with a neutral-court spanking of a solid Marion team.
In 1A, the regionals at Cobden and Crab Orchard could be more rugged than a dirt road on the side of a mountain. Imagine the possibility of a Goreville-Cobden championship game on the Appleknockers’ court, or think about a dangerous Cairo team going somewhere like Crab Orchard to spoil what’s been a nice year for the high-scoring Trojans.
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That sub-sectional feeds into the NCOE Sectional, where it’s likely that Woodlawn and its brilliant guard, Blake McKay, will be around. Remember that McKay and the Cardinals rallied for a win two Saturdays ago over Goreville.
So a lot of folks are girding for Valentine’s Day, and not just because they need to play nice for their sweeties. Some fan bases might want to get the IHSA roses and Whitman Samplers, other will feel like they broke their hearts.
Either way, the answers will all come out in the wash – and on the court.
At its monthly board of directors’ meeting on Monday, the organization announced it will keep the individual state wrestling tournament at the University of Illinois through 2025, reaching terms on a five-year agreement.
The event has been in Champaign since 1967, marking the longest active hosting streak for any IHSA championship. It will be held there for the 54th time next week.
In other tidbits, the board made a couple of minor changes to golf. The state tournament will move up a week in hopes of playing in warmer weather, and 16 more individuals will make the cut after the first day. The cut line last year was at 24 and ties.
The board also eliminated the rule requiring teams play eight games to qualify for the State Series in football.
Bucky Dent covers prep sports for the Southern Illinoisan and also votes on the Wooden Award. Contact him at 618-351-5086 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.