Pictured is the ‘15-16 EA-WR varsity boys’ basketball team. In front from left to right are: Joel Biesk, Blake Marks, Lucas Wells, Cameron Foust, Hunter O’Brien and Cody Blacklock. In the back row from left to right are: Justin Englar, Zaide Wilson, Lukas Westbrook, Hunter Hall, Darrin Gayden, Zane Butkovich, Zachary Wells and Zachary Womack.
The East-Alton Wood River Oiler boys' basketball team is in for a year of learning and growing, according to head coach Kyle Duncan.
The Oilers finished last year with a 12-18 mark, losing to Southwestern 73-48 to end their season in the second round of the Class 2A Southwestern Regional.
“I thought that we finished last year pretty strong, we had a lot of injuries,” Duncan said. “This will be a rebuilding year, we have a lot of youth. But we also have a very quality player in Blake Marks. However, he has a lot of young kids around him.”
Marks, a senior shooting guard, averaged 19 points a game last year. Like Duncan, Marks talked of the challenges of youth and inexperience.
“With losing four starters from last year, it’s a rebuilding process,” Marks said. “We’re trying to get back on top with working really hard in every practice and running the right plays. We just expect a great outcome for this season.”
Forwards Luke Wells, Cody Blacklock and Hunter O'Brien are the other three seniors on East-Alton Wood River’s roster. Duncan described Wells and Blacklock as role players last year with some varsity experience.
Junior Joel Biesk and sophomores Lukas Westbrook and Hunter Hall will play in the post this year. Sophomore Justin Englar will see action at point guard. The sophomore already fronted one offense this year, as he played quarterback on the football team in the fall. Not expecting his experience and athleticism to do it all, Duncan said Englar’s ready to put a lot of hard work in in practices to be a quality point guard.
“He’s a very athletic and smart kid,” Duncan said of Englar. “As a point guard, he makes good decisions. Plus, as a sophomore he has a lot of room to grow.”
Sophomores Zach Wells, Zaide Wilson and Zach Womack and junior Zane Butkovich will all log playing time in the 2015-2016 campaign. Duncan described the work rate in early practices as satisfactory.
“I think so far it’s going great,” Duncan said. “The kids are working hard in practice. They’re showing up every day. We’re getting ready for Litchfield.”
The Oilers start their season against Litchfield in the Metro East Lutheran Thanksgiving Tournament in Edwardsville at 7 p.m. on Monday.
“I think we have a pretty good shot,” Duncan said on the tournament. “We weren’t seeded very high and I think that’s because of our youth. I think we can compete with Litchfield and Freeburg is a tough opponent, they’re the fourth seed.”
The Oilers are cast in the three-team Pool E with the Purple Panthers and the Midgets in the 18-team tournament. They face Freeburg at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. A bracketed tournament continues on Nov. 27 and 28.
EA-WR’s senior losses accounted for some of the team’s shooting.
“We lost a lot of seniors last year that played a lot of minutes and shot the ball really well,” Duncan said. “Blake Marks is one of the best shooters around, for the area. Aside from that, it’s up to the youth in the sophomore class to knock down shots.”
But Duncan said this year’s edition of the Oilers will make defense a bedrock of their plan.
“Basically, it’s key to what we’ll do this year,” he said. “We’ll have to slow people down and make stops on defense. Truthfully, we haven’t even worked on offense one time, it’s all defense.”
Duncan said the Oilers will play both zone and man-to-man defenses.
This year marks the third year EA-WR has competed in the Prairie State Conference and the school is still looking for its first PSC championship in basketball.
“Prairie State is a tough conference in basketball,” Duncan said. “Nokomis is pretty tough as well as Marquette Catholic and Metro East Lutheran and there’s also Mount Olive and Bunker Hill. It’s a good conference to be in, but it’s tough day in and day out.”
NAME HT POS
Cody Blacklock 5-9 G
Blake Marks 6-1 G
Hunter O'Brien 6-0 F
Luke Wells 5-10 F
Joel Biesk 6-3 C
Zane Butkovich 5-8 G
Justin Englar 5-8 G
Hunter Hall 6-4 F
Zach Wells 5-10 F
Lukas Westbrook 6-0 F
Zaide Wilson 5-7 G
Zach Womack 5-9 F