The Roxana Shells won’t forget the 2014-15 boys’ basketball season anytime soon.
Their run to the Class 2A Southwestern Regional championship was full of everything a fan could want — overtime games, dramatic shots and, most of all, victories.
They bottled that energy and swagger and carried it into the East Alton-Wood River Sectional semifinals on March 4, racing out to a 17-7 lead against Pinckneyville. Ultimately the Shells ran out of gas, losing 61-44, but they made a valiant effort, cutting it to one point twice in the third quarter, before the Panthers marched on a 13-1 run to put the game away.
On paper it may not look like much. Roxana was just 16-16 on the season, went 1-3 in the Duster Thomas Hoops Classic in Pinckneyville over Christmas, went 1-3 in the Litchfield Invitational and were 4-1 at the Metro East Lutheran Turkey Tip-off, good for third there.
What matters, though, is what the season looked like as the calendar turned from regular season to postseason.
Chance Foss’ heroics in the regional semifinals led to a 57-47 win in OT over Gillespie. He had a basket late to tie it and then scored seven points in the extra frame to help secure the victory. Trace Gentry poured in a game-high 24 points in the win.
In the finals against highly favored Southwestern, it was Foss leading the scoring attack. He scored a game-high 16 points, but it was teammate Blake Vandiver providing the heroics this time.
Vandiver nailed a 35-foot Hail Mary shot just before the buzzer in OT, helping seal the improbable 56-53 victory for the Shells.
It marked the fifth regional title in Roxana history and the third in three years. Head coach Mark Briggs is exceptionally excited for this one because he has practically everyone returning. Only starter Randy Skiff and bench player Shawn Porter graduate from this year’s squad, so the future is bright for the Shells.
“It’s been a great team effort,” Briggs said following the loss to Pinckneyville. “Our team chemistry has been great and we have all these kids back next year.”
Foss, Gentry and Vandiver have a common theme. They also all played together on the Roxana football squad in the fall that finished 8-3, made the playoffs and won a playoff game. It was the first playoff berth and victory for the Shells’ football program since 2003.
Trey Kelly, Cody McMillen, Porter, Jordan Hawkins, Zachary Golenor and Luke Fisher also doubled up on the basketball team and the football team.
Maybe a trend of success is brewing in Roxana. After all, it hasn’t been too shabby so far in ‘14-15. Outside of football and boys’ basketball, Dalton Brito and James Henseler won state medals in wrestling and Jarod Foiles finished a win short. Both Henseler and Foiles will return to the Shells next year. You can’t forget that senior Maddy Sheraka became the all-time leading scorer in girls’ basketball, either.
I guess we will see what the spring has in store in Roxana, but if it’s anything like the fall or the winter, it will be one to remember.