Photo by Bill Roseberry
Marquette Catholic head coach Steve Medford talks to players Reagan Snider (23) and Jacob Fischer (24) on the sidelines early in the season. The Explorers are the No. 1 seed in the Class 3A Jersey Regional beginning next week.
Call it Anybody’s Regional.
Every team appears to have a realistic chance to win the Class 3A Jersey Boys’ Basketball Regional that begins Monday at Havens Gym. The five-team field features Civic Memorial, Highland, Triad, host Jersey and top-seeded Marquette Catholic.
“The top four seeds all had a good argument to be the No. 1 seed,” CM coach Doug Carey said.
Explorers’ coach Steve Medford concurred.
“It’s wide open and going to be a very difficult regional,” he said. “Any of the five teams feel they can win it.”
Marquette prevailed in last year’s Triad Regional and will begin its title defense at 6 p.m. Wednesday against the Jersey-Triad winner. The Panthers and Knights clash at 7 p.m. Monday in the regional opener.
Second-seeded Highland faces No. 3 CM at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the second semifinal. The championship game is set for 7 p.m. Friday, with the winner advancing to the Carbondale Sectional.
Alton, sporting a 22-4 record heading into the final week of the regular season, will carry the top ranking into next week’s Class 4A Edwardsville Regional. The Tigers are seeded second, followed by Quincy and Granite City.
Semifinal games are slated for 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Alton meets Granite City in the first one and Edwardsville plays Quincy in the second one. The championship contest runs at 7 p.m. Friday, with the survivor going to the Pekin Sectional.
Here’s a glance at both regionals:
Junior guard Shandon Boone, averaging 17.8 points per game, paces 18-10 Marquette, which has thrived despite the graduation of top gun Deion Lavender. He’s at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The 5-8 Boone is a transfer from CBC in St. Louis.
“He has been able to make big plays and big shots,” Medford said. “Shandon has been a great player for us.”
Medford added: “I’m very happy with the way we’ve been playing. Everybody on the team knows their role and they are playing it. The kids have bought into defending and rebounding. They have done the little things and we are close to 20 wins. That’s a remarkable accomplishment.”
The Explorers have done that even though they went 0-5 in the Jersey Tournament. Marquette also took third in the Metro East Lutheran Tournament and was fourth at Freeburg. Marquette won the Prairie State Conference championship.
CM, 17-10 going into its final game of the regular season, will shoot for second place in the Mississippi Valley Conference. Highland won the league championship Tuesday. The Eagles, who finished second in the season-opening Stove Top Stuffing Tournament, were third at Freeburg and Litchfield. Thus, nine of their wins have come from those three tourneys.
Jakob Lowrance, a 6-8 senior center going to Central Missouri State in Warrensburg, serves as CM’s top gun. He’s averaging 19.5 points and 10 rebounds a game. Freshman Jaquan Adams, elevated to the starting lineup about midway through the season, is next at 7.9 ppg.
“The biggest thing for us is taking care of the ball,” Carey said. “We are doing that now, but we weren’t early in the season.”
Once 3-4, the Eagles have won 14 of their last 19 games. They divided two games with Jersey and a pair with Marquette.
Carey said, “Any of the top four seeds could have been seeded first through fourth. And Triad, the No. 5 seed, is capable of beating anybody.”
The Explorers secured the No. 1 seed thanks to a home victory over Highland. The Bulldogs have beaten both CM and Jersey.
“If we don’t play Highland or lose that game to them, we are the No. 4 regional seed,” Medford said.
The Redbirds, spurred by center Bryan Hudson, guard/forward Carlos Anderson and guard Darrius Edwards, have high hopes at Lucco-Jackson Gym. They lost to host Quincy in the regional semifinals last season, when Edwardsville emerged with the title.
“We’re looking to take the next step and win the regional,” said Anderson, a senior bound for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. “We want to go to state.”
Alton owns two wins over Granite City, which recorded its first Southwestern Conference victory in more than two years on Feb. 20 by defeating Belleville East. The Redbirds have defeated the Warriors 64-49 and 65-56.
In addition, the Birds have defeated Edwardsville twice, 63-52 and 65-32. They also own a win at Quincy. Edwardsville has defeated Granite City twice.
The regional champ meets the Belleville West Regional winner in a semifinal of the Pekin Sectional at Belleville East on Tuesday, March 10. East St. Louis is seeded first at Belleville West, followed by O’Fallon, Collinsville, West and East. Regional titleists at Moline and Bradley-Bourbonnais also feed into the Pekin Sectional.
Super-sectionals in both classes are scheduled for Tuesday, March 17.
The Class 3A-4A state finals follow March 20-21 at Carver Arena in Peoria.