With 2014 squarely in the rearview mirror, it’s time to get optimistic about 2015.
Many of the Greater Alton sports programs are fresh off holiday tournaments to close out ‘14 and ready for the next chapter with the new calendar year. Unfortunately, with early deadlines for the holidays, outcomes were not determined in the tournaments by press time.
Let’s cross our fingers for good stretch runs for our five schools in this new year.
Starting with boys’ basketball, the Alton Redbirds are looking for their first sniff at a Southwestern Conference title since sharing with East St. Louis in 2007. The Birds haven’t won it outright since 1980.
Led by the starting five of seniors Carlos Anderson, Darrius Edwards, Bryan Hudson, Isaiah Thurmond and sophomore Maurice Edwards, AHS is also eyeing its first regional crown since 2011.
The Redbirds still have Belleville East, Belleville West and Edwardsville that they haven’t faced yet on the SWC docket. They are 3-1 in conference action.
The Marquette Catholic Explorers are in the driver’s seat for another Prairie State Conference title, but head coach Steve Medford has emphasized the bigger picture all season. The Explorers want another Class 3A regional championship like last year.
Marquette is in the Jerseyville Regional in March and sharpshooter Shandon Boone already has hit last-second game-winners to beat host Jersey and Civic Memorial this season. Those two squads will look to be the Explorers’ biggest obstacles in the regional, which also welcomes Triad and Highland.
CM had some bad luck in the ‘14 portion of this season, dropping all four of its losses prior to the Columbia/Freeburg Holiday Tournament by three points or less. Led by 6-foot-8 Central Missouri recruit Jakob Lowrance, hopefully the Eagles’ luck will swing toward the good end in those close-range contests as we ring in 2015.
The Roxana Shells would love to get back to being regional champs like in 2012-13. They get to showcase their talents in the Litchfield Tournament beginning Jan. 17 and extending to Jan. 24 before ultimately ending up in the Class 2A Southwestern Regional with East Alton-Wood River, Southwestern, Gillespie, Dupo and Carlinville.
Led by senior Mike Stimac and junior Blake Marks, EA-WR is looking to get healthy and make a run at its first regional title since winning two in a row in 2001 and 2002 under Joe Parmentier. The Oilers will join Roxana and CM in the Litchfield Tournament beforehand.
On the girls’ side, the Eagles are making noise again after winning a sectional championship a year ago. With graduation losses, CM was thought to be down, but with sophomore Allie Troeckler leading a unit with a bunch of other underclass talent to boot, the Eagles are doing just fine. Troeckler already has a school-record 44-point performance under her belt and CM is still in the running for a Mississippi Valley Conference title. The Eagles shared the MVC with Highland last year and have already lost to the Bulldogs once this year for their lone league loss. They get Highland at home on Jan. 15 again.
The Eagles will be at the Jerseyville Regional with the host Panthers, Highland, Triad and Mater Dei later in the season.
Alton had to temper its expectations a little when Jordann Wilson suffered a torn ACL before the ‘14-15 season. The Redbirds had high hopes after a much-improved ‘13-14 campaign. Head coach Bobby Rickman loaded the schedule with challenges to make for a grueling road. Incarnate Word and Uconn-bound Napheesa Collier visit AHS on Jan. 29.
Wilson has an outside shot of rejoining the team late in the regular season to complement junior guard LaJarvia Brown in time for the Alton Regional with Edwardsville, Granite City, Pekin and Quincy.
Roxana, which had its season highlighted when Maddy Sheraka joined the 1,000-point club earlier in the season, will join EA-WR and Marquette along with Carlyle, Breese Central and Wesclin at the Class 2A Carlyle Regional. The Shells, Oilers and Explorers all wish to complete the season above .500 and push for a regional title.
In wrestling, Alton still holds out hope for a SWC crown. A loss to Granite City early on has the Birds at 2-1 in the SWC with undefeated Belleville West visiting on Thursday. They then welcome Edwardsville on Jan. 15 in another big showdown.
Individually, Phyllip (145) and Nicholas DeLoach (152) and Q’iante Wagner (160) all look to have good shots to get on the medal stand at state, which will be a goal.
Roxana doesn’t know if a repeat trip to the Class 1A dual state tournament will be possible, but it has state medal aspirations for Dalton Brito (126) and Luke Curtis (182) in particular.
CM’s Drake Boverie (132) and Brayton Williams (152), along with EA-WR’s Drew Sobol (106) and Zac Blasioli (160), also have great chances for individual state hardware.
Boys’ bowling will hit the lanes at Bowl Haven for the Alton Regional on Jan. 17 with Alton, EA-WR, CM and Roxana all in attendance. Those programs will look to keep improving until then.
The Redbirds have advanced to state seven out of the last 10 years and were seventh last year. They hope for more success in ‘15.
In girls’ bowling, the regionals don’t roll around until Feb. 7. Alton will house the regional at Bowl Haven there too, as CM, EA-WR and Roxana join the Birds. Alton won the regional last season and eventually qualified for state.
Finally, the hockey season is beginning to hit the home stretch. EA-WR, joined by individual players from Roxana, currently leads the 1A West Division, while Alton is second in the 2A North Division. CM and Marquette join EA-WR in the 1A West. Here’s hoping they can skate to a good finish and make pushes for a Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association title.
Edwardsville is the defending 2A champion, while Collinsville won 1A in ‘13-14.
Whatever happens, let’s just hope all the Greater Alton Area teams remain healthy and competitive in 2015. Good luck.