Photo by Diane Cox
Roxana junior Chance Foss leaps over East Alton-Wood River senior Zach Butkovich during overtime between the two teams Dec. 12 at Roxana’s Milazzo Gymnasium.
There’s nothing like a rivalry game to stir a good neighborhood feud. Just ask the Roxana Shells and the East Alton-Wood River Oilers.
The Shells and Oilers went at it in typical archrival fashion last Friday at Larry Milazzo Gym in Roxana. The Shells scored a 59-57 overtime victory, their second narrow win over the Oilers this season. Roxana also prevailed 64-55 in the Metro East Lutheran Thanksgiving Tournament.
“It’s still a big deal in basketball,” Shells’ coach Mark Briggs said of the latest battle for local bragging rights. “Either team could have taken it.”
Roxana has defeated EA-WR the last 11 times, dating to the 2009-10 season when the Oilers won 21 games.
“I think the last time we beat them was when Hunter Reine was a freshman,” Oilers’ third-year coach Kyle Duncan said. Reine is a 6-foot-9 sophomore at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.
Duncan’s Oilers are 0-6 against the Shells and there’s no telling if the rivals could meet again this season. There’s a possibility of clashing at the Litchfield Tournament or in postseason play.
“We’ve played them tough — twice,” Duncan said. “Mike Stimac got hurt before we played them the first time and he was about 60 percent healthy for Friday’s game.”
Stimac, a 6-foot-3 senior center, and Blake Marks, a 6-1 junior guard, appear to be the pivotal players in the Oilers’ drive for a successful season. EA-WR was 11-18 in both 2012-13 and 2013-14.
Marks is averaging more than 22 points per game thus far and spurring the attack for the 2-5 Oilers. Stimac is dealing with an injured left knee that includes a torn meniscus.
“Mike is starting to feel more comfortable on it. He’s playing through the pain, and he will have surgery at the end of the year,” Duncan said.
Stimac, who has played in two games so far this season, averaged 18.7 ppg. and 12.9 rebounds a game last year.
As for Marks — well, he’s on fire.
“He’s naturally strong, he works hard and he’s tough,” Duncan said. “He has become a consistent scorer and had seven 3-pointers in one game.”
Dillon Buck, Nic Daily and Zac Butkovich complement Marks and Stimac in the starting lineup.
“We hope to get a few more wins under our belts and get the train moving,” Duncan said. “We have a chance to do well in the Carlinville (Holiday) Tournament.”
It’s a 6-2 start for Roxana, which defeated Pana 54-44 in its South Central Conference opener Saturday. The Shells were at Litchfield on Tuesday in another SCC contest. Then they travel to Civic Memorial on Friday for another nonconference backyard skirmish.
“We’re extremely pleased with the progress we’ve made,” Briggs said. “We had to come back twice last week to win both games and that was good to see.”
He added, “Our kids battle and fight and we do have more skilled players than we have had in the past. This group is a little different in that we don’t have the size we’ve had in the past.
“But we can get up and down the floor and most of the scoring comes from our transition game.”
Trace Gentry, a 6-2 sharpshooter, is averaging a team-high 17.3 points in guiding the Shells. Yet by no means is he their only point producer.
Zach Golenor (11.3), 6-4 freshman Jordan Hawkins (8.6), Randy Skiff (8.3) and Chance Foss (8.1) are supplying nice touches, Briggs noted.
“Trace is as good as advertised. He can shoot and handle the ball,” Briggs said. “And Randy Skiff is giving everything he has. He’s our spark plug and does the little things that we need to do to win.
“He’s a smart player, he hustles and he has to do a lot of the dirty work,” Briggs added of the 5-10 senior.