Photo by Diane Cox
Pictured is the 2014-15 Roxana boys' basketball team, (front row, from left) Chance Foss, Trey Kelly and Zach Golenor; (middle row) Randy Foss and Shawn Porter; and (back row, from left) Zach Haas, Cody McMillen, Trace Gentry and Jordan Hawkins.
ROXANA – It’s a different game for the Roxana boys’ basketball team this season.
The Shells may be looking for more of their points to come from long-distance range rather than around the hoop in 2014-15. Roxana will be guard-driven, 13th-year head coach Mark Briggs said.
“Our guard play will be better this season and we will need that because we won’t have as much size as we have had the past couple of seasons,” he said. “We’ll have to get up and down the floor more and play faster because other teams will bigger than us.
“And it’s the first time in eight years that we haven’t had a big kid. That has been a luxury for us.”
Roxana experienced major things with big guys near the basket the past two seasons. The Shells went 22-9 in 2012-13 when 6-foot-9 Hunter Reine served as their chief weapon. He’s now a sophomore at Southwestern Illinois Community College in Belleville.
Then Charlie Sheets and Matt Hartnett, a pair of 6-5 stalwarts, helped guide the Shells to a 25-8 record last season. It marked the second-most wins in school history. Only the 1950-51 squad, which went 26-3, won more games. So the Shells were a composite 47-17 the last two years.
“You can’t replace guys like Reine, Sheets and Hartnett,” Briggs said. “Last year, Charlie got us points inside and Matt was more of a defender who scored from the outside.”
Now, it appears that 6-2 junior Trace Gentry, who averaged nearly 10 points per game last season, will be the Shells’ tallest starter. Yet that could change if Briggs decides to go with some youth up front.
“We have an opportunity to play a little differently,” said Briggs, possessing a 167-189 record during his Roxana tenure. “The big thing with this team is that we have to get better defensively. We need to take pride in stops and get on glass. It’s all about playing hard and being aggressive.”
Gentry should key the offense.
“He’s a good shooter and very versatile,” Briggs said. “Trace has been productive for us and we will be looking to him more often this season.”
Randy Skiff, a 5-10 senior; Zach Golenor, a 6-foot sophomore; and Chance Foss, a 5-10 junior, are cast as guards.
“Randy is an intelligent kid and got some experience last year,” Briggs said. “Zach is long and lanky and very creative. He knows how to play the game. Chance was the quarterback in football and he sees the floor well. He’s a good defender and gritty kid.”
Blake Vandiver, a 5-8 junior guard and football standout, will be sidelined the first part of the season. He’s recovering from a knee injury he sustained in the grid playoff game against Carterville.
“We hope to have him back by Christmas,” Briggs said. “He has varsity experience and can get to the rim.”
Jordan Hawkins, a 6-4, 200-pound freshman, is pushing hard for a starting slot, Briggs said.
“He can do some nice things and eventually, we think he could be a clone of Sheets,” Briggs said.
Tom Porter, a 6-1 senior; Cody McMillen, a 6-5 sophomore and left-hander, along with 6-2 sophomore Zach Haas, figure to boost the Shells.
“We’re going to try and spread it out on offense and use our quickness,” Briggs said.
He will find out about the Shells soon enough. Roxana plays next week in the 18-team Metro East Lutheran Thanksgiving Tournament and is paired in the pool with rival East Alton-Wood River and Freeburg. The tourney, which features bracket competition following the pool play, runs through Saturday, Nov. 22.
“We want to sustain what we’ve started,” Briggs said, pointing to the Shells’ success the last two years. “We still have the same goals.”
ROXANA SHELLS BOYS’ BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
Nov. 24-26, 28-29 – at MELHS Tournament
Nov. 25 – vs. EA-WR, 8:30
Nov. 26 – vs. Freeburg, 8
Nov. 28-29 – Games TBA
Dec. 5 – at Carrollton, 7:30
Dec. 12 – vs. EA-WR, 7:30
Dec. 13 – vs. Pana*, 6
Dec. 16 – at Litchfield*, 7:30
Dec. 19 – at CM, 7:30
Dec. 26-27 – at Pinckneyville Tournament, TBA
Jan. 6 – vs. Lebanon, 7:30
Jan. 9 – vs. Greenville*, 7:30
Jan. 13 – at Madison, 7:30
Jan. 16 – vs. Staunton*, 7:30
Jan. 17, 19-24 – at Litchfield Tournament, TBA
Jan. 27 – at Metro East Lutheran, 7:30
Jan. 30 – at Carlinville*, 7:30
Feb. 3 – vs. Gillespie*, 7:30
Feb. 10 – at Southwestern*, 7:30
Feb. 13 — vs. Marquette, 7:30
Feb. 17 – at Vandalia*, 7:30
Feb. 20 – vs. Hillsboro*, 7:30
*Denotes conference games.
ROXANA SHELLS BOYS’ BASKETBALL ROSTER
Coach: Mark Briggs
Record last season: 25-8
Record at school: 167-189 (12 years)
Randy Skiff, 5-10 G
Tom Porter, 6-1 F
Trace Gentry, 6-2 F
Chance Foss, 5-10 G
Blake Vandiver, 5-8 G
Zach Golenor, 6-0 G
Cody McMillen, 6-5 C
Zach Haas, 6-2 F
Jordan Hawkins, 6-4 C
A 6-foot-2 junior, Gentry is the top returning scorer for Roxana from last year’s 25-8 squad. Gentry chipped in 9.5 ppg. in ‘13-14 and will be the focal point for the Shells offensively in ‘14-15.
One of two seniors on Roxana this season, Skiff is a 5-foot-10 guard who looks to be in the mix in the back court for a team void of the height it possessed last season. Skiff averaged 2.0 ppg. in 23 games a year ago.