Previewing the 2019 Macoupin County tourney
By Jackson Wilson
As the teams around the state prepare for their playoff runs in February, it is now time to crank the intensity up a notch. One of the oldest and most traditional weeks in Illinois high school sports is upon us. It is almost time for the 2019 Macoupin Basketball Tournament!
When it all comes down to it, seedings can be completely meaningless, especially in a competition that consists of so many classic rivalries and evenly matched teams. This year’s docket is jam-packed with these kinds of matchups.
1. North Mac Panthers – Coming off of last year’s tournament title, this team is back better and stronger than ever. They may not be the biggest team down low, but they are battle-tested and the only squad in the entire boys’ division that has a winning record (10-6). The Panthers are coming off a runner-up finish at the Waverly Holiday Tournament. Look for players like Sam Mount and Tanner Wilson to lead a three-point barrage against defenses who put a major emphasis on defending the dribble drive. North Mac has earned the only first round bye of the tournament and will take on either Gillespie or Carlinville in the semifinals.
2. Staunton Bulldogs – Don’t let this team’s 6-8 record fool you. Having a tough schedule can do wonders for any team in the long run. The Dogs have lost to teams like Williamsville, Waterloo, Carlyle and Calhoun – yet they have managed to stay near the .500 mark. This team will be a driving force on defense, especially with twin towers in Ethan Booth and Dylan Hemann patrolling the paint. Don’t sleep on Cylis Cox either. He just buried six three-pointers in last week’s 55-47 conference win over Carlinville.
3. Southwestern Piasa Birds – This team may not be as big of a contender as last year’s tournament runner-up, but it now has a promising sophomore star in Addis Moore as the new centerpiece of the offense. The experience may not be there, but the fight definitely is. This squad just took home fourth place at the Carlinville Holiday Tournament – upsetting East-Alton Wood River as a six seed and barely coming up short against top-seeded Litchfield in the third place game. This is another team that has the potential to prove doubters wrong.
4. Carlinville Cavaliers – This team has eight seniors and plenty of size, but it has been struggling to put the ball in the basket – mostly due to lack of fundamentals. Thus, a 4-11 record has plagued this program. With that being said, if these glaring issues get polished up, this will not be a fun team to defend – especially on the fast break. They have decent shooters in Michael Byots, Briley Roper and Jarrett Easterday. Will Walton and Logan Rosentreter are rebounding machines. Also, Collin Gibbel is starting to penetrate the basket better than he used to. A lot of these players were members of this school’s state-ranked signature football program, so they know what it takes to win.
5. Gillespie Miners – You never want to enter a tournament with a sour taste in your mouth, but the Miners have a chance to get redemption on the Cavaliers after a tough 55-53 loss in the Carlinville Holiday Tournament’s seventh place contest. For those who aren’t familiar with middle school hoops, the juniors of this team won a state title during their time as Gillespie Indians. Unfortunately, they no longer have the size advantage like they did at that age. Still, it doesn’t hurt to have that kind of championship intangible.
6. Bunker Hill Minutemen – Just like Staunton, this squad has had to go through some brutal matchups early in the season – losing 72-35 to Metro East Lutheran and 58-26 against Calhoun. Before the tournament, the Minutemen also have a date with the state contending Marquette Explorers in Alton. Bunker Hill has only won once in their first ten games, but several of those losses could’ve resulted in an opposite fate. Expect this team to potentially add to their win total, even if it is not in the opening round against Southwestern.
7. Mt. Olive Wildcats – With every negative, comes a positive. Mt. Olive is this year’s bottom seed but will have the privilege of hosting this year’s tournament. A winning tradition hasn’t become the norm, but there are still some nice talents budding beneath the ashes. Trent Markezich runs the offense very well for a freshman, Quintin Kosowki can put up points in a hurry and Ricky Naecker can use his length to provide some positive production on both ends of the court as well.
1. Carlinville Lady Cavaliers – A team doesn’t win 11 straight games on accident. This is one of the deepest rosters that Carlinville has ever had. All are equally dangerous, but some players to watch out for from each grade level include Rachel Olroyd (senior), Corinne Stewart (junior), Gracie Reels (sophomore) and Jill Stayton (freshman).These girls play lockdown defense, run a lethal fastbreak and do a superb job when crashing the boards. This squad also has the potential of heating up from long range at any given moment.
2. Southwestern Lady Birds – After last year’s stunning run to their 17th county tournament title, the defending champions are back to defend the throne. They currently hold a solid 14-5 record and barely fell short at top-seeded Carlinville 36-31 last week. The Lady Birds will also have 2018 Macoupin County all-tournament team members Molly Novack and Bailey Weible returning as seniors. If both teams can handle their business and get into the title game, we should be in for a intense rematch.
3. Staunton-Mt. Olive Lady Bulldogs – In last year’s tournament, Staunton was seeded second only to walk away with an 0-3 record for the week. It’s one thing to be good, but when you’re hot, you’re hot. This group of girls is under both categories right now. Despite being seeded below them, Staunton defeated both Southwestern and Carlinville this year. Plus, the Dogs have something that other teams in this county don’t have – a 6’2” center in Abby Scanzoni playing alongside feisty senior guard Savannah Bruhn and shooting sniper Rebecca Caldieraro. This team has massive potential in terms of making this a redemption tour.
4. Gillespie Lady Miners – Since their 1-6 start to the season, the Lady Miners have transformed into a completely different animal. They have won eight of their last 14 contests and nearly defeated state-ranked Hillsboro – the team that had just carved them up 76-43 at the Terry Todt shootout a month prior. The Miners also took home third place at the Carlinville Holiday Tournament, with the exception of a narrow 46-38 loss to Staunton. Gillespie has yet to face Carlinville this season, but they will get that opportunity if they can get past North Mac in the quarterfinal. Beware of holiday all-tournament team member Rylee Jarman but don’t forget about Emily Schmidt. She scored 21 points in Gillespie’s third place win over Waverly-South County at the Carlinville Holiday Tournament on Dec. 29.
5. North Mac Lady Panthers – Aside from Claire Harvey, every player on this team will be returning next season. The overall youth and lack of size has proven to be a major downfall for these girls. They will have to play their best game of the season if they want to upset Gillespie. Allie Kallenbach’s leadership and presence on the defensive end will be absolutely crucial for the struggling Panthers throughout this tournament.
6. Bunker Hill Minutemaids – This team only has nine players, so it is much easier for fatigue to take its toll early on in a game. The Minutemaids will have their hands full in the opening round against a locked and loaded Staunton squad.
*All results as of January 8