When trying to assess the strength of the Gibault Hawks and Madison Trojans, looking at teams they lost to says as much or more than the ones they have beaten.
The two metro-east hopefuls at the Class 1A Okawville Sectional have experienced squads hardened by extremely tough schedules.
Madison (17-10) is coming off its fourth straight regional championship and will face Edinburg in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Trojans were fifth in the final 1A state rankings, while Gibault (24-6) was sixth.
Gibault, which won its first regional title since 2001, is matched against New Berlin (15-16) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The only 1A and 2A losses Madison has came against 1A state-ranked sectional qualifier Mounds Meridian (Madison won the other meeting against them) and 2A state-ranked sectional qualifiers Robinson and Teutopolis.
"The rest have been out of state team or 3A teams," said Madison coach Jaime Cotto, whose schedule included Missouri state-ranked Madison Prep, 3A power Marquette (twice), Memphis University High and Centralia. "We play a very, very tough schedule and we've been injured a lot this year, more than I've ever seen out of a high school team."
Gibault's losses are equally telling since they came against Teutopolis, Madison, 3A Marquette (twice) and 2A sectional qualifier Roxana.
Gibault beat Mater Dei and Okawville twice and won on the road against sectional qualifier Nashville.
"It was a little different winning a regional now than say 15 years ago, when we expected to win it every year," Gibault coach Dennis Rueter said. "There was a little bit more celebration than there probably would have been back then."
Gibault vs. New Berlin
The New Berlin Pretzels (15-16) were seeded fourth at the Franklin Regional and still managed to claim their first regional title since 1995 as junior guard Eric Gustafson scored 27 points in a 58-47 victory over Springfield Lutheran.
The Pretzels are from the Sangamo Conference, which produced five regional champions. The conference also features No. 1 ranked Illini Central and regional winners Pleasant Plains, Riverton and North Mac.
Gustafson, a 5-11 guard, averages 17.3 points with 52 3-pointers. The Pretzels' other top scorers are 6-3 senior forward Zach Longtha (8.5 points, 6.9 rebounds per game) and 5-11 senior guard Brandin Minder (8.2 ppg, 57 3-pointers).
The Hawks have remained successful even after losing leading scorer Wes Degener to season-ending finger surgery. Scoring depth and different heroes every night have become a common theme.
"I think we've had seven different kids score 17 or 18 points," Rueter said. "There's been a lot of years where we have only one or two guys do that the whole season."
The top scorers are senior guard Matt Schreder (11.2 ppg, 58 3-pointers), junior guard Nick Row (9.3 ppg, 115 assists) and senior guard Brendan McFarland (8.4 ppg).
Rueter said Row has emerged as an offensive threat.
"Nick Row's playing awfully well," Rueter said. "He's good defensively, leads us in assists, is guarding the other team's best player in most games and also getting big rebounds."
Madison vs. Edinburg
Madison 6-2 senior guard Marquis Borney has become a major offensive force. Perhaps that's not overly surprising since his uncle is former Oklahoma State guard Maurice Baker, one of the best guards in Madison and recent metro-east history.
Borney is providing 23 points a game and "he's making a huge impact," Cotto said. "The kid has grown so much throughout the year. Before, with his length and his athleticism, we used to use him more as a defensive stopper and more of a role player."
That all changed this season and now Cotto said schools such as Illinois College, Greenville College and Southwestern Illinois College are all interested.
"He just came out of nowhere and I really think whoever gets him, it's a steal," Cotto said.
Edinburg upset No. 1 seed Raymond Lincolnwood 61-46 in the Lincolnwood Regional championship. The Wildcats claimed their first regional title since 2006 by hitting 24 of 38 free throws.
Madison would do well to avoid foul trouble against a Wildcats' team that was 26-of-34 from the line in a 69-63 regional win over South Fork.
Isaac Roethemeyer, a 6-4 junior averaging 20 points and seven rebounds, and Garrett Stephens (10 ppg) are Edinburg's top scorers.