Edwardsville hopes to make the most of its latest opportunity to advance to the Class 4A state tournament.
The Tigers (28-2) will play Rock Island (25-4) in the championship game of the Pekin Sectional at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
A win would set up a potential rematch against Bloom, which ended Edwardsville's season in the Normal Super-Sectional last year.
Bloom defeated Stagg 52-41 on Thursday to reach the title game of the Harvey Thornton Sectional against Marian Catholic.
Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo isn't looking that far ahead. He said the Rocks, who won the Western Big 6 Conference, pose a significant challenge with their emphasis on applying defensive pressure to create runout baskets.
"They run a lot of (fast) break," said Waldo, who compared the Rocks to East St. Louis and Cahokia. "They're athletic and they play a good man-to-man defense.
"The key to beating them will be trying to limit their fast-break opportunities. The way to you do that is limit your turnovers and try to get a good shot at the basket every trip down the floor."
Rock Island's leading scorer is 5-foot-7 junior C.J. Carr, who averages just under 13 points per game.
"No. 0 is the guard who really makes them go," Waldo said, referring to Carr. "He's a good penetrator and playmaker who can shoot. And they've got another guy (6-1 junior Trey Sigel) who's made a lot of 3s."
Sigel, who averages 8.9 points per game, is the son of Rock Island coach Thom Sigel, who led Rock Falls to the Class A state championship in 1999 when it defeated Gibault in the title game. Sigel also won a Class 3A state championship with Rock Island two years ago when the Rocks beat Centralia.
Brian Richardson, a 6-2 senior, Raahsaan Brown, a 6-3 senior, and Rob Johnson, a 6-4 senior, round out the Rocks' starting lineup. Richardson averages 10.3 points; Brown averages 9.5 points and 4.4 rebounds.
"They play a lot of guys; they go about eight or nine deep," Waldo said. "They've got a guy they bring off the bench that scored 24 points in a regional game, No. 15 (junior Keenan Shorter). It's hard to key on one certain player."
Edwardsville guards Shawn Roundtree and Drew Curtis are expected to be pressured all over the court.
"The key with that is staying composed," said Roundtree, a junior who scored 16 points in the Tigers' 59-38 victory over O'Fallon on Tuesday in the semifinals at Alton High School. "We'll be fine if we stick together. Everyone in that locker room is motivated to get to where we were last year --that super-sectional.
"But we need to get past that. That's the motivation. This is the postseason, so you can't hold anything back. All of us are (improving) our games this postseason, because it's crucial. If we don't, then we'll have to go home with regrets, and we don't want to do that."
Seniors Garret Covington (18.3 points, 94 3-pointers) and Tre' Harris (17.1 points, 60 3-pointers) are Edwardsville's leading scorers. Roundtree averages 10 points and 9.2 assists, while junior Armon Fletcher averages 9.9 points.
Edwardsville's only two losses are against Southwestern Conference champion Belleville East, which was eliminated in overtime by O'Fallon in the first round of the regional last week.
The Tigers beat SWC rivals Granite City and Alton to win the Granite City Regional before downing O'Fallon. Rock Island will be Edwardsville's first nonconference foe in the postseason.
"Any time you win a postseason game, that's really a good accomplishment," Waldo said. "Beating Rock Island and winning the sectional championship would be a great thing for our guys. We've got guys who have paid the price to have success, so I know our guys are looking forward to the game."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.