PEORIA — Madison High School basketball coach Jaime Cotto loves to talk about his team's tough schedule, which he believes is a major reason the Trojans will be playing for a state title on Saturday.
"That's exactly how we feel," Cotto said after a 51-50 semifinal victory over (Lanark) Eastland. "We always end the season playing Centralia and T-town (Teutopolis). No disrespect to any other 1A teams, but you're not going to be better than T-town and you're not going to be better than Centralia."
Teutopolis reached a 2A super-sectional before losing to finalist Harrisburg, which will play for the state title Saturday night, while Centralia reached a 3A sectional before losing to East St. Louis.
In Friday's semifinal win, Madison limited Eastland standout Dalton Shaner to a 6-of-17 shooting performance. He still had 19 points, but was stripped of the ball while trying to get off a potential game-wining shot in the final seconds.
Ty Hartman gave the Trojans more trouble, scoring 18 points on seven-of-nine shooting. Madison's Deontay Starnes and Tyvon Powers combined to sink 10-of-14 shots and scored 29 points between them.
Scouting Illini Central
(Mason City) Illini Central got 25 points and 12 rebounds from senior center Duncan McClure in its 52-38 victory over Nokomis in the semifinals. The Cougars (27-5) led 31-16 at halftime and 43-26 heading into the fourth quarter.
Jared Entwistle, a first-team all-state pick averaging 15 points, had 12 points for Illini Central.
Illini Central finished third last season while Madison finished third in 2010, so both teams have plenty at stake.
The Cougars have gone 27-2 in their last 29 games after losing to Peoria Manual and Chicago Marshall to open the season. Their last lost was Jan. 15 against Riverton.
"They're the No. 1 team in the state for a reason," Cotto said. "They've got a lot of weapons."
Cotto was hoping for a Madison-Nokomis title game given those two teams' recent playoff history.
"We always have to go through them to get out of the sectional," said Cotto, whose Trojans lost to Nokomis in the sectional last season and defeated the Redskins in a double-overtime thriller in a 2010 sectional game. "It was an epic battle. It's still probably the best game that I've ever been a part of."
IBCA All-State Team
Madison senior Marquis Borney and Okawville senior Jeremy Weeke each were first-team all-state selections on the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association 1A-2A All-State Team released Friday at the state tourney.
Roxana senior Hunter Reine was the lone metro-east player earning second-team all-state, while Carlyle junior Matt Hilmes and Mater Dei senior Adam Etter each were third-team all-state.
Carlyle's Cody Huels and Central's Jacob Timmermann were fourth-team selections. Earning special mention were Matt Schreder and Wes Degener from Gibault, Nashville's Scott Brown and Royce Newman and Tyler Meyer from New Athens.
On the honorable mention list were Lebanon's Taylor Schmitt, Carlyle's John Becker, Okawville's Jacob Brammeier, Darin Winkleman from Steeleville and Sparta's Aaron Rushing.
Coach is back
Longtime Madison High basketball coach Larry Graham, who guided the Trojans to Class A state championships in 1977 and 1981, was at Carver Arena on Friday watching the Trojans.