For the second playoff game in a row, the Edwardsville Tigers will be challenged by a small, lightning quick point guard capable of doing lots of damage at the offensive end of the court.
On Friday it was Rock Island guard C.J. Carr, who was hounded into a scoreless first half by Edwardsville's 6-foot-5 senior Tre' Harris before finishing with 10 points in the Tigers' dominant 71-45 victory.
But the challenge for Edwardsville (29-2) figures to be tougher against Marian Catholic (29-3) in the 7:30 p.m. Class 4A Normal Super-Sectional at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena,
Marian Catholic's top player is Tyler Ulis, a 5-8 bundle of electricity, energy and excitement considered one of the top junior recruits in the state.
"He does a lot for them," Edwardsville coach Mike Waldo said. "He can shoot well and penetrates well and passes well. He really makes them go, so trying to limit him is very important."
Ulis is averaging 21 points and 5 assists and as a three-year starter already has surpassed 1,500 points.
"He is a special player. He's fun to coach and fun to watch," said Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor, whose team has set a new school record for victories. "The nice thing about him is he shoots it well, handles it well and passes it well. He's comfortable in any part of the game.
"His decision-making is excellent and he's increased his range this year, so he becomes even more dangerous to a defender."
Harris again will draw the defensive assignment on the opposing team's top player. Edwardsville has won 12 straight, not allowing more than 45 points in its four playoff victories.
"Tre' has done an excellent job for us," Waldo said. "He's done an excellent job of taking on that role of trying to take away the other team's best player and his defense against Rock Island's (Carr) was a big key to that game.
"(Ulis) is going to be a tough assignment, but Tre' has worked hard at that job."
According to Taylor, Ulis already has scholarship offers from Iowa, Oregon State, DePaul, Colorado State and Illinois-Chicago. There is additional interest from Minnesota, Marquette, Michigan State, Tennessee and others.
"It is picking up quite a bit," Taylor said. "You just don't see many pure point guards any more. You see a lot of athletes out there, but he's just a pure point guard. He knows the game and understands the game --and he works to what the other team gives him."
Ulis had 25 points and hit 12-of-13 free throws Friday in the Spartans' 50-46 victory over Bloom Township that gave Marian Catholic its first sectional title.
"He started the year averaging about 27 for the first 10 or 12 games, and as we've gone on the other players have stepped up so it's become a little more balanced," Taylor said.
The Spartans also get good production from Terrone Parham (11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds per game), John Cohn (9 ppg) and 5-7 guard Ki-Jana Crawford, who is averaging 10 points over his last six games.
"They've got a very good mix of quick guards and big guys and two guys that shoot well," Waldo said of a Marian Catholic squad that has two wins over city rival Bloom Township this season and a one-point loss to Chicago power Benet Academy.
Bloom Township ended Edwardsville's season a year ago with a victory at the same super-sectional.
Taylor is extremely wary of Edwardsville's offensive arsenal, noting the 71-45 sectional championship win over Rock Island.
Edwardsville relies on 6-5 senior guard and Western Illinois recruit Garret Covington (18.2 ppg, 96 3-pointers), Harris (17.3 points, 9.3 rebounds per game), junior Armon Fletcher (10.1 points, 7.7 rebounds per game), junior point guard Shawn Roundtree (9.9 points, 9.3 assists per game) and senior Drew Curtis (5.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game).
"The thing that scares me the most is the way they shoot it," Taylor said. "If you're teaching shooting you could show clips of them shooting the ball. Every time they put it up you think it's going to go in.
"They can spread you out a little and hit the three, but also penetrate and kick it out a little."
Waldo believes that with so many players back from a super-sectional qualifier last season, the Tigers should be comfortable in their ISU surroundings.
"You've always got to feel happy and a little bit fortunate to still be playing at this time of the year," he said. "I think our guys will know what to expect and that will help."