Highland High School girls basketball coach Mike Arbuthnot is optimistic as his team prepares for the start of the Class 3A postseason next week.
Ranked third in the Class 3A state poll, the Bulldogs tied powerful Civic Memorial for the Mississippi Valley Conference championship and return several players from a team that finished third in the Class 3A state tournament a year ago.
Now, the trick is to advance. Arbuthnot knows from past experience that just because a team is a higher seed, it doesn’t guarantee a long postseason ride.
“It seems that every year there is a surprise team who gets to the sectional tournament. You have to be ready to play because on any given night anything can happen,” Arbuthnot said. “Two years ago we went to Jerseyville and lost to Civic Memorial in the title game when we were the higher seed, and then last year, if you remember, Triad was 27-3 going into the regional and lost in the first round.
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“We aren’t looking past anyone. We’re gonna go up and play either Freeburg or Mascoutah next Tuesday and play hard every minute of every quarter.”
The Class 3A and Class 4A regionals begin Monday at sites throughout the metro-east. Civic Memorial (26-2) is the top seed in Class 3A, and Edwardsville (25-0) is the top seed in Class 4A.
The Tigers, who will compete in the Class 4A Collinsville Regional, are ranked third in the Class 4A state poll. Civic Memorial, which defeated Highland twice during the regular season, is ranked fourth in the Class 3A poll. The Eagles will compete in the Roxana Regional.
Like Arbuthnot, Civic Memorial coach Jonathan Denney is confident about the Eagles’ chances.
“If we play with a mental and physical toughness, an edge so to speak, and don't get comfortable and complacent, we will be a tough out for any team,” Denney said. “We need to continue to play present, not worrying about the past or the future. Staying in the moment possession by possession is a big key for us.”
Class 3A regionals at Roxana and Breese Central and Class 4A regionals at Springfield and Collinsville begin Feb. 13 with title games Feb. 16 in Collinsville and Feb. 17 in Springfield.