The Okawville Rockets are not and have not been ranked among the top 16 Class 1A girls basketball teams in the state during the 2015-16 season.
Nor do the Rockets have the one big name player who will go out each night and score 20 points, pull down 15 rebounds and basically will her team to win simply with her mere presence on the court.
But heading into the Class 1A ‘Sub-Sectional B,’ it’s the Rockets with a 17-8 record — who are the top-seed
“I think a lot of it has to do with our schedule. We play a lot of Class 2A and 3A schools and that’s by design, because I think playing bigger and better competition helps make you better in the long run. It gets you better prepared for the postseason tournament,’’ Okawville coach Michelle Hasheider-Burianek said. “We play several 1A teams as well and we will continue to do so but it’s all about this time of year and getting your team to be playing its best now. I think we’re playing well.’’
“We are concerned with our first round regional opponent on Thursday and that’s all we’re looking at. But the goal is to be playing in late February.’’
Okawville, which will take on the winner of the Gibault-Sandoval game in a semifinal of the (Centralia) Christ our Rock Lutheran Regional on Thursday at 6 p.m., enters the postseason on a three-game winning streak. After dropping back-to-back games at (Class 2A) state top-ranked Central and state-power Teutopolis, the Rockets have defeated New Athens (59-47), along with Centralia and Carlyle and head into the regional playing well.
“I thought we played well against New Athens and then against Centralia,” Hasheider-Burianek said. “It was Carlyle’s senior night so their kids came out and played hard. This is a great time of year and I want the girls to have fun and enjoy it. This is a great group of kids to be around. They come in every night and work hard. That’s all I can ask.’’
Sophomore Madison Hackstadt (15.8) leads Okawville in scoring and is quickly becoming one of the top Class 1A players in the metro-east. But the key to Okawville’s progression late this season has been its depth. In addition to Hackstadt, four others are averaging at least six points per game.
Casean Tebbe (8.2) is a solid No. 2 scorer, while Madelyn Tepe (7.5), Audrey Jansen (7.0) and Jessie Klasing (6.7) have also played roles.
“It’s been a team effort. We’re still really a young team and our two seniors (Jessie) Klasing and (Alyssa) Thompson) have provided tremendous leadership for the younger girls,” Hasheider-Burianek said. “We’re excited about the future. We just need to keep our focus on our next opponent.’’
Lebanon, which has been ranked as high as sixth in the Class 1A state poll, is the second-seed in ‘Sub-Sectional B’, while New Athens is the third seed and (Centralia) Christ our Rock Lutheran is the fourth seed. Okawville, which handed Lebanon its first loss of the season (52-41) on Jan. 6, has not played Christ our Rock Lutheran this season.
But with wins over both Lebanon and New Athens, Hasheider-Burianek knows her team must play well to win again.
“They’re both great teams who are very well coached,” Hasheider-Burianek said. “Lebanon is extremely quick and they put a lot of pressure on you from start-to-finish. New Athens has two very good players and the rest of their kids have also improved as the season has gone on.’’
“Right now we’re concerned with playing either Gibault or Sandoval.
Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean.
CLASS 1A GIRLS BASKETBALL POSTSEASON CAPSULES
Seeds: 2. Lebanon, 3. New Athens, 5. Metro East Lutheran, 8. Madison, 9. Valmeyer, 10. (O’Fallon) First Baptist Academy
Could Surprise: New Athens
Synopsis: Led by the lightning-quick sophomores sister act of Kendra Bass (13.3 ppg.) and Krista Bass (9.9), the Greyhounds (23-3) have been one of the dominant Class 1A programs in the state, reeling off 15 straight wins to start the season before stumbling against Okawville then dropping back-to-back decisions to Civic Memorial and West Central last week at the Carrollton Tournament. Ranked among the top 10 in the Class 1A state poll for much of the year, Lebanon will also have the home court advantage and will have the mental edge on third-seed New Athens (21-5), which it has already beaten three times this season by a combined 44 points. New Athens, which reached the sectional final last season before losing to Hardin-Calhoun, has also been ranked in the Class 1A state poll and features two of the top players in the area in seniors Alina Lance (13.3) and Abby Marlow (10.8). Senior Carly Schley (10.9) leads the way for fifth seed Metro East Lutheran (12-12).
CENTRALIA CHRIST OUR ROCK LUTHERAN REGIONAL
Seeds: 1. Okawville, 4. Centralia Christ Our Rock Lutheran, 6. Marissa, 7. Gibault, 11. Sandoval
Could Surprise: Centralia Christ our Rock Lutheran
Synopsis: Among the things in favor of Christ our Rock Lutheran (15-10) heading into the postseason is that it will have the home court advantage should both it and Okawville win their semifinal games. Also, the Centralia based school has pulled off upsets before, ending New Athens’ dream of an undefeated regular season a year ago. “I saw them play last week and they have a good guard and a couple of good players inside,” Okawville coach Michelle Hasheider-Burinek said of Christ our Rock Lutheran. “The thought of playing them on their home court doesn’t really concern me because you are going to play good teams in the postseason anyway. You just need to be ready to play each time out.’’ Kenzie Kern (9.5) leads the way for sixth seed Marissa (6-20).