Stop calling Matt Powers.
He has no more tickets to the 25th annual Highland Optimist/Scott Credit Union Shootout.
“We knew it was going to sell out, but in a week’s time we sold 3,000 tickets,” said Powers, the shootout organizer whose group took the unprecedented step of selling tickets online this season knowing the demand would far exceed availability. “The demand has been off the charts. We’re still getting inquiries every day from probably half a dozen people.”
His reply? Sorry, but no tickets remain for the five-game extrvaganza Saturday being capped by an 8:15 p.m. battle between Althoff (11-1), the top-ranked Class 3A team in Illinois, and Chaminade (11-3). Chaminade’s top drawing card is Duke recruit and the nation’s No. 1 senior, 6-foot-9 superstar Jayson Tatum.
Tatum also was the top player at the Highland Shootout last season
Tickets were $10 for an all-day pass or $6 for the first three games. Powers made sure participating schools had groups of tickets available a week before they went on sale to the general public on Dec. 7.
That did little to curb enthusiasm for what has become the hottest one-day ticket for metro-east basketball in at least a decade. The event sold out in a week.
“Obviously most of it comes from the Althoff-Chaminade game,” Powers said. “We added about 600 seats this year and Highland’s gym has a ton of standing room areas. It still is completely sold out.”
Power said the shootout website (HighlandShootout.com) will offer live streaming of Saturday’s games.
The Shootout include eight of the nation’s top 100 players, including Tattum, Columbia (Mo.) Father Tolton High junior Michael Porter Jr., and Althoff’s array of Division I players led by Jordan Goodwin, Tarkus Ferguson and Brendon Gooch.
The Saturday schedule includes a girls game between Highland and Triad at 11 a.m. Along with Althoff-Chaminade, boys games are Okawville vs. Central at 1 p.m., Hazelwood Central vs. Springfield Lanphier at 2:45 p.m., Highland vs. Vianney at 4:45 p.m. and Peoria Manual vs. Father Tolton at 6:30 p.m.
Historic start for Columbia
The last time the Columbia Eagles boys basketball team took an undefeated record into January was 1959. The 1958-59 Columbia squad turned in a 29-2 record and won a district title.
How will the rest of this season unfold for the 11-0 Eagles, the area’s last remaining unbeaten team?
“The kids know it’s special and they’d like to keep it rolling for as while, but we basically spend the whole month of January on the road except for one game,” said Columbia coach Mark Sandstrom, whose team won its second straight Columbia-Freeburg Holiday Tournament championship with a 48-34 victory over Triad. “Our defense has just been very consistent. We’ve got a little bit different mentality this year because we’re a little more athletic and quicker and stronger.
“We’ve been able to force the tempo on most everybody.”
As a Class 3A team in the metro-east, Columbia’s 11-0 record is good the No. 6 spot in the Belleville News-Democrat Class 3A-4A weekly rankings.
Columbia’s best win is probably over Miller Academy of St. Louis. The Eagles also beat Nashville on the way to winning the Lebanon-Wesclin Thanksgiving Tournament.
Columbia has two Cahokia Conference-Mississippi Division road games in Clinton County this week. The Eagles face Carlyle on Tuesday, then travel to Class 2A top-ranked Central on Friday with both teams unbeaten in conference play.
Sandstrom and the Eagles are also anxiously awaiting their debut at the Belleville East Chick-fil-A Challenge later this month, where the tourney field includes all three Belleville teams.
“We’ve got a big challenge over at the Chick-fil-A Challenge our kids are looking forward to,” Sandstrom said. “Our kids want to be able to play those teams, that’s something they’re going to remember.”
Sophomore Jordan Holmes (9.6 points and 3.6 assists per game) is the only one of five starters not averaging in double figures and he’s extremely close, illustrating the Eagles’ offensive balance.
They are certainly bunched evenly led by 6-foot-7 senior Korbin Farmer (12.6 points, 7.5 rebounds per game), senior Jonathan Holmes (11.4 ppg, 15 3-pointers), senior Ryan Gudeman (10.7 ppg) and senior Drew Huebner (10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds per game).
Huebner had a 24-point, 12-rebound game at the holiday tournament and won Most Valuable Player honors. His recent surge, along with Gudeman, has kept opposing defenses from concentrating too much attention on Farmer and either Holmes brother.
Gudeman went off for 25 points in the win over Freeburg.
It’s been a strong year for a senior group that finished 8-21 as sophomores, but learned a lot along the way.
“That experience paid dividends when they were juniors and it’s really paid off this year,” Sandstrom said.
Gibault strong at Pinckneyville
Gibault (10-4) opened some eyes with a 59-51 road win over the Okawville Rockets a few days before Christmas that saw junior star Trevor Davis erupt for a career-high 30 points and 14 rebounds.
“He’s really capable of that,” Gibault coach Dennis Rueter said. “When he gets going he’s really hard to guard - and he was going that night. It’s not a one-shot deal, either. He is capble of doing that at any time.”
The Hawks carried that momentum to the Duster Thomas Hoops Classic in Pinckneyville, where they won three straight before losing 54-46 to Carterville in the championship game. Davis, who had 22 points in the title game including 14 of his team’s first 15, won tournament Most Valuable Player honors.
Gibault seniors Brian Deterding and Jacob Rueter were also on the all-tournament team. Deterding is averaging 14.2 points and 10.3 rebounds while hitting 57.6 percent of his shots. Rueter is averaging 11.2 points and 5.4 assists with a team-leading 26 3-pointers.
Coach Rueter said the Hawks were undone by a Carterville team that sank its first nine shots and scored 26 points in the opening quarter.
“We didn’t have much room for error after that,” Rueter said. “Most of them weren’t easy shots either, they made threes and 15-footers off the dribble ... just a bunch of stuff.”
Gibault beat Trico, Du Quoin and Pinckneyville to reach the finals.
“We weren’t displeased with the way we played,” Rueter said. “We still think we need to play a little better, but we played pretty well.”
Davis, an athletic 6-3 junior, is averaging 17.2 points and 9.9 rebounds with 30 steals and 18 blocked shots.
“He was pretty good last year,” Coach Rueter said. “He’s not shot the ball really as well as he did last year, but he can score in a lot of ways. He can shoot the three, he can post you up, he can play off one or two dribbles, he can get in on the boards. He’s a hard matchup for you.”
Okawville, Gibault and Metro-East Lutheran were ranked second, seventh and eighth, respectively, in the first Associated Press Class 1A state basketball rankings. The new state rankings come out on Tuesday, but more important will be the 1A playoff seeds coming out later this season involving these three teams since they all are in the same sub-sectional.
Gibault has beaten Okawville, but lost to Metro-East Lutheran twice. Okawville beat Metro-East Lutheran, which has beaten Gibault twice. Gibault has another regular-season game with Okawville remaining.
“Everybody is lobbying pretty hard to be the No. 1 seed,” Rueter said. “We’re not afraid of either one of them. We respect them both, but we’re not afraid of them.”
West freshman honored
Belleville West’s E.J. Liddell was a second-team all-tournament pick last week at the Centralia Holiday Tournament.
The 6-foot-6 freshman hit 23-of-45 shots to average 17 points in four tournament games. Liddell also led the tournament field with nine blocked shots and tied teammate Tyler Dancy with 26 rebounds, fifth best at Centralia.
The Maroons earned dominating wins over O’Fallon and Addison Trail before losing to Cahokia in the tournament’s consolation bracket championship game. Belleville West is 3-8 despite Liddell’s team-high 17.4 points per game.
Germantown (Tenn.) senior Darr Brown Jr. was named MVP of the Centralia Holiday Tournament. His 21.3-point average and 14 three-point baskets helped lead the Red Devils to a tournament title win over Centralia.
Other first-team all-tournament players included D’Aaron Owens of Centralia, Nathan Hoover of Arlington, Tim Finke of Champaign Central and Braden Fitzjerrells of Mount Vernon.
(Todd Eschman also supplied information for this story).
Belleville News-Democrat Boys Basketball Rankings
Rankings for metro-east teams; voting by area coaches and News-Democrat staff. First-place votes are in parentheses; records through Sunday:
Large school rankings (Class 3A-4A)
East St. Louis
Also receiving votes: Columbia (11-0), Granite City (7-5), Mater Dei (7-3), Collinsville (5-6), Highland (8-6), Cahokia (5-9)
Small school rankings (Class 1A-2A)
Also receiving votes: Wesclin (5-7), Roxana (9-5), Madison (4-6), Carlyle (5-8)