For the second straight year, one of the highlights of the metro-east basketball calendar is the Bank of O’Fallon Shootout. The second installment of this smash hit from 2015 promises to be just as impressive.
“We’re a little ahead of where we were last year on ticket sales,” said Cory Patton, the O’Fallon Assistant Athletic Director. “We’re still definitely anticipating a sellout crowd. Last year it was Monday or Tuesday of that final week when things to started to heat up.”
With close to 75 percent of the nearly 3,000 tickets for the evening session already sold, fans still have a chance to find tickets this week. O’Fallon is selling $10 tickets for each session and will clear the gym once the early session is complete.
Tickets are $10 per session and available during business hours this week at the Bank of O’Fallon and C & C Sports in O’Fallon. Some tickets are also available at participating schools, including Althoff, Nashville, Centralia and Columbia.
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The event includes several of the state’s top teams and top players and is capped by an 8:45 p.m. finale between 3A state runner-up and current second-ranked Althoff (18-2) vs. current Class 4A top-ranked Chicago Kenwood (15-2).
Althoff’s 97-95 double-overtime loss to Westchester St. Joseph was among the highlights from last season along with an appearance by Chaminade and Jayson Tatum against East St. Louis.
The 7:15 p.m. contest promises to be just as entertaining with 3A top-ranked and previously nationally ranked Morgan Park (17-2) taking on St. Louis heavyweight Hazelwood Central (17-3). Morgan Park senior guard Charlie Moore is a Mr. Basketball candidate in Illinois and Memphis recruit and teammate Jarrin Randall is headed to Western Michigan.
Hazelwood Central’s top talent is 6-6 senior Kansas State recruit Xavier Sneed.
Althoff’s lineup includes Illinois-Chicago recruit Tarkus Ferguson, one of the top junior recruits in the Midwest in Jordan Goodwin, Southern Illinois University Carbondale recruit Brendon Gooch and Jackson State football receiver recruit Keenen Young.
The early session includes O’Fallon vs. Peoria Richwoods at 10:30 a.m., Nashville vs. St. Joseph Ogden at noon and 3A-ranked Centralia vs. Hinsdale South at 1:30 p.m..
The evening session includes Columbia vs. DeKalb at 4:15 p.m. and CBC vs. Westchester St. Joseph at 5:45 p.m. along with the Hazelwood Central-Morgan Park and Althoff-Kenwood.
“That evening ticket is going to be a very fun ticket to have,” Patton said.
Nick Rakocevic, Westchester St. Joseph’s 6-10 senior center, helped his team defeat Althoff twice last season, at the Bank of O’Fallon Shootout and in the 3A state title game. He has numerous offers and is one of the top unsigned seniors in Illinois.
Northwestern recruit Barret Benson is a 6-9 center and the top player for Hinsdale South while Kenwood stars are senior Division I prospects Zion Morgan and Nick Robinson and talented junior Manny Patterson.
Cahokia’s young team is growing
Once 2-9 with a team that includes four freshmen, the Cahokia Comanches have increased the learning curve in recent weeks.
Now 11-12, the Comanches have won four in a row and recently claimed the championship at the Jerseyville Tournament by winning three of four games there.
“They’re getting to understand the game and game situations, just growing as a team,” Cahokia coach Darian Nash said. “These guys work hard day-in and day-out and it’s starting to show. Theyv’e still got a lot to learn, though.
“It was like starting all over again. Taking that tournament was a springboard to the good things that have been happeniong lately.”
Cahokia lost five seniors to graduation and Nash spent much of the early portion of the season looking for a consistent lineup.
HIs top scorers are 6-6 junior Thomas Bell (11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game), junior guard Jakorey Davis (9 ppg, 36 3-pointers and 6-3 senior Chris McRoberts (7.8 ppg).
McRoberts had 22 points and eight rebounds Saturday in Cahokia’s 69-40 victory over Metro-East Lutheran at the Pinckneyville Panther Showcase and Bell contributed 22 points and eight rebounds.
“I’ve watched him grow from a young man to a grown man on the court,” Nash said of Bell. “He’s doing a lot for us and before it’s over he’ll be well-recruited because he just wants to get better. He plays it all, guard, forward and center. We try to get a lot of mismatches with him and he’s hard to guard.”
Nash also pointed to Friday’s 58-49 South Seven Conference road win over Mount Vernon, a team that beat the Comanches 63-61 earlier this season in Cahokia.
“That’s why I play a tough schedule because when we travel to places like Mount Vernon and Carbondale, Lincoln (Ill.), they’re used to these rowdy crowds and hyper and hostile environments,” Nash said. “It paid off. We lost four or five games early in the year because we couldn’t hit free throws to close the games out. “
Follow the leaders
The metro-east scoring race remains a tight one between Belleville East junior and Illinois recruit Javon Pickett (23.5 ppg), Marissa guard Kyle Smith (21.9 ppg), Okawville junior guard Noah Frederking (21.1 ppg) and Wood River senior guard Blake Marks (21 ppg).
The metro-east also boasts three of the top five 3-point shooters in the St. Louis region with Edwardsville junior Oliver Stephen (70 3-pointers, 3.5 per game), Roxana guard Trace Gentry (79 3-pointers, 3.4 per game) and Althoff junior Marvin Bateman (50 3-pointers, 3.3 per game).
Triad guard Noah Moss is the top free-throw shooter in the St. Louis area, successful on 91 of his 102 attempts (89.2 percent). Edwardsville junior Mark Smith (87-of-104, 83.7 percent) isn’t far behind.
Edwardsville also has the area’s steals leader in senior Chrys Colley (89 steals, 4.678 per game) and Smith ranks third in the St. Louis area in assists, averaging eight per game.
Iowa football recruit and Edwardsville junior A.J. Epenesa ranks second in the St. Louis area rebounding department at 13.1 per game.
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: Belleville West (8-11), Mater Dei (16-5), Columbia (14-5), Cahokia (9-12), Granite City (10-10), Highland (11-11), Civic Memorial (15-7)
Small school rankings (Class 1A-2A)
Also receiving votes: Wesclin (9-12), Roxana (15-8), Carlyle (12-12)