MATER DEI AT ALTHOFF
This Class 4A football semifinal between Althoff and Mater Dei is loaded with intrigue. First of all, who'd have thought that the teams' Week 3 match would preview a showdown for a trip to the state championship game? The Crusaders put it to the Knights 68-46, and have since run the table of their schedule opponents with the same kind of dominating offensive fire power. They're coming off the high point of their season, too — an epic 46-42 quarterfinal shootout victory over five-time defending champion Rochester. For Mater Dei, Week 3 set the base of consistent improvement culminated with consecutive wins over previously unbeaten opponents, including a 42-20 win over No. 3 Taylorville in Saturday's quarterfinal. They insist they are not the same team that lost to the Crusaders back in September. Added to this metro-east matchup is some unpleasantness exchanged between the coaches — Mater Dei's Jim Stiebel felt Ken Turner and his Crusaders unnecessarily ran up the score during their last meeting. The teams meet with a trip to DeKalb and the state championship game at Lindenwood University-Belleville Saturday at 1 p.m.
NASHVILLE V. AUBURN
The Class 2A football bracket apparently is for the underdogs. One semifinal matches the Nashville Hornets, seeded No. 11, against No. 12 Auburn. In the wake of these two teams surging toward a state championship berth are the likes of top-seeded Pana, No. 2 Eldorado and Niantic. Nashville and Auburn each entered the tournament at 6-3, but have yet to be challenged in the playoffs. The Hornets will have to take their next step on the road, however. Nasvhille is at Auburn Saturday at 2 p.m.
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BILLIKENS V. COUGARS
The region's two Division I programs meet up in Edwardsville Wednesday night when the St. Louis U. Billikens visit the SIUE Cougars Wednesday at 7 p.m. Each team is in a rebuilding mode, with rosters loaded with underclass talent. The Bills, who defeated Hartford in their season opener Sunday, have just one senior, 6-foot-4, 215-pound Ash Yacoubou, who was second on the team last season with 9.1 points per game. The Cougars have eight new pieces on a 14 man roster and a brand new coach, Jon Harris, who picked up his first coaching win Friday in the hard-fought 79-70 triumph over Arkansas State. In their last meeting, SLU defeated SIUE, 67-61, at Chaifetz Arena.
GIRLS HOOPS ACTION
The girls will usher in a new high school basketball season this week. The Dupo Cat Classic, Columbia Tip-Off Classic, and Alton Tip-Off Classic start Monday. Other metro-east teams will be in action at the Salem Thanksgiving Tournament, which begins Thursday. All tournaments continue through Saturday.
RAMS AND RAVENS
The St. Louis Rams could have topped the .500 mark and kept themselves in contention in the NFC Western Division with a win over the Chicago Bears Sunday. But the offense continued to sputter and the defense looked vulnerable for the first time this season in a 37-13 loss. If they want to keep pace with the second place Seahawks, the 4-5 Rams will have to take care of business in Baltimore Sunday against the Ravens, who are struggling at 2-7. A win is crucial since the Rams next face the undefeated Bengals and division-leading Arizona Cardinals.