While neither Central nor Mater Dei particularly enjoy the move up to Class 3A for the boys basketball playoffs, their absence leaves an opening for another area Class 2A team hoping to make a state tournament run.
Central finished third at the Class 2A state tournament last year after winning the state championship in 2012. Mater Dei finished fourth at the 2A state tourney in 2015.
“There’s not a dominant team in this area that’s a clear-cut favorite, that’s for sure,” said Gibault Hawks coach Dennis Rueter, whose 21-7 team will battle top-seeded Marquette at the 2A Gibault Regional.
Carlyle coach Andy Palmer, whose team is the top seed at the Hillsboro Regional, agreed.
“I think it is pretty wide open,” said Palmer, whose team typically wound up with Central, Mater Dei or both in past regionals. “You knew always, every year, that’s who you were going to have go through, and with Mater Dei down in 2A a few years, it was tough to get out of your own regional.
“It does open things up for the other 2A teams in their area. There is a lot of parity; it seems like everybody has kind of beat up on everybody this season.”
Rueter and the Hawks must a find a way to deal with the Marquette Explorers if they hope to advance out of their own regional.
Marquette takes on either Dupo or Sparta in the regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday, needing a win to advance to the regional final Friday. Gibault will face either Red Bud or Wood River in the semifinals Wednesday.
“Both of us have to win to get to Friday night, too,” Rueter said of his own team and Marquette. “Neither one of us will be handed anything.”
Marquette beat Gibault twice this season, including a 48-41 win Feb. 14 in Alton that snapped the Hawks’ 12-game winning streak.
“We didn’t play well early and got ourselves behind, then tried to catch them and made a run,” said Rueter, whose team got 19 points from Garrett Rueter in the loss. “We didn’t play 32 minutes, and we’ve got to play 32 minutes if we’re going to win.”
The Explorers also beat Gibault 45-40 Nov. 26 in the championship game of the Metro-East Lutheran Turkey Tip-Off Classic.
Marquette has won 18 of its last 19 games with the only loss coming to Mt. Carmel, a 34-32 setback Jan. 28 at the Pinckneyville Panthers Showcase.
The Explorers have a high-powered offense led by Sammy Green, Jake Hall and Isaiah Ervin along with Reagan Snider, but also rely heavily on tight defense.
Gibault’s top players are seniors Trevor Davis (17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game), Collin Kessler (12.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game). The Hawks also get contributions from Karson Huels (8.2 pg, 53 3-pointers), Ryan Gool (7.5 ppg) and Garrett Rueter (7.5 ppg, 56 3-pointers).
“We think we’ve learned a lot by playing them, but I’m sure they feel they learned a lot by playing us,” Coach Rueter said. “They take away what you try to do best.”
Carlyle Indians hoping for success
Carlyle is seeking its first regional title since 2006, when the Indians made their last state tournament trip.
The Indians (18-12) got the No. 1 seed at the Hillsboro Regional, but along with the top seed came a tough regional bracket.
“For a one seed, I didn’t think we got rewarded very well having play the winner of the No. 6 and 7 seed,” said Palmer, whose team will face either Hillsboro or Greenville in the regional semifinal Wednesday. “I understand the geography part of it and all that, but something has to be done looking at the seeds.
“Somehow it doesn’t quite seem like a fair shake, but what do you do? It’s not only that way in our regional, it’s like that in the Trico and Gibault regional as well. We know we’ve got a pretty tough road ahead of us.”
Carlyle beat Greenville 62-48 last week after trailing at halftime and also handled the Comets 58-54 in the season opener. The Indians also split with Cahokia Conference rival and another tough regional foe, the Wesclin Warriors (15-13).
Palmer is hopeful senior scoring leader Connor Toennies (12.8 ppg), who surpassed 1,000 career points Feb. 11 against Lebanon, is at full speed for the playoffs. Toennies sprained his ankle last Tuesday against Greenville and sat out the Indians’ game Friday at Red Bud.
“He’s played really well the entire second half of the season,” Palmer said. “We’re hoping to get him back and healthy by Wednesday. It’s a pretty bad sprain.”
Toennies is one of four Carlyle players averaging in double figures along with Tyler Siever (12.3 ppg), Eli Cox (11 ppg, 36 3-pointers) and feisty point guard Dru Johnson (10 ppg). The Indians recently welcomed star football running back Donte Nettles back to the lineup after he missed most of the season recovering from knee surgery.
Wesclin has won two straight and got a season-high 26 points and six 3-pointers from sophomore Nate Brede on Friday in a 71-39 victory over Lebanon. Hunter Ottensmeier (13.6 ppg) is the Warriors’ top scorer, followed by Brandon Courtney (10.3 ppg) and Brede (10.1 ppg).
Class 2A Gibault Regional
Top seeds: (2) Marquette (26-3), (3) Gibault (21-7), (9) Red Bud (7-18)
Could challenge: Gibault
Analysis: Marquette did beat Gibault twice, but once was early this season. Should help Gibault to be playing at home, but knocking out the Explorers will not be an easy task.
Class 2A Hillsboro Regional
Top seeds: (1) Carlyle (18-12), (4) Wesclin (15-13), (5) Vandalia
Favorites: Carlyle and Wesclin
Could challenge: Greenville or Vandalia
Analysis: Carlyle’s strong late-season run includes wins over Nashville, Wesclin and Briarcrest Christian, along with a 54-53 loss to 3A state-ranked Benton. Wesclin has a young roster, but recently beat Columbia and split two games with Carlyle this season.
Class 2A Carlinville Regional
Top seeds: (2) Nashville (17-12), (3) Southwestern (18-8), (8) Gillespie
Could challenge: Southwestern
Analysis: Nashville Hornets have been up and down all season, but played 2A state-ranked Pinckneyville close recently and have beaten several tough teams this season. A strong inside presence in Brogan Kemp (15 ppg) will be aided by any 3-point contributions and scoring from Ryan Brink (12 ppg), Bryce Bultman (9 ppg) and Hayden Heggemeier (7 ppg).
Compiled by Norm Sanders.