Boys Basketball

March Madness is the best ticket in sports. And don’t dismiss the preps.

Wesclin celebrates basketball regional title

The Wesclin IL High School Warriors from Trenton, IL, near St. Louis, MO traveled to Hillsboro IL to take on the Hilltoppers in the Illinois Class 2A boys basketball regional tournament championship game. Wesclin advanced to the Nashville IL secti
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The Wesclin IL High School Warriors from Trenton, IL, near St. Louis, MO traveled to Hillsboro IL to take on the Hilltoppers in the Illinois Class 2A boys basketball regional tournament championship game. Wesclin advanced to the Nashville IL secti

The calendar still says February, the weather says May, but Illinois basketball season has been in full March Madness mode for more than a week.

There is a full slate of high school hoops coming up this week, including an unbelievable Class 4A regional at Belleville East that will pit all three Belleville schools against each other, plus East St. Louis, O’Fallon and the resurgent Collinsville Kahoks.

Metro-east teams also will be competing in the Class 4A Granite City Regional, a pair of 3A regionals and 1A and 2A sectionals in Okawville and Nashville. Most include legitimate state-champion contenders.

If you’re a sports fan, don’t dismiss the preps. These games are not just for parents and the student body.

I’m here to tell you there is some very good, entertaining and inexpensive high school basketball to be enjoyed if only you’ll take advantage.

Won’t take the word of a sports journalist? OK, how about Brent Brede? Wesclin High School’s eighth-year coach who has experienced a thing or two in his athletic career.

He was on the Warriors team that won the Class A state championship in 1990, torching Prairie Central with a 36-point performance in a title game they’re still talking about in Champaign. A few months later he was drafted in the fifth round by the Minnesota Twins and ended up playing three years of Major League Baseball.

But what among his experiences stand out most?

“Whatever I’ve ever done in my athletic career, there is nothing more exciting than a Friday night regional or sectional championship game,” Brede said. “I haven’t gone through anything in my life that’s better than playing in this kind of atmosphere at any level.”

That’s quite an endorsement, but he would know.

Brede made these comments following the Warriors’ regional-championship win at Hillsboro on Friday.

Wesclin won with the help of Brandon Courtney, who scored a career-best 34 points with eight 3-pointers. Hillsboro, for its part, was only in the title game thanks to Drake Paden, whose jump shot at the buzzer eliminated Carlyle in the regional semifinals.

This is the time of year for such heroics.

The aforementioned Class 4A Belleville East Regional should provide plenty of them with no fewer than six athletes committed to NCAA Division I programs among others who have not yet made their college choice.

There are at least three such players on the No. 1-ranked Edwardsville Tigers, who will begin their run at the state title at the Granite City Regional.

Okawville and Evansville commit Noah Frederking will host the 1A sectional; Nashville will be at home to continue another 2A run. Freeburg, Waterloo, Highland, Mascoutah, Cahokia and the host Knights will be at the Class 3A Mater Dei Regional.

Triad, Central, Columbia, Roxana, and Jerseyville will join Civic Memorial at another Class 3A regional in Bethalto.

If you don’t mind a bit of a drive to Bloomington, there’s lots of drama left in the girls Class 4A tournament. Lori Blade and the Edwardsville Tigers will be at Illinois Wesleyan University on Monday, where for the third year in a row, they’ll face Benet Academy in a super-sectional.

But high school basketball is less about the athletes than it the breathless tension that builds in an intimate high school gym that bursts at the buzzer with raw emotion.

These kids compete hard because they are serious about representing their school, their community and, more than anything, about playing for each other. Couple that with their physical athleticism, and it produces a brand of basketball that can’t be beat.

Sports Editor Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman

Tournament Glance

Monday, Feb. 27

BOYS BASKETBALL

CLASS 3A CIVIC MEMORIAL REGIONAL: Columbia vs. Jerseyville, 6 p.m.

CLASS 3A CIVIC MEMORIAL REGIONAL: Roxana vs. Civic Memorial, 7:30 p.m.

CLASS 3A MATER DEI REGIONAL: Freeburg vs. Waterloo, 6 p.m.

CLASS 3A MATER DEI REGIONAL: Highland vs. Mascoutah, 7:30 p.m.

CLASS 4A BELLEVILLE EAST REGIONAL: Althoff vs. O’Fallon, 6 p.m.

CLASS 4A BELLEVILLE EAST REGIONAL: Belleville East vs. Collinsville, 7:30 p.m.

CLASS 4A GRANITE CITY REGIONAL: Springfield vs. Chatham Glenwood, 6 p.m.

CLASS 4A GRANITE CITY REGIONAL: Alton vs. Granite City, 7:30 p.m.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

CLASS 3A SPRINGFIELD SUPER-SECTIONAL (at Univ. of Illinois-Springfield): Civic Memorial vs. Rochester, 7 p.m.

CLASS 4A BLOOMINGTON SUPER-SECTIONAL (at Illinois Wesleyan Univ.): Edwardsville vs. Benet Academy, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 28

BOYS BASKETBALL

CLASS 1A OKAWVILLE SECTIONAL: Okawville vs. Carrollton, 7 p.m.

CLASS 2A NASHVILLE SECTIONAL SEMI: Nashville vs. Pinckneyville, 7 p.m.

CLASS 3A CIVIC MEMORIAL REGIONAL SEMI: Central vs. Winner Game 1, 7 p.m.

CLASS 3A MATER DEI REGIONAL SEMI: Cahokia vs. Winner Game 1, 7 p.m.

CLASS 4A BELLEVILLE EAST REGIONAL SEMI: East St. Louis vs. Winner Game 1, 7 p.m.

CLASS 4A GRANITE CITY REGIONAL SEMI: Edwardsville vs. Winner Game 1, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, March 1

BOYS BASKETBALL

CLASS 1A OKAWVILLE SECTIONAL SEMI: Metro-East Lutheran vs. New Berlin, 7 p.m.

CLASS 2A NASHVILLE SECTIONAL SEMI: Wesclin vs. Marquette, 7 p.m.

CLASS 3A CIVIC MEMORIAL REGIONAL SEMI: Triad vs. Winner Game 2, 7 p.m.

CLASS 3A MATER DEI REGIONAL SEMI: Mater Dei vs. Winner Game 2, 7 p.m.

CLASS 4A BELLEVILLE EAST REGIONAL SEMI: Belleville West vs. Winner Game 2, 7 p.m.

CLASS 4A GRANITE CITY REGIONAL SEMI: Quincy vs. Winner game 2, 7 p.m.

Friday, March 3

BOYS BASKETBALL

CLASS 1A OKAWVILLE SECTIONAL FINAL:

CLASS 2A NASHVILLE SECTIONAL FINAL: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 7 p.m.

CLASS 3A CIVIC MEMORIAL REGIONAL FINAL: 7 p.m.

CLASS 3A MATER DEI REGIONAL FINAL: 7 p.m.

CLASS 4A BELLEVILLE EAST REGIONAL FINAL: 7 p.m.

CLASS 4A GRANITE CITY REGIONAL FINAL: 7 p.m.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

CLASS 3A STATE TOURNAMENT

CLASS 4A STATE TOURNAMENT

Saturday, March 4

BOYS BASKETBALL

CLASS 2A NASHVILLE SECTIONAL FINAL: 7 p.m.

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