Boys Basketball

Home sweet home for Okawville Rockets? Tough 2A field at Nashville

Okawville senior Shane Ganz (22) has been one of the Rockets’ top scorers the last three seasons.
Okawville senior Shane Ganz (22) has been one of the Rockets’ top scorers the last three seasons.

Having a home court advantage typically helps in the Illinois High School Association basketball playoffs.

Being at home for the Class 1A sectional in Okawville, site of the 2,400-seat O-rena, should make things a little more hospitable for the second-ranked Okawville Rockets.

“It is a lot of work to host, but obviously you’ve got a home court advantage,” said Okawville coach Jon Kraus, whose 28-3 team takes on Carrollton (18-12) at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the first sectional semifinal.

Okawville’s only two home losses the last two seasons were to Gibault. The Rockets also hosted the sectional two years ago and rolled past Morrisonville and Carrollton to reach the super-sectional.

Despite the formidable size of the relatively new arena, the loud and raucous Rockets “O-Zone” student section makes it tough on visiting teams.

Not that when it was any easier for visitors when the Rockets called the picturesque Luechtefeld Gymnasium their home.

“Now that these kids have been in there for four years, I think our student section has helped us tremendously,” Kraus said “That’s been a big help to making that facility more of an advantage for us because it is kind of spacious compared to our old place.

“I always thought we had a distinct advantage in our old place, too. There was a time when we went eight or nine years there and didn’t lose a home game.”

With 29 points Friday in the regional championship win over Marissa, Okawville senior and University of Evansville recruit Noah Frederking became the highest scoring player — boys or girls — in school history.

Frederking, averaging 22.3 points and 8.8 rebounds, has a school-record 2,684 points. He surpassed former record holder and current Okawville girls coach Michelle Hasheider Burianek, who ranks 20th all-time among IHSA girls players with 2,660 points.

The next potential milestone for Frederking would be catching all-time metro-east scoring leader Paul Lusk. The former Wesclin High state champ and all-stater scored 2,743 points for the Warriors from 1986-90 and now is the head coach at Missouri State University.

Okawville’s other top scorers are senior guard Shane Ganz (12.5 points, 4.3 rebounds per game) and junior guard Payten Harre (6.7 ppg, 40 3-pointers).

Carrollton went from being a No. 8 seed in the sub-sectional to regional champ. The Hawks wiped out late deficits three times to beat Hardin Calhoun (58-56), North Greene (62-53) and West Central (46-45) to win the Greenfield Regional.

Metro-East Lutheran (18-13), which has won 14 of its last 16 games, takes on the New Berlin Pretzels (21-9) in the other semifinal.

“The kids have bought into the fact that we have to defend,” said Metro-East Lutheran coach Anthony Smith, father of Edwardsville star senior guard Mark Smith. “We’re really playing good basketball. They’re sharing the ball, people understand (what) their roles are and they’re really working hard for me.”

The Knights’ top three players are seniors JJ Schwartz (14.1 ppg), Noah Coddington (13.3 ppg, 38 3-pointers) and Braden Woolsey (11.9 points, 5.1 rebounds per game).

New Berlin’s 21 wins are its most since the 1965-66 squad went 24-3. The Pretzels won the Pawnee Regional; their top players are 6-4 junior Max Day, a Chatham Glenwood transfer averaging just over 10 points and 9.4 rebounds, and junior guard Hunter Stockton (10 ppg, 39 3-pointers).

Nashville Sectional

The Nashville Hornets and Wesclin Warriors both enter their sectional semifinal games as underdogs. Nashville takes on River-to-River Conference champ and league rival Pinckneyville (29-2) while Wesclin is matched against state-ranked Marquette (28-3).

Nashville did take Pinckneyville to overtime in the second of two losses this season, a 59-56 defeat Feb. 11.

“It’s gonna take somebody playing really, really well to beat them,” Nashville coach Brad Weathers said. “They’re so deep and they get after you so much and they’re so disciplined, that it really makes for a tough matchup for a lot of teams.”

Tyler Rulevish is among Pinckneyville’s top players along with Grant Jausel and freshman point guard Dawson Yates. Nashville is led by seniors Brogan Kemp and Ryan Brink and sophomore Bryce Bultman.

Marquette’s top scorer is junior and Edwardsville transfer Sammy Green. The Explorers also feature Reagan Snider and Isaiah Ervin.

“We’re definitely underdogs, we understand that,” said Wesclin coach Brent Brede, whose team won its first regional since 2008. “But at the same time we’re playing as well as we’ve played this season, so we feel good about that.”

Wesclin’s top scorers are juniors Hunter Ottensmeier (13.9 ppg), and Brandon Courtney (10.4 ppg) and 6-5 sophomore Nate Brede (10.3 ppg, 65 3-pointers).

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

Class 1A Okawville Sectional

Tuesday, Feb. 28

Game 1: Okawville (28-3) vs. Carrollton (18-12), 7 p.m.

Wednesday, March 1

Game 2: Metro-East Lutheran (18-13) vs. New Berlin (21-9), 7 p.m.

Friday, March 3

Championship

Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 7 p.m. 

Class 2A Nashville Sectional

Tuesday, Feb. 28

Game 1: Nashville (19-12) vs. Pinckneyville (29-2), 7 p.m.

Wednesday, March 1

Game 2: Wesclin (17-13) vs. Marquette (28-3), 7 p.m.

Friday, March 3

Championship

Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 7 p.m.

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