Super-sectional basketball games have been a painful roadblock for the Okawville Rockets.
After losing five straight super-sectional games with a state tournament berth on the line, the program is ready to end that streak Tuesday at the Class 1A Jacksonville Super-Sectional.
Second-ranked Okawville (30-3) faces Mendon Unity (24-7) in a 7 p.m. game at the Jacksonville Bowl.
“The town’s always fired up whenever we’re on this run and the team wants it really bad,” said Okawville senior guard Shane Ganz, a starter on the 2015 squad that lost to eventual 1A state champ Brimfield on the same Jacksonville Bowl floor. “It would be great for this town to get to travel to Peoria for the state tournament.”
No one wants to the super-sectional losing streak more than Okawville coach Jon Kraus, who was on the bench during all five defeats. Four were as head coach and one was as an assistant under Hall of Fame coach Dave Luechtefeld.
Rockets assistant coach Ryan Heck was a starter on the 2000 Okawville team that lost in the super-sectional.
“It’s been frustrating for sure, but the more times you put yourselves in that situation eventually you break through,” Kraus said. “Hopefully it’s time for our kids.”
Ganz and Okawville senior Noah Frederking were both starters as sophomores when the Rockets lost to Brimfield at Jacksonville two years ago. Frederking is a University of Evansville recruit who erupted for a career-high 40 points Friday in the sectional championship win over New Berlin.
He also became the all-time metro-east scoring leader with 2,747 points and counting, putting him 14th on the Illinois High School Association’s all-time list. Frederking averages 23.6 points and 8.1 rebounds with 65 3-pointers.
“Two years ago I remember him getting frustrated, where now he knows that this is it and I think he’s ready for this,” Kraus said. “He realizes that he’s done a lot of things in the game. He’s done a lot of things in his career, but he hasn’t gotten to the state tournament.
“I just feel like that’s driving him right now. He wants to play in the state tournament. Our other kids are right there with him, our seniors especially.”
Scouting Mendon Unity
Mendon Unity, making its fourth super-sectional appearance and second in four years, knocked off Gibault at the 2014 super-sectional with a 67-49 victory and finished third at state.
The Mustangs are led by 6-foot-3 senior guard Cory Miller, a three-sport star who was an all-state receiver in football and is among the state’s top long-distance runners in track. Miller averages 23 points, eight rebounds and 4.5 assists and steals per game. He had a 40-point outing and hit the winning 3-pointer during an overtime victory over West Hancock.
Miller had 31 points Friday in a 62-52 sectional championship win over Peoria Quest Academy.
“He’s the most talented player that also works as hard or harder than anyone else on the court,” Unity coach Keith Carothers said. “He’s got a motor that most kids don’t have, that’s for sure.”
Cole Thompson, a 6-3 senior forward, averages 9.1 points and five rebounds for the Mustangs, who won all three tournaments they participated in this season. He had 14 points and 13 rebounds in the sectional final.
Junior guard Taylor Klusmeyer returned to the lineup 10 games ago after being sidelined with a broken foot.
While Frederking is the scoring leader, the Rockets also get plenty of production from Ganz (13.2 points and four rebounds per game, 30 3-pointers) and junior Payten Harre (6.5 ppg, 52 3-pointers).
“(Frederking) looks to be pretty danged good on film, he’s everything that he’s advertised,” Carothers said. “He does an awful lot for them, but they’ve got a couple other guys that do some things, too. They’re pretty active on offense and it looks like they defend pretty well, too.”