It happened 31 years ago.
But that doesn’t mean the pain of a 1984 super-sectional loss to McLeansboro in his final game as a player has completely gone away for Mater Dei coach Ron Schadegg.
“You always remember the last game you played and that was a game that had great memories and was a lot of fun at the time,” said Schadegg, whose team had won 30 straight games before losing 53-51 to eventual Class A state champ McLeansboro and star player Brian Sloan. “Our assistant coach Matt Becker also was on a team that lost in a super-sectional, so there’s two of us on staff that have some value to what’s going on.
“He left one there and we left one there. We want the kids to help us out, give ourselves a chance to pick up what we left out there many years ago. Hopefully we can all bring one home this time.”
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Mater Dei (23-10) will face Carterville (25-3) in the Class 2A Carbondale Super-Sectional at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s SIU Arena.
The teams also squared off in the first round of the Class 4A state football playoffs in November, with Carterville posting a 28-20 victory despite two passes by Mater Dei’s Sam Toennies.
This is the first super-sectional appearance by Mater Dei since 1996, when the Knights finished second at the Class A state tourney. Mater Dei also finished fourth in 1974.
Carterville coach Scott Burzynski will have no trouble finding his way around the recently refurbished SIU Arena. Burzysnki played on three straight NCAA Tournament qualifiers at SIU from 1992-96 after starring at Sesser Valier High. Neither will Carterville player Blake Watson, the son of longtime Salukis assistant and current Southern Indiana head coach Rodney Watson.
Burzynski’s squad is led by senior twins Will Galik (19.5 points per game) and Matt Galik (15 ppg). They are separated by three inches in height — Will is 6-foot-4 to Matts’s 6-1 — but both turned in identical, and perfect, 36 scores on their ACT exams.
“These last couple weeks Will is really starting to taking it to the hole a lot more and finish at the rim,” Burzynski said. “People are taking the 3-ball away from him and he’s being a lot more aggressive at putting it on the floor and getting to the rim.”
Matt Galik also averaged four assists, three rebounds and three steals and as might be expected, each brother has no trouble finding the other on the court. Matt Galik had 27 points Friday in the 77-63 sectional championship win over Teutopolis while Will Galik had 25.
“It’s been special to watch,” said Burzynski, whose team is making its first super-sectional appearance since 1987. “They are really high-character kids. They’re some of the hardest workers on the team and the success they have they’ve earned and worked for it.”
Schadegg said getting a handle on the Galiks is a top priority. Austin Swalls and Watson are also scoring threats for the Lions.
“It’s their ability to score with two kids, they’ve got two players that are very athletic and very skillful,” he said. “Our ability to slow those guys down and guard them at a high level is going to be a big factor.”
Carterville must deal with a tall and aggressive Mater Dei squad that in recent games has been finding numerous scoring options. Some nights it has been 6-8 senior center Nolan Gerling (16 points and 6.6 rebounds per game), a 68-percent shooter who lives down low.
Senior forward Ben Lampe (13 ppg) piled up a combined 45 points in two wins at the Wood River Sectional and seniors Zach Haake (10.1 ppg, 40 3-pointers), Zack Deiters (7.5 ppg, 63 3-pointers) and Toennies (5.1 ppg) are also capable scorers.
Nick Pollmann stepped up with 12 points for Mater Dei on Friday in the 51-37 sectional title win against Pinckneyville.
“When teams are starting to take away some of our options, you’ve got to have different players accept the challenge to do something positive and make a difference,” Schadegg said. “When teams do something to us, we’ve got to have a counter for everything.”
The Lions will try to counter Mater Dei’s size advantage with 6-5 sophomore Taylor Heil and 6-3, 260-pound football lineman Gavin James.
“We know the challenges we face with their size,” Burzynski said. “We’ve been playing some size and some quality big guys lately and hopefully that’s going to give us a little confidence Tuesday. Not only are (the Mater Dei players) big, they know how to play and get their bodies in position.”
Carterville, which has a 13-game win streak, handed state-ranked Nashville its only Southern Illinois River-to-River Conference loss while splitting two games with the Hornets. Mater Dei was 1-2 against Nashville, but rocked the Hornets 60-40 to win the Carlyle Regional.