For the Wesclin Warriors, it's about not looking too far ahead.
Wesclin (23-4) is the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A Wood River Regional. If they survive the five-team field, which also includes No. 4 Piasa Southwestern, No. 5 Carlyle, No. 9 Wood River and No. 11 Roxana, the Warriors will be on their home floor for the sectional.
"I don't know if it's necessarily on the minds of our kids, but it really worries me," said Wesclin coach Brent Brede, a former Warriors star in his second stint as coach at his alma mater. "There are a lot of distractions as far as us (possibly) playing in the sectional and playing certain teams or having certain matchups.
"We just want to keep our guys focused on the fact that we have to win Tuesday. If we don't win Tuesday, it's not going to matter. It's hard to win a regional at Wesclin; we don't do it all the time. It's a tired cliche, but we really have to focus and take our postseason one game at a time. We're happy with the way we're playing and the position we're in at this time of the year, but we just can't get lost in anything except the next game."
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The Warriors won the Hillsboro Regional last year, topping Vandalia and Hillsboro before falling to Alton Marquette in the semifinals of the Nashville Sectional. Wesclin last won a sectional championship in 2008 when it finished 24-8.
The postseason journey begins with a semifinal game at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Wood River (8-20) or Roxana (5-23), who meet in the first round at 7 p.m. Monday. Piasa Southwestern (18-7) will oppose Carlyle (11-19) in the other semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The winners Tuesday will collide in the title game at 7 p.m. Friday.
Carlyle is the lone team in the regional that Wesclin has played. The Warriors defeated their Cahokia Conference rival twice, 74-44 on Jan. 9 in Carlyle and 57-34 on Feb. 2 in New Baden. Senior Tyler Siever leads the Indians in scoring (14.9 points) and rebounding (eight).
"Carlyle is capable of playing better than when we played them," Brede said. "They played a really good game Friday against Salem and got beat at the buzzer, so they're very tough, very talented and certainly good enough to beat us."
Brede won't discount any opponent, and he's commanding the same attitude from his players.
"We have seniors, but at the same time, they're kids. We hope they understand that," Brede said. "We're doing our best to make sure they do. All it takes is one bad night, and in the case of (some) teams, it might not even take a bad night. They're good enough to beat anybody. Anything can happen. We're going to respect anybody we play."
The Warriors enter the playoffs on a six-game winning streak. They haven't lost since a 68-55 decision against Confluence High, of St. Louis, in the Pinckneyville Shootout on Jan. 27.
Wesclin gets offense from 6-foot-5 senior Hunter Ottensmeier (14.2 points), 6-6 junior Nate Brede (12.7 points) and 6-4 senior Brandon Courtney (10.9 points). Mick Stephens (7.5 points, 5.2 rebounds) and Justin Kellogg (seven), a pair of 6-3 seniors, also start. Nate Brede, the coach's son, averages 6.2 rebounds to lead the club and has a team-best 63 3-pointers.
Nate Brede, Courtney and Stephens are Wesclin's best free-throw shooters.
"When we've been good this year, we've almost always had good balance in how we scored," Brent Brede said. "Our guys this year are so much more mature in situations that became difficult for us last year when we didn't have that level of maturity. I feel like we can count on these guys in tough situations this year. They can handle adversity."
The host Panthers (24-3) earned the No. 1 seeded in the six-team sub-sectional field that is completed by No. 4 Gibault (9-19), No. 6 Red Bud (15-11) No. 7 Sparta (7-20), No. 9 Trico (10-17) and No. 12 Dupo (6-19).
In the first round Monday, Sparta will play Trico at 6 p.m., followed by Red Bud vs. Dupo at 7:30. The Sparta-Trico winner will play Pinckneyville at 7 p.m. Tuesday; the Red Bud-Dupo winner will face Gibault at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The championship game is 7 p.m. Friday.
Gibault defeated host Valmeyer 68-55 on Saturday in the regular-season finale for both teams, as junior Karson Huels broke loose for 26 points. In two games against Valmeyer this season, Huels had 63 points.
The 5-10 Huels, also a star soccer player, averages 17.7 points and has 73 3-pointers.
Red Bud closed the regular season with three consecutive wins, against Marissa, New Athens and Dupo. Senior Griffin Ziebold (12.2 points) and Alex Birchler (9.5 points) lead the Musketeers in scoring. Birchler is a Drake football recruit.
The Nashville Hornets are seeded second in the six-team field and will play seventh-seeded Staunton or eighth-seeded Litchfield in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Staunton and Litchfield meet in the first round at 6 p.m. Monday, followed by a game between No. 6 Hillsboro and No. 10 Gillespie at 7:30. In the other semifinal, scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, third-seeded Greenville will play the Hillsboro-Gillespie winner.
The title game is 7 p.m. Friday.