Peoria Quest Charter Academy is only in its sixth season, but the Gators have the attention of the Okawville Rockets.
The Rockets (24-8) will meet the Gators (26-7) in the Class 1A Jacksonville Super-Sectional at the Jacksonville High School Bowl at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Okawville placed second in the state tournament last year and would like an opportunity to wash away the memory.
"I think it's going to be similar to our game Friday night," said Okawville coach Jon Kraus, referring to a 62-51 decision over Madison in the championship game of the White Hall-North Greene Sectional.
"They have good athletes, good one-on-one players and like to play fast," he said. "It's similar to stuff we try to prepare our kids for throughout the season playing a 2A, 3A type of schedule against different styles of basketball. We're hoping that pays off."
Peoria Quest defeated Brown County 70-56 on Friday to win the Abingdon-Avon Sectional. The Gators prefer to play fast, force turnovers and collect as many easy baskets as they can. Terrell Walker, a 6-foot-2 point guard, Avierre Ross, a 6-3 forward, and Jimmie Richardson, a 6-0 wing, are the main players. Others are Don Gayton and DQ Gilbert.
Ross is the leading scorer (13.6 points) and rebounder (7.9). Walker averages 8.8 points and 4.4 assists, while Richardson averages 8.5.
"They'll press some," Kraus said. "It's not an all-out press, or at least what we've seen. They're pretty organized in the halfcourt. They like to spread you out and play a lot of isolation basketball. That's a little bit something new for us, but we've worked on it a little bit the last couple of days in practice. We try to prepare our kids the best we can. It's hard to simulate that in practice, but I'm sure they're going through the same thing. Some of the stuff we do, it's hard for them to simulate."
Okawville, which lost to Effingham St. Anthony in the state-title game last year, has won nine in a row. The Rockets are led by 6-7 senior Luke Hensler, who averages 14 points and 5.7 rebounds.
Beyond Hensler, it's all about balance from seniors Peyton Harre (9.5 points, 43 3-pointers) and Caleb Frederking (7.3 points, 2.6 assists) and juniors Wyatt Krohne (nine points, 53 3-pointers), Will Aubel (8.4 points) and Lane Schilling (six points).
Kraus said there's not enough time to throw together technical game plans. The Rockets just have to do what they do best.
"This time of year, you've prepared throughout the whole season," Kraus said. "Your kids just go play and compete and hopefully they have one of the best games they've had all year."
The Gators aren't a perimeter shooting team. Gilbert's 20 3-pointers top the team.
"It's more transition," Kraus said. "They like to get the ball up and down the court and score on transition and offensive rebounds. Our main focus is going to be to try to make them shoot 3s, and then we have to rebound. If we do those two things ... that's kind of been our focus the last few days in practice.
"We've talked to the kids about not looking ahead, just making sure they focus on the game. If they focus on the game, the rest of the stuff will come. Last year, the kids did a pretty good job of that. Hopefully, that pays off."