Boys Basketball

Okawville looks for good luck against Blackcats

Okawville hopes for a run of good luck against the Goreville Blackcats.

The Rockets (25-8) will meet the Blackcats (23-11) in the semifinals of the Class 1A state tournament at 1 p.m. Friday at Carver Arena in Peoria. A victory would send Okawville into the title game at 1 p.m. Saturday against Newman Central Catholic or Annawan.

Coach Jon Kraus' team came oh-so-close to the state championship last season. However, it was unable to protect a 44-41 lead in overtime and fell 49-46 to Effingham St. Anthony.

The Rockets' returning players are hungry to get it right this time around.

"They've always had a good program down there," said Kraus, who is friends with Goreville coach Todd Tripp. "They've been successful in the south and their kids will play extremely hard. They're competitive kids. They're tough. They're playing well. They've got a lot of momentum. It's their first time going to state, so they're going to be really pumped up and really fired up to play.

"Our kids will be, too, so it should be fun."

Luke Hensler, a 6-foot-7 senior, is one of Okawville's returning players. Hensler, averaging a team-high 14.5 points and 7.7 rebounds, blocked a shot in the final seconds by senior Terrell Walker as the Rockets escaped with a 65-64 victory in two overtimes against Peoria Quest Charter Academy on Tuesday in the Jacksonville Super-Sectional at the Jacksonville Bowl.

Hensler also had 24 points and 11 rebounds as the Rockets extended their winning streak to 10.

Seniors Payten Harre (10.3 points, 52 3-pointers) and Caleb Frederking (7.4 points) along with juniors Wyatt Krohne (8.8 points, 60 3-pointers), Will Aubel (7.8 points, 28 3-pointers) and Lane Schilling (6.1 points) round out the Rockets' attack.

Frederking and Harre join Hensler with experience in the state-championship game from last year.

"Those three guys will feel comfortable," Kraus said. "The other three guys may be a little nervous at first. But being in that environment for two days like they were last year, I would like to think they won't be too awestruck by it. They know the routine. We're going to do the same things we did last year. Nothing will be a surprise. They know what to expect."

Senior point guard Braden Webb, who stands 5-11, is the primary player for Goreville. Webb, selected Thursday to the all-state first team, averages 18.6 points and 4.3 assists with a team-leading 67 3-pointers. Tanner Dunn, a 6-3 senior, averages 11 points and 7.2 rebounds. Peyton Massey, a 5-10 senior, averages 10.5 points with 57 3-pointers.

The Blackcats have won seven in a row.

Kraus is concerned heading into any game, but the state tournament has its own special kind of tension.

"You get in that big arena and it's hard to shoot sometimes," Kraus said. "Kids aren't used to it, and if doesn't go in and the other team maybe hits a few shots ... The whole dynamics change when you get in that arena and kids just aren't used to it. Usually at this time of year, whichever team executes and plays the best is going to move on."