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Chase for Last 8A Boys Basketball Title Begins Saturday

The chase for the final Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) Class 8A Boys State Basketball Tournament title begins Saturday (Feb. 11) with eight first round games at the Monticello Middle School Gym beginning at 9:00 a.m. This year's tournament is the last under the 16-team, four-day, two-class tournament format.

This is the 77th year of boys basketball state series competition in IESA schools. The current two-class system has been in operation since 1985. Beginning next school term, IESA boys basketball will be in four classes and the state final tournaments will be played in a Saturday-Thursday format.

Four quarterfinal games will be played Monday (Feb. 13) beginning at 4:00 p.m. Semifinals are scheduled Tuesday (Feb. 14) beginning at 6:00 p.m. The third place and championship game will be played Thursday (Feb. 16) at 6:00 and 7:30 p.m., respectively.

The field includes three teams that made it to last year's 8A State Tournament, and the two teams that battled for last year's Class 7A title. Returning this year are Lewistown Central (19-6), Pontiac St. Mary's (20-2) and Raymond Lincolnwood (21-1). Last year in Class 7A Championship game, Lincoln West Lincoln-Broadwell beat Toluca Fieldcrest West, 45-39, and both teams have most of last year's roster playing for the 8A title this year.

Toluca Fieldcrest West (21-0) is the only unbeaten team in this year's 8A field. The "Three-Point Monster" that is Lincoln West Lincoln-Broadwell comes in at 19-1. Other teams with 20 wins are Barry (20-2), Elmwood (21-1) and Joliet Laraway (22-3).

Lincoln West Lincoln-Broadwell set the 2005 Class 7A team tournament record for three-point field goals with 34 by five different players. All of them will play for the Wolverines Saturday. Leading the way last year was sixth grader Jordan Nelson with the individual tournament record 16 treys. Now a 5-7 shooting guard, Nelson got his 16 three-pointers last year on games of 2-6-4-4. The team's other 18 three-pointers in the 2005 Class 7A tournament were from Dylan Eimer (1), Hayden Cosby (7), John Costello (1) and Ben Brackney (9). Cosby is a 5-10 eighth grader at guard and Brackney is a 6-0 eighth grader at forward.

Toluca Fieldcrest West's 2006 Class 7A team played for the title Thursday (Feb. 9) and was led by 5-10 Zach Kirkton. Other members on the 7A team on the 8A roster are Jordan Stalter and Kaleb Garber.

Several teams in the 8A field can throw some height at their opponents. Lexington has 6-1 Evan Thomas in the post with 5-11 Justin Convery at wing. Effingham St. Anthony has 6-2 Myles Baker at center along with 6-1 Alex Grunloh. The Bullpups roster includes four others 5-10 or 5-11. Joliet Laraway has 6-0 forward Daniel Wright, 5-10 center Daniel Smith and 6-1 guard Brian Byrd. Chrisman Scottland can throw a lineup with all five starters 5-10 or taller. The Eagles are led by 6-2 Coy Thevenin. Stewardson-Strasburg's three centers are 6-1 Jon Hoene, 6-0 Wes Utley and 5-11 Jericho Williams. Springfield Christ the King could put a lineup of 6-2 Andrew Jones, 6-0 Jake Smith, 5-11 Casey Bova, 5-11 Matt Franklin and 5-10 Max Reavy on the floor at the same time. Max Reavy set the Class 7A single-game three-point record with eight in the first round in 2005.

Raymond Lincolnwood (21-1) battles Barry (20-2) in the tournament opener at 9:00 a.m. Saturday. Then Lincoln West Lincoln-Broadwell (19-1) faces Springfield Christ the King (18-5) at 10:30. In game 3, it's Lewistown Central (19-6) vs. Pontiac St. Mary's (20-2) at noon. Toluca Fieldcrest West (21-0) meets Lexington (15-7) at 1:30 p.m. At 3:0, it's Chandlerville A-C Central (16-6) vs. Jerseyville St. Francis Holy Ghost (17-4). Two-time state champion Effingham St. Anthony (15-4), making its tenth appearance in the 8A state final, faces Royal Prairieview (18-5) at 4:30 p.m. Elmwod (21-1) battles Joliet Laraway (22-3) at 6:00 p.m. in the nightcap at 7:30, Chrisman Scottland (18-3) plays Stewardson-Strasburg (16-6).

Only three schools are making their first trip to the 8A State Tournament. They are Elmwood, Royal Prairieview and Jerseyville St. Francis Holy Ghost. Four of the teams have won the 8A title before. Besides the two titles won by Effingham St. Anthony, Springfield Christ The King won in 2002, Joliet Laraway in 1994 and Toluca Fieldcrest West in 1993.

The 16 teams advancing to this year's 8A State Tournament have a combined won-loss record of 296-56, a winning percentage of .841.

Complete pairings and timetable for the 2006 Class 8A Boys Basketball State Final Tournament can be found at www.iesa.org.



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