Wild start to wild season of high school hoops

Washington's Drew Lewis records the last-second block that sealed a 58-57 win for the Panthers on January 16.
Washington's Drew Lewis records the last-second block that sealed a 58-57 win for the Panthers on January 16.

We are only a few games into the high school basketball season, and it feels as though fans across the Central Illinois area have just about seen it all. Sure, COVID-19 has put a damper on any type of normalcy in this abbreviated season, but the excitement level is certainly there.

Here is a breakdown on the girls’ side: Pekin ended Morton’s 64-game Mid-Illini Conference winning streak as Southern Illinois-Edwardsville recruit Taylor Goss sank two free throws to give the Dragons a 42-38 win at Hawkins Gym. Natalie Righi scored a career-high 18 for Pekin.

“That’s what high school sports memories are all about,” said Pekin coach Brett McGinnis. “You don’t remember what you did individually. You remember the big games you won.”

Washington would hand the Potters a second consecutive loss as Claire McDougall (14), Georgia Duncan (11) and Carly Vaughn (11) each scored in double figures as the Panthers earned a 46-37 home win. Harvard commit Katie Krupa scored 25 to lead Morton.

Three overtimes? Dunlap edged Metamora 64-59 in a game that felt like it would never end. Behind great performances from Sophia Remmel and Lily Sutter, the Eagles made clutch shots down the stretch to secure its hard-fought victory. Kayla Pacha and Grace Tyra were equally as impressive for the Redbirds, which look to be the top team in the Mid-Illini this season. And not to forget the sophomore sensation from East Peoria. Tatym Lamprecht scored an astounding 38 points as the Raiders defeated Limestone 55-49, snapping a 48-game Mid-Illini Conference losing streak, which dated back to 2017 in a win over Washington.

Here is a breakdown on the boys’ side: In what could arguably be the best game of the season, Washington defeated Morton 58-57 as Drew Lewis recorded the game-winning block on Beau Durbin in the closing seconds at Torry Gymnasium. The Panthers trailed 57-50 with 1:22 left in regulation but used full-court defensive pressure to force turnovers and mount an amazing comeback win. Loras College commit Tyler Bass connected on 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to spark Washington. Panthers coach Eric Schermerhorn described the contest as a “war.”

It gets even better. Manual sophomore Devonte Burse recorded his first varsity basket in one of the biggest moments. Burse nailed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the game to lift the Class 3A No. 6-ranked Rams to a 47-44 Big 12 Conference victory over Normal Community.

Déjà vu? Two days later, the Ironmen would fall by three points, and once again at the final horn. Notre Dame junior Nelson Reynolds buried a corner 3-pointer as the Irish escaped with a 45-42 win at the Kitchen, which helped ND secure a No. 3 spot in the latest Class 3A poll.

Fast forward a few days, Peoria High fell to Danville 58-50 behind a strong showing from Vikings’ standouts Tevin Smith and Nathaniel Hoskins. But the highlight of the game was the incredible shot from Hoskins. Leading 14-13, Hoskins stole an inbounds pass with :2.2 seconds left in the first quarter, and launched nearly a full-court heave that banked in at the buzzer. Despite the loss, first-year head coach Dan Ruffin likes what he sees in his team, and said there are many similarities to the 2003-04 IHSA state champion Peoria High Lions, who were led by three-time NBA champion Shaun Livingston, Brandon Lee, and Jacob Motteler.

“I see a lot of similarities (to the team I played on), and obviously we don’t have a Shaun Livingston. But we have a lot of quick guards,” said Ruffin. “We are athletic, and can guard you from 94-feet. Those are the things I did as a player and as a coach being able to see that plays to our advantage. Our main goal is to speed the game up, so it plays to our advantage.”

Peoria High had nice performances from Nathan Moore, Cesse Cain, and Elijah Love.

March is just around the corner, but it’s easy to say the madness has started in February.

John Komosa can be reached at jkomsports@gmail.com. Follow on Twitter @Jkom91.

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