It's going on two months now since the last time the Monmouth-Roseville boys' basketball team lost a game.|
After back-to-back losses immediately after Christmas -- to Metamora in the finals of the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament, then to West Central North rival Rockridge -- the Titans heated up and have continued to stay hot, riding a 16-game winning streak into tonight's Class 2A DeKalb Super-Sectional.
"We don't make a big deal about it," Monmouth-Roseville coach Chuck Grant said of his 26-4 team's hot streak. "Every once in awhile, someone will mention the streak, but they haven't done so lately. We're good at putting the blinders on, just looking to the team in front of us. That's what you have to do."
The team that sits in front of the Titans -- and stands between them and their first appearance at the Class 2A state tournament in Peoria -- is Winnebago, which brings a 31-0 mark into tonight's 7:30 showdown at Northern Illinois University's Convocation Center.
"Winnebago is the type of team you expect to play at this time of the year," said Grant. "They're a great club, well-coached, and has some tradition of getting to Peoria in recent years. They're the kind of team we've got to break through if we want to get there, and we're excited about the opportunity to play them.
"We know what type of team they are, and we respect that. On the other hand, we're not going to back down. It's a matter of going out there, rolling up our sleeves for 32 minutes and going to work."
Since switching junior guard Martel Hunter to the point after a shaky start, Mon-Rose has thrived, with Hunter (15 points, five rebounds, four assists per game) leading a more up-tempo style that has suited the Titans perfectly.
"We made some changes that felt right," said Grant. "We talked to the kids, told them what we were doing and explained their roles, and that's when we started taking off."
Now, the Titans hope their flight continues through at least one more night, with the ultimate destination being the Peoria Civic Center on Friday and Saturday. A Mon-Rose win puts it in Friday's 6:30 p.m. state semifinal against either South Holland Seton Academy or Chicago Providence-St. Mel, who tangle at the Joliet Central Super-Sectional.
"We've talked about getting to Peoria, and I think that's fun, being at a place where we can talk about it," said Grant, who also coached the Titans' 2007 Class A sectional-title team. "Some years are more realistic than others, and over the last seven to eight years, we've had clubs that have had the opportunity to get to Peoria.
"These guys believe they can get the job done, and that's part of the battle. If we don't believe we can go up to NIU and win, there's no reason to get on the bus. That's not what our mindset is."