The banners dangling from the Rock Island Fieldhouse ceiling prove the Rock Island boys' basketball team has a decorated history. Rare, though, do the Rocks have a chance to earn a program first.|
Tonight provides one.
A win over Edwardsville in the Class 4A Pekin Sectional championship game would give the Rocks something they have never accomplished. Prior to this season, the Rocks won sectional championships in the single-class system as well as Class AA and 3A.
Rocky could win a sectional title in its fourth classification.
"First of all, it would say a lot about this group," said Rocky coach Thom Sigel, who has won two of the program's 18 sectional championships. "I thought we could be good, but maybe we surprised people. Basically, it reaffirms that these guys have worked hard. But it says more about all the guys who have played here and the tradition that's been here.
"They want to get a piece of that, too."
Since the Illinois High School Association split to four classes in 2008, the Rocks won two Class 3A sectional titles. In their second year in Class 4A, they can accomplish something this program has never done before.
All that stands in their way is Edwardsville.
Winners of their previous 11 games, the Tigers stand one win away from their second consecutive sectional title. With a pair of 1,000-point career scorers and a Division I signee, Edwardsville will be tough.
"Of course the favorite is Edwardsville," Rocky junior guard C.J. Carr said. "But we have guys who are capable of anything. We can compete with them."
Just like its opponent, Rocky has won 11 consecutive games as it seeks its third sectional championship in five years. The Rocks have reached the sectional final four times in that same stretch.
"We're trying to do something special with this group," Rocky senior guard Trae Babers said. "We want to leave a trademark, a legacy so that people will remember us."
With 25 wins this season and a fourth consecutive Western Big 6 Conference title, the Rocks have left a mark. Snagging the program's 19th sectional and a berth in Tuesday's Normal Super-Sectional would add to it.
Considering the competition Rocky potentially faces from here on out, another banner certainly will be earned.
Waiting in the super-sectional could be Chicago Heights Marian and nationally rated junior point guard Tyler Ulis. From there, traditional nemesis Rockford Boylan could await in the state semifinals.
Also looming is Chicago Simeon or Chicago Whitney Young, which both were nationally ranked at some point this season. That matchup, though, wouldn't come until the final day.
"The upper-level teams in Class 3A and 4A are really good," Sigel said. "We are hoping to be in that class. Now we're here against a really good team. It's a chance to prove we belong."
No matter what classification they have had, the Rocks have done that. Now comes the time to do it in Class 4A.
"We believe we can play with anybody," Babers said.
Rocky has the mindset to make another sectional title happen.
"We're a great team," Carr said. "We're capable of doing that."
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