Posted Online: Jan. 01, 2013, 9:26 pm

Reconstructed Wildcats still forging a winning path

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By Terry Duckett, tduckett@qconline.com

Last season was a renaissance event for the Galva boys' basketball program.

After winning just six games in head coach Chance Jones' first year at the helm, the Wildcats changed their direction last winter, going 22-6 and sweeping both the regular season and tournament titles in the Lincoln Trail Conference.

But, after the loss of his entire starting lineup, Jones was faced with the prospect of a rebuilding season in 2012-13 with a considerably less experienced team. As things have turned out, rebuilding has given way to retooling as Galva continues to forge a winning path.

Coming off a recent second-place finish to Elmwood at the Princeville Holiday Tournament -- coupled with a runner-up finish to Henry-Senachwine at the season-opening Williamsfield tourney -- the Wildcats head into Friday's LTC opener at Mercer County with a 10-2 record.

"We're pretty bummed out, having two opportunities to win a tourney title and falling short both times, but it's been a big learning experience that'll help us get hungry for the conference season,'' said Jones. "It's gotten us prepared and used to playing in big games.''

The most experienced Wildcat returning this year, senior point guard Dexter Ingels, has lived up to his role with 22 points, four rebounds and three steals per game. Classmate Reece Hoxworth has also stepped up his game, delivering 17 points and eight rebounds per night.

"Those two have definitely carried the load, and when teams key on those two, David Jeffries steps up,'' said Jones. "He's averaging nine points per game now, and our other guys have started to feed off of that.''

After last year's LTC title runs, Jones presented this year's Galva crew with a choice.

"Do you want to be a top team in the conference,'' he said, "or is it a case of, everyone's graduated, and it's all over? Do you want to stay in the upper level? I think our guys have worked hard and strived toward staying at the top.''

Boilermakers impressive at Marseilles:The debut of the Kewanee boys' cagers at the Marseilles Holiday Tournament was an impressive one. They reached the championship game before falling 76-63 to a 12-3 Peru St. Bede club that prior to the tournament outgunned the Boilermakers' crosstown rival Wethersfield 84-83.

Senior guard Dayton Ince continued his strong play, while talented freshman Donovan Oliver continued to break out, earning the tournament's Most Valuable Player award. With 10 wins in 13 games, look for Kewanee to make its presence felt in the Three Rivers Conference race.

Annawan boys building:First-year coach Brandon Christy's Annawan Braves built themselves some momentum for the upcoming LTC season, capping their stint at the Lanark Eastland Tournament by topping Amboy 50-37 for fourth place. The Braves opened league play at home Friday night against Princeville.