Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2013, 10:19 pm
Boys' basketball preview: United Township (3-18, 1-5 Big 6) at Rock Island (16-4, 4-2 Big 6)
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By Steve Tappa, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tonight: 7:30 at the Rock Island Fieldhouse. Sophomores start at 6. Twitter updates: @DanMak57.
Saturday: Both teams are off.
United Township: G: Trevor May, 5-8, Jr. (5.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg), Ryan Merideth, 6-2, Soph. (4.1, 2.6) & Keegan Wenskunas, 5-8 Jr. (5.3, 1.2); F: Lamont Mitchell, 6-3, Soph. (8.1, 5.5) & Dalton Oakes, 6-3, Jr. (0.9, 1.6).Rock Island: G: C.J. Carr, 5-6, Jr. (13.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg), Trey Sigel, 6-1, Jr. (9.3, 2.9) & Brian Richardson, 6-0, Sr. (11.4, 3.1); F: Rob Johnson, 6-2, Sr. (5.3, 4.3) & Keenan Shorter, 6-3, Jr. (9.0, 4.4).
Why watch: With league-leading Quincy at fellow title contender Galesburg, Rock Island's three-time defending champs need a win while hoping for a little help in the Western Big 6 Conference title chase. Both at 4-2, Rocky and Galesburg are looking up at state-ranked Quincy (6-0). The Rocks received votes outside of the Top 10 again this week in the Illinois Associated Press Class 4A poll. ... Rocky "killed us last time, and that's stating it mildly," UT coach Marc Polite said, hoping his steadily improving Panthers can close the 80-32 gap from early December's meeting. UT's lost eight straight, but that includes close conference calls with Galesburg, Quincy and Moline in the last month. ... Raahsaan Brown, a starter earlier this season, will continue coming off the bench while recovering from troubles with both ankles. Rocky coach Thom Sigel said the senior is only 70-80 percent healthy. ... Junior Keegan Wenskunas has pushed his way back into UT's starting lineup after missing three weeks in December with a concussion. "He's been playing and shooting really well lately," Polite said of last weekend's leading UT scorer. ... Keenan Shorter is 10 points from becoming the seventh Rocky player to reach 100 points this season. By comparison, the league's other five teams have 20 combined. ... Also speaking to Rocky's depth? Six players have led the Rocks in scoring during a game this season.
UT's Polite: "We still want to run and continue getting points in transition, but with Rocky's guards, we have to make smart decisions on offense and defense. A big part of any sport is trying to take away a team's strengths, and with Rocky, a staple of their program has been they are good off the dribble. They want to beat you off the bounce and attack the lane. That doesn't mean we can back off them because they have some (3-point) shooters. But we have to be mindful of what they're going to try and do first and foremost."
Rocky's Sigel: "We didn't play our best last Friday. We beat Alleman, but we were flat. Hopefully we learned we can't take anyone for granted, especially not these guys, because they've gotten a lot better since we saw them last. After playing (state-ranked) North Chicago and (Chicago) North Lawndale, we should be prepared to play an uptempo game. But we needed to make good decisions and really execute. Lately, I feel like we're not playing well in the half-court. It seems like we're getting impatient."
-- By Steve Tappa, email@example.com