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2014 Seventh Grade Boys Basketball State Finals Tip-Off Saturday

For the eighth time in Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) boys' basketball history, four 7th grade champions will be crowned and it all begins this Saturday (Feb. 8) at four sites. Competition in the Class 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A State Final Tournaments begins Saturday and concludes Thursday (Feb. 13). This is the 85th year IESA has conducted a state basketball series.

Class 1A will be played at St. Joseph Middle School while Class 2A is set to tip-off at Clinton High School. Wenona Fieldcrest Junior High School will play host in Class 3A and Class 4A will be at Normal Kingsley Junior High School.

The time schedule for all four tournaments will be the same. Quarterfinals will be played Saturday with the first of four games beginning at 10:00 a.m. at each site. The four quarterfinal winners will meet in semifinal games Saturday evening with the first of two games set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Third place and championship games will be played Thursday (Feb. 13) with the third place game set for 6:00 p.m. and the championship game scheduled for 7:30.

Any changes in the playing status of each of the four tournaments will be posted on the IESA Website at www.iesa.org as each tournament progresses.

The price of admission Saturday is $7.00 for adults and $3.00 for seniors (62 and over) and students (K-8) and is good for all games Saturday. Children younger than kindergarten are admitted free. Fans attending the games Saturday will receive a wristband that is to be worn all day and will be used for entry into that respective state final site only throughout the day. It will not be honored at any other 7th grade state final site. The price of admission for the third place and championship game session Thursday will be $5.00 for adults and $2.00 for seniors and students (K-8). Children younger than kindergarten again are admitted free.

IESA boys basketball began in 1930. From 1930 to 1972 there were two classes: Class A (heavyweight) and Class B (lightweight). Class C (7th grade) was added in 1973. From 1977-1984, the heavyweight class was divided into two classes based on enrollment. From 1985-2006, there were Class A and Class AA state series for both seventh grade and eighth grade. Beginning in 2007, the seventh grade and eighth grade series have four classes each.

Complete pairings for each state final, plus the FanZone, can be found at www.iesa.org. Click on the Boys Basketball link at the top of the IESA Website Home Page.

Here is a look at each of the 7th Grade State Final Tournaments:

Class 1A

With a solid mix of tournament vets and newcomers, the field in Class 1A is setting the stage for a Saturday to remember! Tipping-off in the morning will be the Sharpshooters of Sigel St. Michael's (20-2) up against the unbeaten (16-0) Eagles of Gifford. Returning to the big dance for the first time since 2009, the Eagles are aiming to become the first Class 1A squad to go wire-to-wire without a defeat since Monmouth ICS accomplished the feat back in 2003. Standing in their way will be a Sharpshooter squad that has plenty of tournament experience of their own, taking home second back in 2009. Head Coach Jake Probst contributes this year's success to a selfless, team first mentality. "We have had many kids step up this year," said Probst. "When one is having a bad night, we tend to get someone else to step up. Throughout the season we've learned a lot about what each other can do on and off the court."

Game two of the Class 1A quarterfinal action features two previous state champions in the Shamrocks of Jacksonville Our Savior (19-3) and the Knights of Ottawa Marquette (14-3). The Knights are back to the Class 1A finals for the first time since capturing first place back in 2011, while the Shamrocks took home the gold in 2010. Moving on to game three of the day which features tournament newcomer Morton Blessed Sacrament (12-9) set to do battle against the tournament savvy Wildcats of Lovejoy (8-5). Returning to the Class 1A state finals since capturing back-to-back third place titles from 08-09, the Wildcats are riding high following an impressive 20 point sectional championship victory. Meanwhile, the Tars of Morton Blessed Sacrament are fueled by a balanced team attack with an all-around defensive mindset. "It sounds cliché, but we have had great contributions from everyone up and down the lineup," said Head Coach Michael Peplow. "I can honestly say that we would not be where we are today without the contributions of each and every one of these players."

Wrapping up the Class 1A quarterfinal action are the returning Flyers from Bartonville Monroe (22-0) as they tip-off against the Wildcats of Cissna Park (10-8). Lead by Head Coach Vincent Lober, the Wildcats are looking to capture their first state championship since back in 2008. Standing in their path is a Bartonville team that's out for revenge following a quick exit a year ago. Although the team is fueled by the on court play of Michael Dunne, Cole Tanner, Zach Ori, and Nate Hollingsworth, it's another Flyer whose contributions are just as critical to Bartonville Monroe's success. Team manager Colton Baker has demonstrated great sportsmanship throughout the entire season," said Head Coach Evan Haffner. "His main duties are getting the players fired up before the games, keeping stats, and helping coach in certain situations. He has been a team player and a key reason for our success!"

Class 2A

Searching for storylines within Class 2A shouldn't be difficult, as the loaded field plays host to a bevy of talented squads looking to capture gold. Getting things going early will be the Trojans of Elmwood (23-1) who, prior to 2013, had advanced to four straight Class 1A finals. That impressive run was highlighted by back-to-back second place finishes in 2010 and 2011. With an eye on capturing the school's first Class 2A title, Head Coach Jim Valla knows what he has in his Trojans. "We are not very big, but we hustle all 24 minutes of the game," said Valla. "We have improved throughout the season and as the players have learned their roles, we have become a much better team." Elmwood currently awaits the winner of Friday's sectional championship between Effingham St. Anthony and Nokomis JHS.

Game two of the morning features the Wildcats of Decatur Robinson (20-3), who've captured the last two Class 2A state championships. "I believe what makes our team stand out from the others at state is the tradition of winning state titles and the willingness to play for each other and for their school," said Head Coach Brandon Springfield. Standing in the way of a Wildcat three peat are the Warriors of Streator Woodland (24-0). Although newcomers to the Class 2A state tournament, the Warriors enter the big dance unbeaten with more goals set to accomplish. "In 13 years of coaching, this is the highest "basketball IQ" team I have been around," said Head Coach Pat DuMais. "They have set very lofty goals from day one and have worked to achieve those goals from the 1st practice."

Next up on the Class 2A schedule are the Vikings of Peoria St. Vincent de Paul (20-4) against the Panthers of Ford Heights Cottage Grove UGC (12-2). The Panthers are back to the Class 2A state tournament for the first time since taking home fourth place back in 2011. Head Coach Troy Juniel and his squad are coming off a dominant sectional championship performance en route to this year's Class 2A state tournament. Meanwhile, the Vikings of Peoria St. Vincent de Paul are searching for their first Class 2A state title since taking home the gold in 2010.

The final Class 2A quarterfinal contest of the day will feature the 14-1 Spartans of Madison as they clash against the Scotties of Fisher (18-7). Hoping to build upon their fourth place Class 2A finish a season ago, the Scotties return to the state scene following quite the journey. "Beginning with our 6:30 am practices at the beginning of the season, all the way to the snowed out and rescheduled games, our kids have worked extremely hard," said Head Coach Jake Palmer. "We had a mid-season struggle in which we lost 4 of 5…had some kids sick…not playing our best basketball. We had to reevaluate ourselves and find an identity of who we were as a team." Newcomers to the Class 2A finals are the Spartans of Madison, who are a midseason Cahokia Wirth defeat away from entering the big dance with a perfect record.

Class 3A

With several teams making their Class 3A state final debuts, there should be no shortages of tournament firsts on display come Saturday. Game one features two of the more experienced teams within the Class 3A field, as the Tigers of Glasford Illini Bluffs (22-3) are set to rumble against the Chieftains of Burr Ridge MS (16-5). After last year's heartbreaking 3A state championship game, the Chieftains of Burr Ridge are back for redemption after a narrow sectional championship win over Dolton Lincoln. Meanwhile, the Tigers also find themselves back in the 3A title mix following a quick exit a year ago. With three tournament appearances in Class 3A since 2007, Glasford Illini Bluffs is still searching for their first top four finish.

On deck in game two of Saturday's Class 3A quarterfinal action are the Crusaders of Quincy Blessed Sacrament (17-3) against the unbeaten Trojans of Washington Central (20-0). After back-to-back Class 3A state tournament appearances, the Trojans of Washington Central have extra incentive to be thankful for this year's state berth following a difficult year in Washington. "Other teams and schools have been generous by donating money, clothes, or food to people in need in our community," said Head Coach Eric Joop. "Delavan, Pekin Broadmoor, Pekin Edison, and El-Paso Gridley have all made generous donations to our school and community." The Crusaders are anxious to make their Class 3A state tournament debut following an impressive sectional championship win over Williamsville.

Game three of the day will showcase the 16-2 Sages of Monticello pitted against the unbeaten Falcons of Gibson City GCMS (22-0). The Falcons are poised to make some noise in their first ever Class 3A state tournament appearance, as they're led by Head Coach Bruce Hendricks. Monticello returns to the Class 3A state finals for the first time since their runner-up finish in 2009. The Sages punched their ticket to the big dance by edging out Warrensburg-Latham in the sectional championship.

Rounding out the field in Class 3A are the Dragons of Hillsboro (18-3), who will be making their first ever appearance in Class 3A. The Dragons, fresh off an eight point victory over Auburn JHS at Divernon, are led into state by Head Coach Rich Stewart. Hillsboro currently awaits the winner of Friday's sectional championship between Bridgeport Red Hill and Teutopolis.

Class 4A

In what could very well be the deepest class on display over the weekend, 4A lays claim to four undefeated teams all striving for greatness. Two of the unbeaten squads will go head to head right from the start, as the Bulldogs of Bolingbrook Brooks (20-0) battle the Terriers of Taylorville JHS (23-0). The Terriers, who will be making their first ever appearance in Class 4A, are led by a flock of scoring options beginning first with seventh grader Jack Livingston. Livingston is the team's leading scorer, while point guard Brandon Odam facilitates the offense and "makes things go", according to Head Coach Brian D. Sample. On the flip side, the Bulldogs are also making their first appearance in Class 4A after recently defeating Rockford Lincoln in last Wednesday's sectional championship.

Game two of the day will feature the 19-1 Eagles of Matteson Colin Powell up against the undefeated Pythons of Normal Parkside (22-0). The Pythons are currently riding an unbeaten streak that has seen its fair share of memorable moments, none more so however, than a last second shot to defeat Bloomington JHS in the regional championship. Parkside, who is making their first appearance in the Class 4A state finals, is led by Head Coach Phillip Nevels. Meanwhile, the Eagles return to the Class 4A tournament for the first time since their quick exit back in 2009. "My entire team, as a whole, I feel are all MVP's.", said Head Coach Calvin Perkins. "I feel that I have a very special group of young men."

Moving on to game three with the Trojans of Joliet Hufford (22-2) set to do battle against the Knights of Champaign Franklin (22-1). Following a tough defeat in last year's state championship game, the Knights return to the Class 4A tournament with their sights set on achieving big things. "As the coach of this team, I can say that I have a team of 14 young men that work extremely hard each day to work towards our team goals," said Head Coach Eric Immke. "Every member of this team has accepted their role and we excel because of that reason." To capture that illustrious state title, the Knights are set with the tall task of knocking off 4A newcomer Joliet Hufford. The Trojans are led by the impressive seventh grade duo of team MVP Jalen Carter and leading scorer Arus Woods.

Last but not least, the undefeated Warriors of Cahokia Wirth (21-0) will take on last year's third place finisher in Park Forest Forest Trail (16-4). The Wolverines return to the state scene hoping to make that next step to championship glory. Led by Head Coach Devlin Boatman, Park Forest Forest Trail is fresh off an impressive sectional championship win over Phoenix Coolidge. Cahokia Wirth is hoping to become the first Class 4A team to finish unbeaten since Normal Kingsley did it back in 2011. Led by dual MVPs Cortez Brown and Elijah Rice, this Warriors team is built from more than what appears in a box score. "We are probably one of the most unselfish teams to make it this far," said Head Coach Orlando Gooden. "They have all been doing a good job of showing good sportsmanship and being true student athletes."

For more information, please contact IESA Associate Executive Director and Basketball Administrator Nicole Schaefbauer at nicole@iesa.org.



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