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2014 Eighth Grade Boys Basketball State Finals Begin Saturday

For the eighth time in Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) boys' basketball history, four 8th grade champions will be crowned and it all begins this Saturday (Feb. 15) at four sites. Competition in the Class 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A State Final Tournaments begins Saturday and concludes Thursday (Feb. 20). This is the 85th year IESA has conducted a state basketball series.

Class 1A will be played at Bartonville Limestone High School, while Class 2A will tip-off at Downs Tri-Valley High School. Tolono Unity Junior High School is set to host Class 3A and rounding out the group is Class 4A hosted by Maroa-Forsyth 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. 14) 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 8th 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 8th Grade State Final Tournaments:

Class 1A

With plenty of tournament experience set to be on display, the loaded field in Class 1A shouldn't disappoint. Beginning first with the 2013 Class 1A seventh grade state champion Annawan Braves (24-0), who enter this state tournament looking to replicate Oglesby Holy Family's unbeaten season from a year ago. The Braves are led by co-captions Ben Buresh and Owen Lanwehr, but according to Head Coach Zach DeMay, each player contributes for the greater good of the team. "I can't say one player doesn't work their tail off for this team," said DeMay. "This is a team of young men that are fantastic to watch on the court, very coachable in practice/games, and are simply bright and well-rounded guys." In order to capture back-to-back state titles, the Braves will have to outlast a Stewardson-Strasburg squad (16-5) looking to make school history of their own. The Comets enter the Class 1A tournament for the first time, but are riding high after an impressive sectional championship win over Sigel St. Michael's.

Game two of the morning pits the Saints of Pontiac St. Mary's (14-9) against the Brussels Eagles (15-9). The Eagles are making their first ever appearance in the Class 1A state finals, while the Saints return to the big dance for the first time since 2008. Each team is looking to lockup their first ever top four finish, but will have to advance past the quarterfinals to do so. Game time for this pivotal matchup begins at 11:30am.

Next up in game three are the unbeaten Shamrocks of Jacksonville Our Saviour (25-0) set to tangle with the Lancers of Joliet Laraway (21-3). This matchup between two tournament heavyweights features a Lancer squad that has five tournament appearances since 2008, two of which include state titles ('10,'12). Meanwhile the Shamrocks, although still searching for that first place finish, will be making their fourth trip to the Class 1A state finals since 2008. That series of tournament appearances is highlighted by a 2011 second place finish, while also advancing a year ago.

The quarterfinal finale in Class 1A will see the Tigers of Rantoul St. Malachy (19-5) up against the Panthers of Lincoln Chester-East Lincoln (20-1). The Panthers are returning to the Class 1A state tournament for the first time since suffering a first round, quarterfinal loss back in 2009. Meanwhile, the Tigers will be making their first ever appearance at the state tournament, thanks to their recent sectional championship victory over Chrisman Scottland. These two squads are set to tipoff at 2:30pm on Saturday.

Class 2A

Of the eight qualifying teams in Class 2A, seven of them have previous tournament history dating back to 2007. Beginning first with the Bullpups of Effingham St. Anthony (16-7), as they are set to take on the Blueboys of Carthage (23-1). This is a rematch from last year's 7-2A quarterfinal matchup when the Blueboys went on to defeat the Bullpups by a final score of 43-21. Carthage would later go on the capture the 2013 7-2A third place trophy. The Blueboys have a decorated Class 2A history, as the 2014 state tournament makes their fourth appearance since 2007. That impressive run is highlighted by a first place finish back in 2007. Hoping for a different result this time around, Effingham St. Anthony understands the long road it takes to advance back to the state tournament. "Just getting there is the toughest part," said Head Coach Russ Sehy. "Sometimes you have to travel to both regionals and sectionals and that is hard for the players, but making it there trumps the ups and downs of the season." The Bullpups return to the eighth grade Class 2A state finals for the first time since 2010.

Moving on to game two of the morning, as the Spartans of Madison (13-3) will do battle against the Panthers of Ford Heights Cottage Grove UGC (7-6). The Panthers are back to the state finals after a one year hiatus, and are looking for their first ever top four finish. Standing in their way is a Spartan squad that is coming off a one point, sectional championship victory over Mt. Sterling Brown County. Madison is hoping to emulate previous tournament success that saw the team capture third place back in 2012.

Game three of the morning's quarterfinal action pits the 19-1 Eagles of Paris Crestwood up against the undefeated Vikings of Peoria St. Vincent de Paul (24-0). No stranger to the big dance, 2014 will mark the fourth straight tournament appearance for the Vikings. That impressive run is highlighted by a second place finish back in 2011. With the hopes of making school history, Head Coach Mike Seghetti understands what has gotten his team to this point. "It is a long season, and everybody hits stretches where they don't play or practice well," said Seghettier. "However, it is important to be able to fight through adversity and stay focused on your objectives. I think that this is one of the great learning experiences that sports can provide." The Vikings seventh grade squad is set to compete in Thursday night's Class 2A state championship against Elmwood. Meanwhile, Paris Crestwood will be making their first ever Class 2A state tournament appearance after recently defeating Fisher in Wednesday night's sectional championship.

Last but not least is the quarterfinal finale between the Wildcats of Decatur Robertson (19-5) and the Saints of Bloomington Holy Trinity (15-6). The Saints are back to the state tournament for the first time since winning it all back in 2009. With the hopes of capturing another state title, Bloomington Holy Trinity must first surpass a Decatur Robertson squad that is looking for their third straight Class 2A state championship. With IESA history on the line come Saturday, Head Coach Curt Lindsey understands what separates his Wildcats year in and year out. "What makes our team stand-out is their willingness to get better and working hard to develop their crafts over the summer," said Lindsey. "Our boys love to play basketball and love to play basketball with each other. They are extremely competitive and give 100% at all times."

Class 3A

With five of the eight qualifying teams new to Class 3A, the crowd at Tolono Unity Junior High School should keep an eye out for plenty of tournament firsts come Saturday. Kicking off the morning will be the Crusaders of Quincy Blessed Sacrament (10-9) taking on the Gators of Peoria Quest (16-2). Coming off an impressive sectional championship win over Bushnell-Prairie City, the Gators are led by Head Coach Bobby Ford and will be making their Class 3A tournament debut. Also punching their ticket to the Class 3A tournament for the first time are the Crusaders of Quincy Blessed Sacrament. Head Coach Scott Phillips and his squad are riding high following a one point, sectional championship victory over Williamsville.

On deck for game two of the Class 3A quarterfinal action is a key matchup between a past champion and yet another tournament newcomer. The Cubs of Marshall JHS (14-10) are looking for tournament gold for the first time since 2008, but will have to upend a Hoopeston Area squad with just one loss on the season (23-1). The Cornjerkers are led by key contributors Logan Walder, Chet Stock, Brayden Bouse, Wes Ravens, Ryan Drayer, and Riley Wyss. Although each member brings something different to the table, Hoopeston Area Head Coach Jeff Alexander pinpoints an overall team quality that each player shares. "The team's selflessness sets us apart," said Alexander. "Every team that reaches the finals has talent…this team understands the benefits of relying and trusting each other for the good of the team." Game time for this highly anticipated matchup tips off at 11:30am.

Game three of the day pits the Hornets of Eureka (16-7) against the Cougars of Dixmoor Rosa Parks (20-3). Although the Cougars are the first eighth grade squad from Dixmoor Rosa Parks to advance to the big dance, it was this very group of ball players that finished third in last year's 7-3A state tournament. Meanwhile, the Hornets of Eureka return to the Class 3A state tournament for the first time since their early exit back in 2010. Determined to capture that illustrious first place trophy, the Hornets are led by Head Coach Dustin Roth and are fresh off a one point, sectional championship win over Washington Central.

Rounding out the quarterfinal action in the Class 3A tournament is a key matchup between two teams with a combined three losses on the season. The Birds of Piasa Southwestern (23-2) are making their first ever 3A tournament appearance while the Monticello Sages (24-1) return for the first time since their third place finish back in 2009. According to Head Coach Mike Stokowski, the Sages are a well-balanced team on both ends of the court. "This is a team that works well together and has many different scorers," said Stokowski. "The teamwork also shows up on the defensive end...I believe the entire team deserves MVP because of how well they work together."

Class 4A

Needless to say, there is no shortage of storylines coming into the Class 4A State Tournament. Game one will feature the 24-1 Wolverines of Park Forest Forest Trail, as they are set to take on the Bruins of Pekin Broadmoor (20-4). The Bruins are returning to the Class 4A state tournament for the first time since their second place finish back in 2009. Led by Head Coach Cary VandeSchraaf, Pekin Broadmoor is rolling following their Wednesday night sectional championship victory over Normal Chiddix. Meanwhile, the Wolverines are no stranger to the big stage, as this very group of players placed third in the 2013 7-4A state tournament. As a school, this is also the first time Park Forest Forest Trail has advanced to the 8-4A state tournament since their quarterfinal loss back in 2012.

Up next is a key matchup against newcomer Quincy (12-7) and tournament fixture Matteson Colin Powell (20-2). The Eagles of Colin Powell are set to make their fourth tournament appearance since 2008, with the run of finals highlighted by a 2009 fourth place finish. Hoping to make history on Saturday, the Eagles must first contend with a Quincy squad out to make a striking first impression. Led by key contributors Aaron Shoot, Ben Amos, and Jacob Ary, the Comets of Quincy have come together as the season has progressed. "Our team has started to play together, and the kids bought into what we wanted them to do," said Head Coach Brad Dance. "As a result we have been a lot more successful."

Moving on to game three and the matchup between the Senators of Joliet Dirksen (14-6) and the Bulldogs of Bellwood Roosevelt (13-1). The Bulldogs may be making their first ever 8-4A tournament appearance, but this pack of dogs has plenty of tournament experience to speak of. The group advanced as seventh graders a year ago to the 7-4A state tournament. Meanwhile, the Senators are back to the Class 4A state tournament for the first time since 2009. Led by team MVP Kaprice Griffin, Joliet Dirksen has continued to succeed thanks to their team mentality. "Our team has overcome a lot of adversity this season, but we have displayed the "next man up" mentality," said Head Coach Kyle Camp. "The hard work of all of our players has shown as each has improved in all facets, making the team better each day."

Rounding out the quarterfinal play on Saturday in Class 4A is a battle featuring the Tigers of East St. Louis Lincoln and the Ridge Runners of Danville North Ridge (15-3). Back for the first time since 2007, the Ridge Runners are coming off an impressive sectional championship victory over Effingham JHS. On the flip side, the Tigers are coming off the 2013 seventh and eighth grade boys basketball state championships. Led by Head Coach Clifford Williams, East St. Louis Lincoln is hoping to add to their illustrious state title collection.

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



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