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Class 8AA Boys State Basketball Tournament Begins Saturday

This year's Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) Class 8AA Boys State Basketball Tournament begins Saturday (Feb. 11) at the Farmington Central High School Gym. It also will be the last under the 16-team, four-day, two-class tournament format.

Competition in the 22nd annual 8AA State Tournament gets under way at 9:00 a.m. Saturday (Feb. 11) with eight first round games. Quarterfinals will be played Monday (Feb. 13) beginning at 4:00 p.m. Semifinals are scheduled Tuesday (Feb. 14) beginning at 6:00 p.m. The third place and championship game will be played Thursday (Feb. 16) at 6:00 and 7:30 p.m., respectively.

This is the 77th year of boys' basketball state series competition in IESA schools. The current two-class system has been in operation since 1985. Beginning next school term, IESA boys basketball will be in four classes and the state final tournaments will be played in a Saturday-Thursday format.

Each of the 16 teams playing in Saturday's eight first round games, except Channahon, has at least one player 6-0 or taller. There are a total of 53 players standing 6-0 or taller, led by 6-6 seventh grader Corey Westbrook of unbeaten Park Forest Forest Trail (19-0).

Westbrook is one of three tall centers for the Wolverines. The others are 6-3 Lawrence Deramus and 6-3 Cameron Austin, both eighth graders. Forest Trail has 11 players on its roster 6-0 or taller.

Decatur Stephen Decatur (19-0), Harvey Brooks (17-1) and Champaign Edison (20-2) each have five players at 6-0 or taller. Tallest player for Harvey Brooks is seventh grader Karone Nutall at 6-3. Other players at 6-3 are center Niko Foltys of Homer Glen Homer, and eighth grade center Kelvin Nelson of East St. Louis Clark. Seventh grader Joseph Flagg Jr. is a 6-1 forward for Clark. Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center has 6-4 Shawn Seymour at center. Heyworth is led by 6-1 Jase Wilson, a standout point guard on last year's Class 7AA runner-up team and last year's Class 8AA qualifying team.

The breakdown of players 6-0 or taller by school is: Forest Trail 11, Champaign Edison 5, Stephen Decatur 5, Harvey Brooks 5, Heyworth 4, Bellwood Roosevelt 3, Bourbonnais UGC 3, East St. Louis Clark 3, Homer Glen Homer 3, Quincy 3, Springfield Jefferson 3, Mossville 2, Normal Kingsley 1, Robinson Nuttal 1, Sherrard 1, Channahon 0.

Three teams in this year's field - Decatur Stephen Decatur, Park Forest Forest Trail and Heyworth -- bring unbeaten records into Saturday's first round. Three teams are returning from last year - Channahon, Heyworth, and Forest Trail. Two of the teams have won the 8AA championship before - Quincy in 1991 and Harvey Brooks in 2003.

In the first game Saturday, Normal Kingsley (15-7) meets East St. Louis Clark (18-3) at 9:00 a.m. then Harvey Brooks (17-1) faces Springfield Jefferson (18-1) at 10:30. In game 3, it's Decatur Stephen Decatur (19-0) vs. Channahon (20-3) at noon. Then Heyworth (23-0) plays Mossville (19-3) at 1:30 p.m. Champaign Edison (20-2) meets Sherrard JHS (18-3) at 3:00 p.m. Quincy (17-5) plays Bourbonnais UGC (16-5) at 4:30 p.m. In game 7, Homer Glen Homer (16-7) faces Bellwood Roosevelt (20-1) at 6:00 p.m. In the nightcap at 7:30, Robinson Nuttal (20-1) battles Park Forest Forest Park (19-0).

Four of the schools are veterans of the 8AA tournament trail. Quincy's Comets are appearing in the 8AA State Tournament for the tenth time since the two-class system began in 1985. Making appearance No. 8 each are Bourbonnais UGS, Homer Glen Homer and Harvey Brooks.

This year's field of teams boasts an impressive won-loss record of 295-42, a winning percentage of .875. Two of the three unbeaten teams are in the upper bracket - Decatur Stephen Decatur and Heyworth - with gigantic Park Forest Forest Trail anchoring the bottom bracket.

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