By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
Four county teams remain in play after the first round of Illinois High School Association boys’ basketball regionals.
Southwestern, North Mac, Bunker Hill and Greenfield-Northwestern each found their way into the semifinals, while Carlinville, Staunton, Gillespie and Mt. Olive turned in their colors.
East Alton-Wood River regional
Southwestern automatically qualified for the semifinals as a No. 4 seed in the Newton sub-sectional and East Alton-Wood River regional.
The Birds’ first opponent was No. 11 Roxana, a former conference rival that had beaten them twice early in the season.
Southwestern was 16-15 heading into Feb. 22. The Piasa Birds ended the regular year with a 4-5 conference record after beating Hillsboro 54-40 and losing 52-45 to Litchfield in the final week.
Pending Wednesday’s result, Southwestern plays for the regional championship Fri., Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. in East Alton against either top seed and South Central Conference champion Greenville or No. 9 Salem, which beat No. 10 Staunton, 57-41, in round one.
North Mac ended the regular season on a seven-game winning streak and stayed hot in the first round of the Pleasant Plains bracket.
The No. 9 Panthers took down No. 8 Athens, 54-46, on the road to earn a bid in the Auburn regional against top-seeded Plains.
The Panthers met their former Sangamo rival Cardinals Feb. 22. The winner plays for the regional crown against either No. 4 PORTA or No. 5 Auburn at 7 p.m. Fri., Feb. 24.
North Mac finished the year 7-2 in the SCC and is 17-14 as of Feb. 21.
Carlinville and Gillespie failed to qualify for the semifinals of the Litchfield regional.
A tough road ended in a similar sense for Carlinville, as the Cavaliers met two conference heavyweights in the season’s dying days.
CHS went down hard against Greenville, 61-26, Feb. 14 and was unable to solve Pana at home Feb. 16. Carlinville was given a second life via a rematch at Pana, but an improved effort still wasn’t enough. The Cavaliers lost those final two games, 53-33 and 53-42, respectively, and ended the season 7-21 overall.
Gillespie had much more of a fighting chance and nearly turned that opportunity into an upset. With No. 5 Hillsboro having lost several of its key players, the matchup suddenly became more neutral. So much so, that it couldn’t have been closer. The Hiltoppers avoided heartbreak on their home floor and survived another day with a narrow 70-69 victory over the Miners.
Gillespie, which ended the year 6-19 and 2-6 in the SCC, suffered a similar defeat at the hands of arch-rival Staunton in the closing seconds of a Valentine’s Day thriller a few days prior. A late three gave the Bulldogs a 56-53 win over the Miners. Gillespie then lost 63-52 against Vandalia in the final game of the regular season Feb. 16.
In the first round of the Hardin sub-sectional, Bunker Hill and Greenfield-Northwestern advanced while Mt. Olive’s season ended in disaster.
No. 8 Bunker Hill held off No. 9 Carrollton, 63-56, and dueled with No. 2 Lincolnwood in the semifinals of the Raymond regional Feb. 22.
No. 6 Greenfield-Northwestern was bound for Jacksonville after outpacing No. 8 Franklin in a 37-32 nailbiter. The Tigers’ next test pits them against top-seeded Routt Catholic Feb. 22.
As for No. 15 Mt. Olive, a campaign which had consisted of nothing but struggles and injuries ended with a 113-29 gut punch at No. 3 Madison. The Wildcats only managed one win all year (1-25 overall) and concluded the season on an 11-game losing streak.
More postseason coverage will be featured in next week’s issue.