By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
The final four Macoupin County teams left standing each made their final exit in the semifinal round of the Illinois High School Association boys’ basketball playoffs last week.
Southwestern was sent home earlier than expected. Meanwhile, Bunker Hill, North Mac and Greenfield-Northwestern were shut down by higher-ranked heavyweights.
East Alton-Wood River regional
Even though Southwestern was playing on neutral ground for an IHSA Class 2A regional at East Alton-Wood River, the Piasa Birds had a disadvantage for two reasons.
For one, they came in having faltered down the final stretch of the season, losing five of seven contests in February. Also, they had to face No. 11 Roxana, which was playing in its home neighborhood. Thus, Southwestern had to battle a raucous opposing atmosphere while, at the same time, trying to re-gain momentum.
Because the IHSA generally releases its postseason pairings two weeks before the end of the regular season, the Birds were granted a luxury of having a first round bye as a No. 4 seed in recognition of its strong play in January.
In present day, the Birds just weren’t the same and they could never rekindle the fire against the underdog Shells. Southwestern only hit a total of nine shots from the floor and went ‘one and done’ with a 34-24 loss. Roxana broke a tie by outscoring the Birds 21-11 in the second half and advanced to the regional championship game against eventual champion Greenville.
Rocky Darr led all Southwestern scorers with eight points. Ian Brantley and David Watkins added six tallies.
Southwestern finishes the season 16-16 overall.
North Mac was riding high entering the semifinal of the Auburn regional, but finally settled back down to Earth against top-seeded Pleasant Plains after winning eight games in a row.
The Panthers’ former rival from a balanced and competitive Sangamo Conference had proven itself as the area’s elite defensive anchors, allowing just 40 points per game on average. North Mac could only muster 25 against the pesky Cardinals.
The Panthers tapped out with a 17-15 record following a 16-point defeat, 41-25.
In its first season as a member of the South Central Conference, North Mac won seven of nine league games and finished as the conference’s runner-up, second only to Greenville. Additionally, the Panthers were able to give their head coach T.J, Wilson his 400th career coaching victory earlier this month.
Bunker Hill and Greenfield-Northwestern were eliminated in the second round of the IHSA Class 1A Hardin sub-sectional.
Bunker Hill lost to No. 2 Lincolnwood, 49-25, in Raymond and GF-NW was handed a 67-43 defeat against top-seeded Routt Catholic at Jacksonville.
The Minutemen concluded the campaign 10-21.
The Tigers went 20-13.