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HS boys’ basketball: All county teams bow out in first and second regional rounds

By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter

Once the first two rounds of the Illinois High School Association playoffs had been completed, all seven of the boys’ county teams were cleaning out their lockers.

The 2023-24 season featured a lot of young teams that were fighting to stay in the fray. But, for many, injuries derailed them and made the mountain too steep to scale.

Carlinville and Staunton, for instance, went into the IHSA Class 3A postseason without their best players in uniform, leaving an inexperienced group depleted without a true captain. Yet, the Cavaliers and Bulldogs, like all of the other county representatives, went down swinging.

Carlinville entered the first round as a massive underdog at Litchfield but showed drastic improvement from a 62-27 conference loss the Cavaliers had suffered at the Purple Panthers Jan. 25. Carlinville only trailed by one point heading into the fourth quarter of the rematch, but ran out of gas down the stretch and fell short, 51-38, ending its season 12-21 overall.

Staunton managed to hold off Gillespie, 52-49, in the quarterfinal – six days after the Bulldogs had fallen to the Miners, 45-43, at Gillespie. Staunton acheived redemption on its home floor, guaranteeing a winning season. The Bulldogs finished the year 16-16 with a 55-32 loss to eventual regional champion Alton Marquette, 55-32, in the second round. Gillespie finished 8-24.

Southwestern narrowly avoided what would of been a stunning upset in Piasa as the 20-win Birds barely held off the four-win East Alton-Wood River Oilers, 47-46. However, that type of performance didn’t cut it against a much stronger Roxana squad. The Shells eliminated the Birds, 50-37, in a battle of former conference rivals. Southwestern finished the season 21-13.

T.J. Wilson’s North Mac Panthers were one the hottest teams entering postseason play, but they received a tough draw. The Panthers edged Hillsboro in Virden, 50-47, and kept the luxury of home court advantage as a regional host. Unfortunately, state-ranked Auburn still proved too much for them to handle and North Mac bowed out against a former league rival of its own. The Panthers lost to the Trojans, 59-42, and bowed out at 17-16.

Bunker Hill and Mt. Olive both went “one and done” in Class 1A. Bunker Hill fell to North Greene, 47-26, at home, and Mt. Olive was overpowered by Lincolnwood, 58-29. Bunker Hill finished the season 10-22. Mt. Olive went 3-25.