Crim: Postseason basketball outcomes create intrigue, questions how futures unfold


Illini West boys basketball coach Blaize Kimmel led the Chargers to a 21-11 record in his first season at the helm. | David Adam photo

QUINCY — Questions and observations as the march toward high school state basketball tournaments continues in both Illinois and Missouri, with some college teams harboring postseason aspirations in the waning days of February:

First-year Illini West boys coach Blaize Kimmel stood outside his team’s locker room giving fist-bumps and hugs while offering words of encouragement to his players as they emerged following a heart-breaking 44-39 loss to West Hancock last week in the semifinals of the Class 2A Warsaw Regional.

Two nights after beating Beardstown on a tip-in at the buzzer, the Chargers led the top-seeded Titans for most of the contest until too many empty possessions in the fourth quarter derailed the upset bid.

It wasn’t a scene of despair, however.

“God, it was a fun game to coach,” Kimmel said. “I still have butterflies in my stomach thinking about it. My kids really competed. We had a chance, and it just didn’t fall our way.

“I told our kids on the bus that when two good teams play, one has to fall. There are 64 games being played around the state tonight and that means 64 teams will be done. I’m proud to say we went down swinging and it was not easy for them to beat us.”

It was a refreshing outlook for a coach who just saw his season end. Illini West went 21-11 this season with 12 underclassmen on the roster, so we’ll see what the energetic Kimmel can do with another offseason to work with his team. …

Will the Western Big 6 Conference champion Quincy High School boys also earn some Southwestern Conference recognition if they beat a third straight SWC opponent, Belleville West, Tuesday night in the semifinals of the Pekin Sectional?

The Blue Devils posted come-from-behind victories over Alton and O’Fallon last week to claim their state-record 62nd regional championship. They split games against O’Fallon and since-eliminated Collinsville at Christmastime and beat East St. Louis in a shootout at Normal West in early February to stand 4-1 against SWC teams.

Defending Class 4A state champion Moline and Normal Community meet in the other sectional semifinal, meaning a potential rubber match against the Maroons could be in the offing for Quincy. The teams split two conference games during the regular season, each winning on their home floor. …

After initially barring Chicago Kenwood from the state tournament last week for rules violations, the Illinois High School Association reversed course and allowed the team to compete — but without head coach Mike Irvin, two assistant coaches and five players.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of the Inspector General presented evidence and documents to the IHSA on Jan. 25 that revealed potential residency rules violations for multiple Kenwood players.

The CPS investigation showed that multiple players used falsified items, including utility bills, to meet Kenwood residency requirements. The newspaper reported players and coaches provided inaccurate home addresses.

No action was taken at the time, however, and Kenwood was allowed to play in the Chicago Public League tournament, where it lost to Curie 65-59 in the championship game. With one starter and four reserves, Kenwood — among the others receiving votes in the final Associated Press Class 4A state poll — still beat Morton and Oak Lawn in last week’s regional.

Among the players ruled ineligible were Arizona State recruit Jaden Smith and DePaul recruit Chris Riddle. …

Coach Matt Long and the Central-Southeastern girls team just find ways to win.

Seemingly on the ropes, the Panthers scored 11 of the game’s final 13 points to outlast Pleasant Plains 43-37 last Thursday for the Beardstown Class 2A Sectional championship.

That came two nights after they held off a late Staunton surge to survive 56-50. Their last three postseason victories have been by a combined 13 points. This is a team that overcame a dreadful shooting performance and a 16-point second-half deficit to beat state-ranked Deer Creek-Mackinaw in overtime a month ago.

CSE (29-2) will carry a 21-game winning streak into Monday night’s game against Nashville (31-3) in the Vandalia Super-Sectional. A win will send the Panthers to the state tournament for the first time since 2017, when they placed fourth after finishing third the year before.

Basketball fans with no rooting interest should feel compelled to pull for Long, the dean of area coaches in his 31st season, and his gritty team. …

The Palmyra girls appeared primed to make a postseason run in Missouri Class 3 after winning 15 of their first 18 games to rise to seventh in the state poll. Turnovers were an issue all season, however, and that proved to be even more problematic down the stretch as the Panthers went 4-4 in their final eight games.

Palmyra was bounced by South Shelby in the District 6 title game for the third straight season, losing 63-50 to finish with a 19-7 record. The Panthers led by as many as eight points in the first half and by seven early in the second — leads that could have been larger had it not been for throwaways and missed point-blank shots.

“I wish I had the answer,” first-year Palmyra coach Kelsey Stuart said after seeing her team get outscored 21-2 over a pivotal 6 ½-minute stretch during the second and third quarters that turned the tide.

Guard Clare Williams and forward Sydney Compton return next season to lead what shapes up to be an otherwise young team. …

The John Wood Community College men’s and women’s basketball teams will close out the regular season with games Wednesday versus Lewis & Clark and Saturday against Illinois Central College at the Student Activity Center.

Both teams are jockeying for position in the Region 24 postseason tournament and are coming off back-to-back road victories over Lincoln Land and Danville.

The men overcame an 18-point second-half deficit Saturday to beat Danville 59-57 to improve to 15-12 overall and 6-4 in the Mid-West Athletic Conference. That came on the heels of a 68-62 win over Lincoln Land that snapped a five-game losing streak, giving them a shot at hosting a first-round playoff game.

The women improved to 14-12 overall and 7-5 in the MWAC with a 67-53 win against Danville, improving their road record to 9-5. They own earlier victories against Lewis & Clark and ICC but are just 4-7 at home. …

No Great Lakes Valley Conference postseason berth will be on the line for the Quincy University men’s when it closes out the regular season Saturday afternoon at home against the University of Illinois-Springfield, but the QU women could have some hope depending on how Thursday’s other league games play out.

Playing without leading scorer Zion Richardson, the men were embarrassed by Truman State Saturday, 94-55. The streaking Bulldogs drained 18 3-pointers to avenge a two-point loss to the Hawks in January. QU has lost eight of nine and 10 of 12 to fall to 11-16 overall and 6-13 in the GLVC.

The women snapped a five-game losing streak with a 92-89 win over Truman State, their highest-scoring outing of the season, to move to 10-17 overall and 9-12 in league play. Seven of those losses have been by six points or less. They beat UIS 69-66 on Jan. 20 and will try to improve on their 4-11 record at Pepsi Arena.

Currently, the women sit in 10th in the GLVC point rating system that determines the eight teams for the postseason tournament. It may take seven or eight things to go in QU’s favor this week to end up with the right number of points to earn a spot, but a glimmer of hope still exists.

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