Greetings all and welcome to Duerrisms for the Week of January 11th, brought to you as always by the great people at GAMEMASTERS, the folks who can outfit you for your every recreational sporting need. Be sure to reward their selfless patronage of local athletes with your business when the need arises for you to buy gear, equipment, or heck just do a little fun browsing for your future wishlists.
Hard to believe how fast this year is going but the KHQA/SUBWAY Superfan Shootout is nearly upon us. The two-day basketball extravaganza is set for Friday, February 1st and Saturday February 2nd with one low ticket price gaining you entry to 12 games worth of basketball. Tickets will be available in advance at all participating schools. This tends to be a very hot ticket every single year, so set your calendars accordingly. As many of you KSSS veteran's know, The PIT tends to fill up very quickly for the Saturday Night portion of the event and if you want a good seat for anyone of those last three games of the night (Elsberry/West Hancock Boys, QND/Rolling Meadows Girls, QND/Alton Marquette Boys) you would be wise to be in the gym that night by 5:00pm at the latest. We also feel like we have upgraded the Friday night portion of the
slate (particularly with the battle of Top Five Girls teams in QND/Springfield) for your entertainment this year, which adds even more benefit to your ticket price. It goes without saying there will be plenty more coming your way here on the KHQA/SUBWAY Superfan Shootout in the coming weeks, but I just wanted to remind everyone a few weeks out that the fun fast approaches again. Mark your calendars accordingly...
For those who have asked/are silently wondering, we have tentatively set the Week of June 28th as your date for DO OR DIE BOWL IX. The process of roster building begins in earnest the second week of February and I hope to have invitations out by the end of that month. (We need to first get clear of the KHQA SUBWAY Superfan Shootout before I dive into that fun bit of football chemistry) For those who haven't heard or weren't aware our coaches for this season will be Centralia's Erle Bennett for the West Squad (Missouri/Iowa) and Pittsfield/Griggsville Perry's Don Bigley for the East (Illinois) crew. And for you Juniors out there, Concord Triopia's Rich Thompson has already agreed to coach the East Squad for 2014 in our tenth anniversary edition. So again, thanks for your patience and you can begin to look for letters in the mail that last week of February.
A reminder to all you social media users out there: you can follow me on Twitter ( https://twitter.com/ChrisDuerr ) for instant feedback, scores as the happen, stories as they break in real time on Twitter, impromptu movie and music reviews, incessant whining about the worst franchise in Professional Sports and my unconditional love of them: the Sacramento Kings. Feel free to hit me up there any time with questions, comments, or life advice (heaven help you if you are looking for the later) as Twitter is usually the easiest place to catch me these days. Also, we operate a Facebook Page ( http://www.facebook.com/KHQAChrisDuerr ) where I run polls and impromptu chat sessions to gauge your opinions of the topics of the day in local sports. Hope you can lend us your expertise for the on-going Sports and Wrestling Seasons by checking in there often and participating in the votes.
KHQA STUDENT ATHLETE OF THE WEEK presented by CELL TECH, PETERS HEATING and AIR, and SUBWAY
Now in its eighth year of existence, the KHQA Student Athlete of the Week Award celebrates the best and brightest examples of achievement in Tri State Athletics. Every Wednesday Night at 6:00pm, we will profile a deserving senior selected from a pool of applicants by our independent nominating committee. It's a look beyond just their highlights into the mindset and determination that make these young men and women successful in all that they do; a reminder to all of you just how much good there is out there to be celebrated in this generation. And at year's end, we will once again award scholarships to the top boys and girls scholar athletes in our area.
If you know of a deserving senior who sports a minimum 3.5 GPA, please contact your high school athletic director and have them fill out a form on that student's behalf. Or help expedite the process yourself by printing a nomination form from our website (which can be found on the Student Athlete of the Week Page) and turning it in to your local athletic director so that they can submit it to us. Our LAST nominating session is in March, at which point we will pick our final 15 honorees from the pool of seniors. The window of opportunity to nominate a deserving applicant is closing fast. We don't want to miss anyone in the process and sincerely hope you will help us out in that spirit.
Week One: DALTON POWELL, Hannibal High Football/Basketball/Baseball
Week Two: INDIA GREEN, Quincy High Volleyball
Week Three: JILL HARRIS, Beardstown Softball/Volleyball/Basketball
Week Four: CARLI WATSON, Hannibal Volleyball
Week Five: HANNAH TRUMP, Clark County Softball/Basketball
Week Six: NICK WEIMAN, QND Football
Week Seven: BRENDAN ROSS, Louisiana Basketball/Football/Golf/Baseball
Week Eight: ETHAN BORROWMAN, Pittsfield Baseball/Basketball/Cross County
Week Nine: PEYTON GRUBER, Paris Basketball/Softball
Week Ten: ALEX DIETRICH, Quincy High Volleyball
Week Eleven: JAKE VOSS, Payson Seymour Basketball/Golf
Week Twelve: BRODY GRONEWOLD, Illini West Basketball/Football/Baseball
Past Scholarship Winners
2012: ALEX WALTER, Central High (Augustana College)
TORI KUHN, Quincy Notre Dame (Lindenwood College)
2011: JACOB CONLEY, Central High (U.S. Military Academy at West Point)
DAKOTA FLESNER, Payson Seymour (John Wood Community College)
2010: MICHAEL LAFFERTY, Illini West (Monmouth College)
TAYLOR BAXTER, Palmyra (Illinois State)
2009: MATT PATTERSON, South Shelby (Truman State)
CHLOE BARNES, Quincy Notre Dame (Ball State University)
2009: LUKE GUTHRIE, Quincy High (University of Illinois)
2007: KATELYN BASTERT, Illini West (Duke University)
2006: MIKAL BENECOMO, Clopton (Southeast Missouri State)
KHQA Girls Power Poll for January 11th
Outside of a very productive road swing through the Optimist Shootout at Highland Illinois last week, in which the Lady Raiders barreled over, around and through the host team to the tune of a 68-31 victory, it's been a pretty quiet 2013 thus far for Eric Orne's crew. Although, I have to admit, the impressive play of the QND Junior Varsity squad at the Lady Panther Classic in Camp Point (beat West Hancock, nearly took out Havana as well) lends credence that this dynasty is nowhere near its demise. The Varsity Lady Raiders will look to go to 13-0 on Saturday afternoon at the expense of cross-town rivals Quincy High before things start really heating up at the back end of the regular season schedule. If you glanced at the IHSA Girls State Rankings this week, you may have taken note of the fact that QND will face a pair of Top 4 Class 4A teams, on successive nights, in the KHQA SUBWAY Superfan Shootout as Springfield and Rolling Meadows (4th and 3rd respectively) hit The Pit to take the true measure of a QND squad that has risen to every challenge so far. This will be the most "state-like" test of the season for QND, however, as this will be back-to-back powerhouse programs (combined record of 31-3 as of the time of this writing) within 24 hours of one another. Bottom line, the key to another Fabulous February for QND may just been in how well the Lady Raiders come off their January Jeopardy slate.
2) CENTRAL LEE
Yeah, I know...the Keokuk loss, right? How can the Hawks be this high? For starters, I think that loss Thursday (in which Central Lee held a nine point fourth quarter lead before dropping a 50-49 decision) is the refocusing point Lane Weirather needed for his girls. On top of that, I'd still argue that player for player, the Lady Hawks are as tough a talent matchup as you will find on this list and would give fits to any team here not named QND. And three, not really sure there is anyone here I like dramatically better. Jordan Greenfield has really stepped up her game and Taylor Burdette and Traci Keller are as able and pure a PG/C combination as you will find. I'll bank on the Lady Hawks using that crossroads game to their advantage and heading in the right direction.
The Lady Mustangs appear to have regained some of their lost momentum in Camp Point this week, putting together a balanced run through pool play that echoed many of their better early season successes. Breanne Begeman continues to fill out a nightly stat sheet as completely as any player in Western Illinois small school basketball, especially given her heightened ability this season to distribute the basketball. And as Matt Long noted to me this week, this is a team that really stretches you on defense in that even the Lady Mustangs guards are long limbed for their position.Quiet key here for greater success is the effectiveness of the Lady Mustangs perimeter game to open things up down low for Brooklyn Moore or for the driving abilities of Begeman and Maggie Bowles. Bottom line, when Begeman and Jill Donley are hitting shots from distance, this team stretches an opposing defense incredibly well. That X-factor is critical for Unity against the better teams on the schedule. That established, the Lady Mustangs are playing in their first ever Lady Panther Classic Title Game on Saturday and that is a nice stride coming off the forgettable Beardstown experience.
While Monroe City started fast but is now mired in a disconcerting scoring slump, Palmyra has gathered momentum and is starting to really put it all together. I thought this weekend's Highland Tournament title and what I consider a season high water mark win over Macon in that game really was the epiphany point for these girls. Then Chris Parson's gals dismantled a greatly improved Hannibal team on Tuesday with a huge push early from the now healthy Megan Hooper, who gives this team the athletic presence in the paint in lacked earlier in the year. The really fun thing about this Palmyra squad is that it has five girls on the floor at all times who can find points. Alexis Van Nostrand has done a really perceptive job this season getting the ball in the right hands at the right time, whether that is Hooper, Katee Hinkle, Alexis Losson, Allie Dietrich or whoever it would be that has the right offensive flow working at the right hand. The Defense has been quietly effective to boot. Right now, based on the way things are trending, P-Town might well look like the smartest money to win the Clarence Cannon Conference title.
How about a little love for Joe Eilering in the Coach of the Year department? His Lady Rockets are now 15-3 on the season and playing for a Lady Spartan Tournament Championship despite the fact that the Routt roster has been as hard by injury as any team in the area and that it seems like the remaining Lady Rocket starters are being held together by tape on most nights. I have no idea how this team has continued to play so well. I wrote them off for dead when Johanna Gross tore her ACL and was done for the season. Then scarier still against arch rival West Central on Thursday, the luminous Alyssa Garde goes down with a knee injury and it's dj vu all over again. And yet the "Zombie Rockets" scrap and claw and beat an excellent Cougar club behind huge step-ups from Katie Tonry and Natalie Halpin, along with a nice bench push from the vastly unsung Jessi Dietrich. Bottom line, this team just gives you no quarter. And while it may not shape up to be the high end roster we projected pre-season due to injuries (no word yet on Garde's status going forward) moxie counts for something. And no one has more of it than the Zombie Rockets.
6) WEST CENTRAL
Again, no area team is probably more at the mercy of the whims of shooting fate than the Lady Cougars, who on a good night from distance can beat anyone. And on a cold night...well, see also the loss to aforementioned Routt. By the same token, I maintain that Brian Bettis has done a masterful job playing the hand he has been dealt and using the weapons he's got to great purpose. With as many as five excellent to better than average outside shooters in the arsenal, West Central can bust up a zone defense as ably as anyone. And Abby Lashmett has handled her role as the "one in" about as well as you can and shown great ability to find points and rebounds despite the interior attention she is paid. This is a suprisingly spry rebounding team for its lack of size as well. Going forward, this is an easy team to like.
Somehow in my haste to get this thing posted last week, completely glossed over the Tigerettes in my rankings. Apologies. Macon re-entered radar after reaching the Highland Tournament Title game and than threw cold water all over Monroe City in the Conference opener with a defensive masterpiece in which Macon held one of the area's most athletic teams to single digit scoring in three of the four quarters. Dan Haley's team is another that seems to be finding its footing, though fundamentally the one Achilles Heel here is that Macon is never really going to be a team that can overpower you with a barrage of points the way some of the better heeled offensive teams on this list do. Macon is prize fighter that frustrates you with great defense and savvy play. We all knew coming into this season how good Audrey Freeman was and upside of Val Schmidt. The pleasant surprise here is that the cast around those girls is proving better than advertised with the rise of weapons like Trinity Rainey, who has come into her own as a gritty senior, and the rising Cambre Britt. This may not be the most "artistic" team to watch, but the Tigerettes poses their own unique share of dangers and are the kind of team opponents just loathe playing. I think that makes them incredibly scary going forward.
The Next Level
8) MONROE CITY
9) BOWLING GREEN
10) ILLINI WEST
16) WEST HANCOCK
17) QUINCY HIGH
18) MARION COUNTY
19) BROWN COUNTY
23) HOLY TRINITY
24) PITTSFIELD/PLEASANT HILL
(Complete Boys Power Poll coming next Friday)
BIRDDOGGING THE TRI-STATES
(A list of seven athletes we've seen in our travels this who have raised the bar on their games and impressed our staff)
JASON SALRIN, Quincy High
Let's be brutally honest here: the play of the Quincy High "Bigs" in general has thus far exceeded our wildest expectations, which is the biggest reason Sean Taylor's crew is 12-2 right now and has cracked the state rankings. For lack of a better description, Salrin has assumed the Omer Asik-role in this mix with a fierce and greatly appreciated concentration on Defense and Rebounding, where he is currently the Western Big Six's top glass worker. He's really maximized his frame and his leverage and has a tremendous mindset in taking great pride in doing the dirty work for this team. Just an incredibly pleasant surprise and one whose development is a real credit to himself and his coaches.
AUSTIN RICHMILLER, Highland
He hasn't generated as much buzz as some of the other Super Sophomores out there but Richmiller has as high a ceiling as anyone. Fearless young man with a deft touch around the basket and great natural timing both as an offensive rebounder and as an attack five from the post. When the Cougars throw the ball inside, Richmiller find a way to get to his spots and he's strong enough (and athletic enough) to contort his way through the defensive flak to get to his scoring spots. Love the fact that the kid always plays to his strengths. You can tell he enjoys being a post player and just absolutely feasts relentlessly on the offensive glass. Really skilled young man.
KENDALL CLARK, Keokuk
Already mentioned that he is averaging a double/double and leads all of Iowa 3A Basketball in rebounds per game. Adding to that however, is the fact that Kendall has darned good hands for a kid 6'8" and 270 pounds. And more to my liking is this: he has truly embraced the role Jeff Dahl has carved out for him. Catch the ball. Go directly to the basket with force because no high school kid can stop you. And don't try to be fancy. And its worked. He's a suprisingly (dare I say shockingly) sudden player for his size and one who is playing the most intelligent and intense basketball of his life.
BRANDON BERHORST, Canton
There is no lack of things to like about this undefeated Canton Tiger squad, but I do think that the hyper-kinetic style and abundance of weapons here sometimes overloads the senses and it's easy to overlook (in isolation) some of the individual things going on here. With no one is that more true on this squad than Berhorst, who for lack of a better description, is the most boundlessly energetic kid I've seen on a Tri State Basketball court this season. There is just an extra gear to his game that makes those around him seem to be moving in slow motion. While he's a heck of a natural athlete, I don't know that Brandon is a natural basketball "scorer" per se. But he finds points and rebounds and steals in high volume because no opponent can match his pace or the spring in his step when the moment presents itself. Seriously, watch this kid fly in like a blur from the wing on a rebound or a slash to the basket and tell me his explosion isn't impressive. Berhorst just infuses a level of frenzy and excitement to even the smallest hoops details.
LANCE BUHLIG, Payson Seymour
With so much focus on Cody Hildebrand and Jake Voss, it's easy to take Lance Buhlig for granted. That is, however, to play right into Brian Rea's trap. Buhlig is that pliable combo guy who can effortlessly handle any role you throw him. Personally, I like the kid because he can be such a pesky on-the-ball defender and such an able pick-pocket. Selfishly, in my business, that leads to many a nifty highlight. It's not easily noticed, but it seems like Lance has a unique ability to play catalyst here for his team, which really seems to thrive when he quietly has his fingerprints all over the game plan. Clever, smart passer. Unselfish player. And capable of high end defense. What coach wouldn't want that?
RACHEL DUNLAP, Keokuk
The Chiefs are surging some, if you haven??t noticed and Dunlap has become a legitimate lynchpin in the paint for a team that desperately needed a source of interior offensive presence to go along with all of its young guards. She has become a very clever, economical scorer and a good position rebounder for Mike Davis. And as long as this team can continue to count on her providing inside presence to loosen things up for her teammates, Keokuk will continue to trend upwards.
MEASHA FERGUSON-SMITH, Quincy High
Her return to the basketball court has given Demond Dade a deeper bench from which to work and after knocking off some of the ring rust, she has become a reliable source of minutes. An eight point outing in the win at Keokuk was her high water mark to date and tease as to what she is capable of going forward as a high caliber sub here. More to the point: any kid who earns a full ride academic scholarship to Stanford is aces in my book. That is a very accomplished young woman and the standard she is setting in academia should be a source of pride to the entire Gem City.