Balance gets Tigers off and running
Andy Anderson sees the pace the Canton boys basketball team wants to play as a decided advantage.
"Other teams may not have the depth to keep up," the veteran Tigers coach said.
Still, it's the scoring balance that has helped the Tigers get off to a 5-0 start. Canton has had at least three players in double figures in each game, is averaging 68.8 points per game and knows how to spread the wealth.
Four different players have led the Tigers in scoring, with sophomore forward Gabe McKenzie topping the scoring column three times.
"They all can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket," Anderson said. "We're doing a nice job of moving the ball and getting it to the open man."
McKenzie has been that person largely because of mismatches. At 6-foot-2, he is one of Canton's tallest players, meaning he often gets matched up with an opposing post player. Although capable of scoring with his back to the basket, McKenzie can float outside and knock down a 3-pointer.
When he does step outside, it's allowing David McReyonlds and others to attack the rim. McReynolds is averaging 16 points per game and has scored in double figures in all five games.
"He's had a much more consistent effort," Anderson said. "He's not settling on just being a jump shooter."
Like most of his teammates, McReynolds is showing maturity. That was the case in the 75-74 victory against Palmyra in which Canton blew an 18-point lead but found a way to win.
"We got our daubers down a little bit," Anderson said. "But we bounced right back. That was good to see."
That will be essential as the schedule get tougher. The upcoming slate includes a showdown with Hannibal in the Rumble on the River at John Wood Community College and games at Clark County and South Shelby before Christmas.
End of the road for Chargers
Thursday night's visit to The Pit for a matchup with second-ranked Quincy Notre Dame marks the end of a season-opening, eight-game road trip for the Illini West girls basketball team.
The Chargers play their first home game Saturday against West Central Conference North Division foe Sherrard.
"The girls are ready for it," first-year Illini West coach Grant Surprenant said. "It's been a good week of practice and good preparation. It's good for community. We've had good crowds coming to the away games, which has been great to see. I know they're looking forward to seeing the new team, the new system and how we do."
The Chargers are building some momentum.
Illini West went 0-5 in the Galesburg Thanksgiving tournament, losing by six points to state-ranked Galesburg, two points to LeRoy and eight points to East Peoria. Surprenant called it a learning experience, especially since the Chargers were competitive against larger schools.
"No one wants to go 0-5, but we didn't feel like we played like an 0-5 team," Surprenant said. "We played well against five very good teams. That gave us some confidence."
Winning their first two games after the tournament at Unity and Monmouth-Roseville boosted that confidence.
"It helped us at setting a tone and letting our defense carry over to our offense," Surprenant said. "We have been able to pressure guards and get easy baskets."
It starts in the backcourt with Graci Bastert and Michaela Gronewold, who Surprenant said have done a solid job at controlling the tempo and when to attack or back off. Elise Trout has also gotten into the mix, scoring in double figures the last two games for the first time this season.
"Each game, she has gotten better and better and better," Surprenant said.
The same can be said for the bench, which allows Surprenant to have a rotation that goes nine players deep.
"We don't have a dropoff," Surprenant said.
Area players earn MFCA all-state
Caleb Bieniek and Lijah Harrison teamed up to form a two-man wrecking crew on the back line of the Hannibal football team's defense this fall. Their work in the secondary caught the attention of the Missouri Football Coaches Association, which released its all-state teams late last week.
Bieniek, a senior safety, was a Class 4 first-team all-state selection by the MFCA last weekend, while Harrison, a junior safety, was a third-team selection. Hannibal senior offensive lineman Jake Borgmeyer joined Bieniek on the first team.
In Class 1, South Shelby's senior tight end Wes Mefford and senior defensive lineman Riley Schmitz were first-team selections. South Shelby's sophomore offensive lineman Hadley Roberts was a second-team pick, and sophomore running back Trace Windsor and senior linebacker Alex Blackford were third-team selections.
In Class 2, Clark County senior quarterback Austin Egley and senior defensive end were first-team selections, with Egley being selected as an athlete. Joining them on first team was Palmyra senior defensive lineman Bobby Gruenloh.
Second-team selections Clark County senior offensive lineman Brandon Bourgeois, senior defensive lineman Kyle Kovar and senior linebacker Lincoln Jones, as well as Monroe City junior punter Kyle Fulton.
Third-team selections were Palmyra senior offensive lineman Will Funkenbusch and junior linebacker Ben Althoff and Highland senior defensive back Derick Smith.
Ten players double up
Ten of the players who earned all-state honors from the MFCA were also named on the Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association's all-state squad released Wednesday.
Borgmeyer, Egley, Kovar, Fulton, Roberts and Schmitz were first-team selections. Second-team picks included Bieniek, Bourgeois, Windsor and Mefford.
There were also two new names on the media's all-state list. Highland senior linebacker Chris Sparks and Clark County senior defensive back Logan Prewitt were Class 2 second-team selections.