By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Ignore the West Hancock boys basketball team's record. The Titans are 10-1, but they are still searching for an identity.
Senior forward Paxton Harmon continues to score on a consistent basis, but the Titans haven't developed a consistent core of complementary scorers.
For the Titans (10-1) to improve on their fourth-place finish from last year at the Macomb-Western Holiday Basketball Tournament, which begins Wednesday at Western Hall on the Western Illinois University campus.
West Hancock will need to find balance on offense. The Titans enter the tournament on a six-game winning streak and have seen Austin Hardy, Coy Dorothy and Parker Gibbs demonstrate the ability to score in double figures.
"Even though we're 10-1, we're still in a situation where we're still trying to find what feels comfortable for us," West Hancock coach Reno Pinkston said. "We're still trying to figure out where we are. That may sound silly with our record, but I don't know what is going to happen when Paxton doesn't have the ball.
"If the guys are being aggressive, I feel better. If they aren't aggressive, I wonder what's going to happen."
West Hancock will open the tournament against Farmington (5-2) at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Pinkston has high hopes, but said playing four games in three days can be grueling.
"Hopefully, we'll be playing four games in three days," Pinkston said. "The hard part is that you're playing four games in a short period of time. You don't have a day to prepare, so you have to run the system you've learned and try to flourish with it. I always compare this tournament to how the state tournament used to be. You plan on playing two games in one day on the final day, and you know you're going to play the best opponents you're going to play on the final day."
None of the five area teams in the field -- West Hancock, Pittsfield, Illini West, Central and Brown County -- earned one of the top four seed. Rockridge (5-0) is the No. 1 seed, followed by Eureka (6-2) , Canton (6-2) and Metamora (5-1).
Pittsfield (6-4) finished third last season and is looking to regain its defensive intensity. Wayde Smith carried the team offensively to start the season while Ethan Borrowman recovered from an ankle sprain.
Pittsfield coach Brad Tomhave feels like his team will continue to improve once everyone is healthy.
"I think at the beginning of this year we were playing with the defensive energy and focus to be in games, and we lost that mentality a little bit," Tomhave said. "I think our scoring is getting better. We are developing the roles our kids need to be playing in and understand what they need to do as individuals."
After upsetting state-ranked and defending Macomb-Western tournament champion Monmouth-Roseville on Dec. 4, Illini West (2-3) has lost its last three games. The Chargers' three losses have come against opponents with a combined record of 22-1.
"I would put our schedule up against anybody else's," Illini West coach John Hughs said. "We're not going to tuck tails and run. We're going to fight through it and be better for it in February."