By BLAKE TOPPMEYER and JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writers
Top teams at Winchester have chance at redemption
The Payson Seymour and Liberty boys basketball teams will have a shot at some redemption when the 91st annual Winchester Invitational Tournament begins Saturday.
Both teams competed at the Mississippi Valley Invitational Tournament during the holidays and fell short of winning the title. Payson had the best record entering the MVIT but finished second, falling to Unity 56-55 in the title game. Liberty went 1-2 in the event, finishing fourth.
The Indians enter the 16-team WIT with the No. 1 seed. Liberty is No. 7, serving as the area's second-highest seeded team.
"After Christmas is when teams start separating themselves," Payson coach Brian Rea said. "This it is the time teams start to develop their identity."
The Indians will open at 8:30 p.m. Saturday against No. 9 Greenfield-Northwestern, and Liberty plays its first game at noon Saturday against No. 15 Pleasant Hill.
"There's a lot of things we need to work on that don't deal with the Xs and Os of the game," Liberty coach Andy Douglas said. "One of the bigger things we've tried to concentrate all week on is bringing energy into every play, energy into every quarter."
No. 10 Central, No. 11 Western, No. 12 Griggsville-Perry and No. 13 Brown County are the other area teams in the event.
Payson and Liberty won't be the only top teams with a chance to exceed their holiday tournament performances.
No. 2 Jacksonville Routt was also seeded second in the Waverly Holiday Tournament but lost 52-37 to No. 9 Auburn in the fifth-place game. No. 3 Waverly was the top seed at the Waverly Holiday Tournament. However, Auburn beat the Scotties 56-54 in the first round, and Waverly wound up winning the consolation title.
Then there's No. 6 Carrollton, which was seeded second at the Carrollton Holiday Tournament and lost to No. 5 Griggsville-Perry 82-69 in the championship.
Rea said the fact that the Tornadoes are No. 12 in the WIT shows the event's depth of talent.
"If we seeded today, Griggsville could be in the upper half, if not in the top four seeds," Rea said. "I think everybody in the tournament is dangerous.
"I'd say it's a much more difficult tournament (than the MVIT). It's twice the size with more quality teams."
There's also more variety.
"I think the biggest difference between the two is ... we'd seen (several of) those teams that are at the MVIT earlier in the season," Douglas said. "At Winchester, you're going to face teams that you probably haven't seen.
"You're going to see teams that we don't see in our regular season. That aspect of it is exciting to our guys."
All seven of the teams in the Class 1A Griggsville-Perry Regional -- Western, Triopia, Griggsville-Perry, Liberty, Payson, Pleasant Hill and Winchester West Central -- are in the WIT, meaning the tournament will be an opportunity for teams to make a statement and also learn more about opponents they could see again in the postseason.
Weese prepares for national all-star game
Douglas Weese was happy he could earn another chance. Last year, the Central-Southeastern senior wingback qualified for a combine with a chance to play in the Blue-Grey National All-Star Classic. Life interrupted, as Weese missed the trip to Canton, Ohio, to attend his sister's wedding.
But he went back through the combine at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo., in the summer and later made the trip to Canton, where he qualified to compete in the all-star game as a wide rceiver.
The game will be Jan. 12 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Weese is the only player from Illinois to qualify for the game.
"Some of my stats didn't match up as well as the other guys. They were faster, stronger or whatever," Weese said. "When it came to one-on-one things and the 7-on-7 we did, that's where I played better than some of the other guys."
Weese didn't play much for C-SE as a wide receiver, but he has experience catching the ball. Playing in the Panthers' run-oriented attack, Weese led the Panthers in receiving with 10 catches for 221 yards. He also led the team with 126 tackles and was second with 1,136 rushing yards.
"(He is excited to play) a position I wasn't able to play much in high school," Weese said. "It's just like the guy across from me never knows what you're going to do. Don't want to turn their hips or anything, make cut to make them go wrong way and get open is a cool thing."
Weese hasn't made his college choice but said he won't be playing football in college.
C-SE coach Brad Dixon said it the all-star game is a good opportunity for Weese, who said the biggest stadium he had ever played in was in this year's Class 2A quarterfinals against DuQuoin.
"He's looking at it as one last opportunity to play," Dixon said. "It's something to be selected out of two combines as the only rep from Illinois. The offense is coached by (former NFL player) Mel Gray. I used to watch Mel play when I was younger. It would be a neat thing for his family to go down there and represent our state and area."
Two from area to play in state all-star game
Quincy High School senior Clay Finklea and C-SE senior Dalton Heubner were selected last month to play in the Illinois Coaches Association's 39th annual Illinois High School Shrine Game. The game will be July 13 at Illinois Wesleyan's Tucci Stadium in Bloomington.
Finklea, an offensive and defensive tackle, was a first-team all-area selection this fall. Heubner, a running back and defensive back, was The Herald-Whig's Player of the Year. This marks the fourth straight year a QHS player has been selected for the game.