The Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball team could be excused if it looked at the field in the Class 2A Riverton Sectional and sighed.
On one side of the bracket are West Hancock and Pleasant Plains. The Raiders beat both teams last month.
On the other side of the bracket are Riverton and Tremont. Riverton upset top-seeded Williamsville, which QND beat in January, in the regional final at Williamsville. Tremont won a regional on its home floor, getting help from Peoria Quest, which upset No. 2 seed Deer Creek-Mackinaw.
However, two regional titles and a sectional title in Class 2A over the last three years moved QND into Class 3A this season.
"It would be nice to be (in Riverton), but you can't complain," senior Dylan Foley said. "It's tough, knowing we're going to be back in Class 2A next year, but you just gotta go with it."
"There's nothing you can do about it. You can't have that mentality," senior Nick Schwartz said. "It is what it is."
The Illinois High School Association did the Raiders no favors with its draw in Class 3A. Instead of playing in the regional at Macomb, which is 68 miles away, QND will travel 156 miles to Clinton for the postseason. Instead of being in a sectional complex in which four of the top six seeds have double-digit losses, the Raiders drew Taylorville (25-5) for their first game. If they win Wednesday, they would play No. 8-ranked Lincoln in the regional final.
"You can't complain," Foley said. "We've got to prepare for Taylorville."
Raiders coach Kevin Meyer likes his team's attitude and believes games against Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin and St. Mary's last week -- both losses -- helped prepare for the regional.
"Let's go play," he said after the loss to St. Mary's. "My group is going to battle."
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Returning to the Class 2A sectional this year figured to be a difficult task for West Hancock after the loss of three starters, but the Titans are 25-3 entering Wednesday's semifinal game against Pleasant Plains.
West Hancock relies on junior Drake Hammel, averaging 20.7 points per game, and senior Peyton Dooley. What makes this year's success remarkable is that the Titans never had Aadyn Knowles or Matt Sinele, two injured juniors who would have been among the team's top seven players. West Hancock then lost junior center Lucas Dorethy to a dislocated kneecap and torn ligament during the last week of the season.
Kudos to coach Reno Pinkston for continuing to plug the holes in the West Hancock ship.
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Central's methodical style doesn't lend to great highlights. The Panthers average just 45 points per game and allow 38. That style, however, has led to a 24-9 record and a semifinal game against Elmwood on Wednesday in the Class 1A Lewistown Regional.
Concord Triopia (30-3) figures to be the favorite in Lewistown, and No. 9-ranked Elmwood (26-2) has won 21 straight, but don't overlook Central. All but two of the Panthers' losses have been to Class 2A teams, and limiting the number of possessions in a game will make them a tough out in the sectional.
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The Monroe City boys should be favored to win their Class 3 sectional game at Moberly on Wednesday. St. Paul Lutheran (Concordia) has a 25-1 record but has 15 games against teams with losing records, and it hasn't played a team with 20 victories. The Panthers (24-4) have beaten nine teams with at least 20 victories.
A likely opponent for Saturday's quarterfinal at Lee's Summit is Maryville, a quarterfinalist in both of the last two seasons. The Spoofhounds are led by Eli Dowis, one of the most athletic players in northwest Missouri.
The top team in Class 3, and possibly the best team in the state regardless of class, is Vashon (27-2). The Wolverines are on the opposite side of the bracket.
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The winner of the Class 3 sectional girls game at Moberly should be favored to reach the state tournament. St. Michael the Archangel and St. Pius X won relatively weak districts and will meet in Excelsior Springs.
Monroe City (20-7) survived a brutal district at Centralia to get a shot against Trenton (24-0), which had only two games all season closer than 20 points. The Bulldogs' top player is Ainsley Tolson, who has signed to play at William Jewell.