Boys basketball update: Overall record of 13-6, Illineks look to make a run before the post-season
Published: Friday, February 3, 2012 - 10:16am
Considering that it's Al Renner's first season as head varsity coach, the Uni High boys basketball team is fairing well thus far in the season. The team is well on the way to its goal of a winning season, with an overall 13-6 record.
A huge part of the team's success has been its veteran leadership. Ten of the twelve varsity players on the roster are seniors. The maturity of the team is a boon for the Illineks.
"It’s great to have a mostly senior squad," said head coach Al Renner. "I wish I could have been here last year, to have these guys. Me and [assistant coaches] Tony [Rizzo] and Mike [Keegan] think they’re getting a lot better...I wish I could have had them last year to see where we could have been now."
"I think it helps out a lot because they’ve played together for a couple years and they all work really well together, and they’re all great basketball players," said Bensken. "They work well out on the court and there are still things that need to be worked on, but they work very well together."
The season started with three wins in the annual Turkey Tournament, which was held in Bement. Uni ended up winning the whole tournament. After their impressive tournament performance, Uni lost in a close game to Arthur Okaw Christian.
For the next six games, the Illineks alternated between a win and loss each game. After that rocky stretch, the Illineks got back on track with a five game winning streak.
To start off the winning streak were two crucial wins against Cornerstone and PBL. The game against Cornerstone was inspirational for the team and gave them some momentum to carry into the PBL game.
The upset against PBL is one of the team's greatest accomplishments this season. Uni was the underdog in this contest, but despite that, the team came together and pulled off a 45-40 win over PBL. Because of their victory, the team was named the News Gazette's "Team of the Week" for the week of January 9.
The Illinek's streak was ended with a three-point loss to conference rivals Judah Christian, but the team bounced back with a 50-point win over Buckley Christ Lutheran. Uni recently lost to Decatur Christian, a very competitive conference team, but was able to turn things around in a big win over LeRoy.
At halftime, the Illineks trailed behind LeRoy 17-29, but by the end of the third quarter, LeRoy's lead had been cut down to one, with the score resting at 41-42. Within the first 40 seconds of the fourth quarter, the Illineks managed to make several steals due to their tenacious press. They put in three easy buckets to take the lead for the first time.
For the remainder of the game, Uni kept scoring while LeRoy struggled to gain their lead back. In the end, Uni came out victorious. The final score was 70-62.
Uni has two more game before they head into ECIC tournament play and then post season play. Both games are home games, and, if Uni plays the way they did the second half against LeRoy, both of those games should be wins for the team.
Renner's perspective on the remainder of the season is a positive one.
"I think people are really starting to believe," said Renner. "When you start to win games you’re not supposed to, people start to get excited about playing and start believing we could do something at regionals."