During the preseason, the H&R preps staff broke the area’s boys basketball teams into three groups: Elite, on the brink and rebuilding.

The idea was pretty self-explanatory, teams we called "elite" were ones we expected to make deep postseason runs. Teams that were on the brink we thought had a chance to make a run, but had yet to prove themselves. Teams that were rebuilding we considered still a few years away from contention.

While the area had several regional title winner and sectional finalists, none were able to advance to the state tournament and only one -- Teutopolis -- made it to super-sectionals.

Here’s a look back at each of our predictions in the preseason as well as some analysis of where we were right and where we went wrong:



Preseason prediction: Sectional semifinal

Actual finish: Lost 52-51 to Effingham St. Anthony in Teutopolis Regional semifinals.

Analysis: We knew there would be a transition period for the Hawks after losing their leading scorer and rebounder from a year ago, and while Meridian was competitive throughout the season in the Okaw Valley Conferece, the Hawks were also inconsistent at times and the early postseason elimination can be attributed to both that and a tough draw that saw them traveling all the way to Teutopolis.


Preseason prediction: Regional final

Actual finish: Lost 45-35 to MacArthur in Decatur Regional final.

Analysis: While the Railers technically made it as far as we predicted, it was far from a predictable season. Lincoln’s 15-16 record was its worst since the 2007-08 season and the Railers were unable to come out on top in an incredibly winnable regional that featured Mount Zion, Eisenhower, Bloomington and MacArthur, hardly a murderer’s row of opponents.


Preseason prediction: Sectional final

Actual finish: Lost 60-59 to Normal U-High in Springfield Super-sectional

Analysis: The Shoes are the only of our “elite” teams to do better than we predicted in the preseason. Led by Mark Niebrugge, Teutopolis came a missed layup away from making it to the state finals.


Preseason prediction: Sectional final

Actual finish: Lost 74-52 to Breese Central in Vandalia Sectional final.

Analysis: The Panthers were one of our breakout picks this season and proved to be just that before running into eventual state champion Breese Central.

Cerro Gordo

Preseason prediction: Super-sectionals

Actual finish: Lost 59-54 to Arthur in Bethany Regional finals

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Analysis: At times, the Broncos seemed like the class of the LOVC and a legitimate postseason threat. But at other times, they were prone to letdowns and played down to their competition. Unfortunately for Cerro Gordo, the latter happened in a regional title game loss that saw them fall well short of preseason expectations.


Preseason prediction: State tournament berth

Actual finish: Lost 45-40 to Olney in Fairfield Regional finals

Analysis: Perhaps it was thinking a bit too much of the Wolves to make it to state, but the talent was certainly there. Flora was saddled with arguably the toughest Class 2A regionals in the state against Newton and Olney. The Wolves prevailed against Newton but fell short against Olney.


Preseason prediction: Sectional semifinal

Actual finish: Lost 70-42 to Maroa-Forsyth in Maro Regional finals.

Analysis: We knew the Cardinals would be a different team without H&R County Player of the Year Jacob Taylor, however, the step back they took was unexpected. The Cardinals were unable to win a game in the postseason, bowing out in a 28-point loss to Maroa-Forsyth in the Maroa Regional quarterfinals.

Teams on the brink

Argenta-Oreana, Central A&M, Charleston, Decatur Christian, Monticello, Mount Pulaski, Neoga, Maroa-Forsyth, Newton, Nokomis, Olney East Richland, Robinson, Sangamon Valley, St. Elmo, St. Teresa.

Who made the leap?

Sangamon Valley: The Storm broke out early in the season by winning the Macon County Tournament and continued solid play throughout the season, eventually winning a regional title.

Monticello: The Sages came on late in the season and were arguably the second best team in the Okaw Valley Conference by the end of the season. Unfortunately, the team in front of them, Tolono Unity, kept popping up on the schedule and eventually eliminated the Sages in the regional semis.

Olney East Richland: The Tigers won a tough regional before falling to Pinckneyville in the Eldorado Sectional semis.

Other breakout teams: Nokomis, Robinson, Newton, St. Elmo


Altamont, Arcola, Arthur, Atwood-Hammond, Bement, Brownstown, Casey-Westfield, Cowden-Herrick, Cumberland, Dieterich, Effingham, Eisenhower, LSA, MacArthur, Mattoon, Mount Zion, Oblong, Okaw Valley, Shelbyville, South Central, Stewardson-Strasburg, Tuscola, Vandalia, Windsor.

Who’d we miss on?

Arthur: After splitting the Little Okaw Valley Conference title with Cerro Gordo and Okaw Valley, a team mostly made up of underclassmen upset the Broncos in the Bethany Regional title game and made it all the way to the sectional finals before bowing out to Fisher.

MacArthur: It was clear the Generals had a lot of young talent, what was unclear is how coach Felipe Phillips would be able to harness it. The Generals used solid defense to beat Lincoln in the regional finals and hung with top-ranked Springfield Lanphier for a while in the sectional semis.

Oblong: The Bridgeport Sectional featured several upsets that aided Oblong. Neither Bridgeport Red Hill (the Panthers’ regional finals opponent) nor Cowden-Herrick (their sectional semis opponent) were expected to make it as far as they did. Still, a sectional finals appearance is a great accomplishment for a team that hadn’t made it that far since 1937.

Other surprising teams: Cowden-Herrick, Effingham.

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