The prep basketball season tends to get a lot like a trip to McDonald’s once the conference slate begins – just the same old, same old.
That said, one might liken the Third Annual WKRV/Hosick Motors Vandalia Shootout as the hoops equivalent to a trip to the Golden Corral buffet.
For roughly nine hours Saturday at VCHS, basketball fans will get the opportunity to enjoy something different – and there will be plenty of variety.
This year’s six-game slate will once again feature intriguing matchups of programs that have rarely, if ever, seen each other. All told, 10 different conferences and two states will be represented.
Here’s a quick look at each of Saturday’s games.
Vandalia vs. Metro East Lutheran, 8 p.m.
The Vandals (8-10) will run into team that appears to be hitting its stride when it faces the Knights (13-9), winners of five of their last six games.
Coach Chad Ambuel’s team has been on a roll since knocking off Columbia – ranked ninth in the latest Associated Press Class 2A poll – back on Jan. 13. The Knights recently made a run to the title game of the Litchfield Tournament before falling to Greenville in the finals.
"They’ve got a nice, solid group," Vandals coach Kevin Jackson said. "They’ve got kids that can handle the ball. They’ve got size. They like to run – they are gonna fly around.
"It’ll definitely be a challenge and we’ll have to play well to come out with a win."
The return of leading scorer Bob Schneitz has no doubt been a key to the Knights’ recent surge. Schneitz was out eight weeks with an ankle injury, but is returning to form, averaging 13.2 points-per-game.
"He’s just gotten healthy," Jackson said. "He’s rounding into form, and that completes their team a little bit."
Point guard Brad Rodgers is another team leader for Lutheran, as he is averaging 10 ppg and 5 assists per contest. Forward Spencer Morris has added 11 ppg and 6 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-6 junior exploded for 32 points and 11 rebounds in the Knights’ upset of Columbia.
Despite the lack of familiar ity between the two programs, the Vandals and Knights have had several common opponents this year.
Both teams have beaten Staunton and East Alton-Wood River, while both have suffered defeats to Greenville (Vandalia has lost to the Comets twice by a combined eight points).
Lutheran has victories over Pana and Carlyle on its resume´, while Vandalia has suffered defeats to those two teams.
The Vandals will be taking the court for just the second time in two weeks when the teams tip off, but Jackson says his team’s time off has been productive.
"We’ve been really pleased with our practices during the break," Jackson said. "We haven’t had one practice that was even close to being bad. We’ve been getting better every day."
Lady Vandals vs. Pinckneyville, 3:30 p.m.
Vandalia (22-1), ranked fourth in the latest Associated Press Class 2A poll, should get a solid challenge from the Lady Panthers (14-7) in the lone girls contest of the shootout.
The Southern Illinois River-to-River Conference Mississippi Division squad has played a tough slate, falling to state-ranked Nashville twice.
"They’re a solid team," Lady Vandals coach Mike Butler said. "I think they’re kind of like us the last few weeks. They’re not going to score a lot of points, but they’ll keep themselves in the game with defense."
Pinckneyville is led by the solid all-around play of 5-8 senior forward Mandi Kellerman, who averages just under 10 ppg. She also pulls down 6.5 rebounds and is good for roughly three assists and 2.5 steals per game.
The backcourt duo of Becky Vanderjack and Emily Miller has added a combined 21 points-per-game for coach Alan Engelhardt. Miller is the Lady Panthers’ top outside threat, while Miller is a top defender.
"It’s going to be a good test for us, and we’re excited about playing that one," Butler said.
Dieterich vs. Ramsey,
The Rams (6-13) will get a shot at one of the top Class 1A programs in the region when it opens up the shootout against the Maroons (10-5).
Dieterich is led by the duo of Tyler Niemerg (13 ppg) and Blake Kuhl (11 ppg).
Ramsey is led by lightning-quick point guard Joey Keppler and sharp-shooting guard Andy Carter. The Rams have picked it up recently, winning four of five games, thanks in large part to improved production from inside players Korey McCloskey and Byron Moreland.
Clay City vs.
Cumberland, 2 p.m.
The resurgent Pirates (9-7) will take on a Clay City team enjoying one of its best-ever seasons.
Cumberland got off to a blistering start, sweeping the field at its own Thanksgiving Tournament, and the Pirates have already exceeded last year’s win total.
The trio of Dalton Sowers (6-5, 15 ppg), Jeremy Jansen (6-4, 14.5 ppg) and Silas Gabel (6-2, 13.3 ppg) has given Cumberland plenty of size and firepower.
The Wolves (14-7) find themselves atop the Midland Trail Conference East Division standings. And, like the Pirates, they have plenty of size and scoring ability.
Brandon Duvall, a 6-6 senior, dropped 32 points on Noble earlier this season, while 6-5 senior Dami Eastin had 31 in a loss to Crab Orchard at the Conrad Allen Tournament.
Blake Fehrenbacher is the Wolves’ most consistent performer, as the 6-foot senior has made a couple of all-tournament teams thus far. Cody Lewis, a 6-foot-4 senior, was an all-tourney pick at Wayne City.
Quincy Notre Dame vs. Jerseyville, 5 p.m.
The first big-school clash of the shootout will pit a pair of Western Illinois programs.
Coach Scott Douglas has never suffered a losing season during his 15 seasons at Notre Dame, leading the Raiders to a pair of third-place finishes at state.
Notre Dame is well on its way to another successful season this year, as the trio of Tyler Durst (6-2, Sr.), Ryan Stuckman (6-3, Sr.) and Brennan Rakers (6-4, Jr.) have led the Raiders to a 14-5 record.
Jerseyville, a Mississippi Valley Conference member, has a 10-11 record entering the shootout.
Christian County, Ky., vs. Champaign Central, 6:30 p.m.
The next-to-last game of the night pits last year’s Illinois Class 3A third-place team against one of the Bluegrass State’s perennial powers.
Christian County has turned the corner after going through some growing pains last year, as the high-powered Colonels are 10-5.
Sophomore guard Anthony Hickey leads the way. Hickey is drawing plenty of Division-I interest, as is junior Shaquille Wilson.
Donovan Kates is another college prospect for the Colonels, who are averaging 73 ppg.
Senior point guard Zander Culver averages 14 ppg as part of a balanced scoring attack and has committed to Division II power Winona State.