We asked sports writers Kyle Daubs and Mike Monahan to chat about local high school basketball, which was scheduled to start statewide Nov. 30 before positive COVID-19 infection rates rose across the state. The IHSA will reconsider boys and girls basketball in a meeting Dec. 2. Like most everybody, we’re hoping that basketball can restart soon.
KYLE DAUBS: Hey, Mike. Right around this time, we would be leading up to the state finals in football and opening up Thanksgiving basketball tournaments. Feels strange that we aren’t, right?
MIKE MONAHAN: Yes, definitely. It is very strange not to have had football and now not to have basketball at least until the IHSA meets again Dec. 2.
DAUBS: I understand why the IHSA decided to push back the start time. In all honesty, I believe the IHSA should never have given false hope to begin with. How do you feel about all this?
MONAHAN: I totally understand the IHSA decision also. I think the situation is changing so much that at the time they really thought it could happen, but COVID-19 went up again and they had to change from their original decision to go on with basketball. It is such a crazy thing, and it changes so fast.
DAUBS: Yeah, we had been preparing for our basketball season since October at the junior high level. It feels like a lot of progress was halted, which I am sure is how a lot of coaches feel.
MONAHAN: Yes, that is one of the bad things, of course, even though some schools were just having open gyms they still could work on shooting and dribbling and of course condition, but now they can’t. Hopefully, they won’t be hurt too much by the stoppage if they do restart it all again.
DAUBS: If we were playing basketball right now, would there be a Thanksgiving tournament you would be looking forward to covering?
MONAHAN: If I were still employed at the JG-TC, I would be looking forward to the Cumberland Thanksgiving Tournament, one that Charleston has been in for awhile. It is great for the teams to see where they are after the tournaments and to see what things they need to work on. Before the tournaments they, of course, have an idea and I would have done previews for the teams, but really you don’t know until you play that first game. One tournament that I would have enjoyed covering is the girls Oakwood Thanksgiving Tournament as Tri-County is in that and Oakwood normally has a strong team. There are teams you don’t normally see in that one.
DAUBS: I have always appreciated that you loved to cover small school sports, but that meant that you missed out on the Effingham St. Anthony Thanksgiving Tournament. I have been very fortunate to watch some really good basketball played at those games. I have been fortunate to see some good players like Joey Miller, Marty Johnson, and Paul Knapp.
MONAHAN: True, I am sure I would enjoy that one also, and I did do some of the Christmas games in the tournament in 2019. I would have been fine covering that also. Really just the championship at Oakwood would be great as most of the other games were not even close. Even though Tri-County finished third in the state in 2019-20, Oakwood did beat them by one point in the championship.
DAUBS: I never saw a great championship game because when Charleston’s girls won in Robinson those games were usually lopsided. However, I once saw Tyra Buss drop 48 points on CHS and that was one of the greatest individual performances I personally have ever seen. Then, later that season she dropped 60 and 66 points, so, in retrospectm, that doesn’t seem as impressive.
MONAHAN: Cool. I did see Buss play in the sectional championship against Sullivan and, just like you saw, she put on quite a show. She had 50 points in three quarters in a 78-43 win.
DAUBS: If Buss would have played against the 29-1 Charleston team in that tournament, do you think Shae Littleford and Co. and Mount Carmel would have finished with 200 combined points?
MONAHAN: Guessing that both would like to run and gun so it is likely, or at least very close. That is a good question, though.
DAUBS: Speaking of good questions, let’s end with this one: Who would be your way-too-early boys basketball Apollo Conference contenders?
MONAHAN: Lincoln, Teutopolis and Mahomet-Seymour, but I really don’t know the teams that well because I normally didn’t cover Mattoon or Charleston, at least not in Apollo games. But, based on what I know that would be the top three, I would say that is in order also with Effingham next.
DAUBS: I think Teutopolis has to be the favorite because they only lost three seniors from a 22-11 team that won a regional. Parker Wolfe from Effingham could carry this team as far as he wants. Lincoln lost an all-state guard in Kaden Froebe, but you can never count out what Hall of Fame coach Neil Alexander brings to the table. I think Mattoon and Charleston will be better, and that finishing in the top half of the conference would be an accomplishment.