AP NEWS

BOYS BASKETBALL: Cissna Park/Providence St. Mel preview

March 9, 2019

This is the Class 1A clash that Illinois has been waiting for all season.

Cissna Park and Providence St. Mel traded places all season atop the AP Class 1A standings, and what better place for the two titans to lock up than with a state championship up for grabs.

After 213 schools in Class 1A battled it out through the postseason, it’s come down to the final two for today’s 1 p.m. championship match.

This should be one for the ages.

Cissna Park (33-4)

These last four years for this group of seniors and head coach Kevin Long have led to this moment.

This is a pretty even matchup. Both teams can equally matchup with one another in terms of athleticism, height and intensity.

But the one thing Cissna Park has going for them is its shooting. Bailey Sluis and Ian Rogers are snipers from distance.

Those two will need extra assistance from Conner Lober and Brian Fehr just to keep the Knights’ defense honest and guessing. Don’t be afraid to fire if there’s an open shot.

Providence St. Mel (29-6)

Playoff path: Defeated Ida Crown 102-36, Beacon Academy 94-33 (regional championship), Fenger 79-53, Collins Academy 72-56 (sectional championship), East Dubuque 63-53 (Super-Sectional), Triopia 66-41 (State semifinal)

The Timberwolves have been tested in many different ways by many different teams. But nothing like Providence St. Mel.

Out of the gates, the Knights possess the tallest and biggest player on the court with 6-foot-9, 260 pound Tayeon Neal. Unfamiliar territory a little bit for the Timberwolves.

While Neal won’t score as much, it’s Tim Ervin II and Tryiel Nelson that can and will cause the most problems.

Ervin is lightning in a bottle at just 5-foot-6, but he can put the ball in the hoop highly effectively when needed to. He’s the Knights best defender at nearly three steals a game while averaging six assist from his point guard spot.

Nelson is their leading scorer at 16 points a night, which earned him AP first-team All-State alongside Christian Stadeli.

Watch out for Eric Jordan on the outside, who serves as their knock down shooter. He connected on 42 percent from shots from downtown.

Deion Jackson can also hit that shot from downtown, hence why he’s their second leading scorer at 15 points a night.

Key Factors

Cissna Park committed 20 turnovers against Central A&M. That might have worked against the Raiders, but it won’t with the Knights.

The Knights are too good of a team to give extra possessions to. Turnovers will happen, that’s just basketball. But if the Timberwolves can keep the turnover number down around 12, that’s a good first step.

Also, the 30 free throw attempts against A&M were great. Only making 18 though, not great. Can’t afford to leave that many points on the table. Trust your muscle memory.