BOYS BASKETBALL: Cissna Park falls in Class 1A State Championship
PEORIA — All season long, Cissna Park had taken every team’s best shot and majority of the time, it came out with a victory.
But the Timberwolves hadn’t ran into a team like Providence St. Mel and the Knights were fully prepared for whatever they threw the Knights’ way.
The Knights rotated defensively and closed out on the Timberwolves’ shooters like no team has all season. That conbination led to the Knights claiming the Class 1A State Championship over Cissna Park 52-29 on Saturday.
“We played a great team that had a lot of weapons,” Cissna Park coach Kevin Long said. ”(Providence St. Mel) was the aggressors in the first half and their athleticism put us on our heels early. They made it tough and we were never able to recover.”
Cissna Park started with a 4-0 lead after opening baskets by Christian Stadeli that got the Timberwolves off to a good start.
He added another bucket to retake the lead 6-5, but that was the last lead the Timberwolves had for the rest of the game.
The Knights were able to close out on the perimeter players due to the services of Providence St. Mel’s 6-foot-9, 260 pound center Taeyon Neal.
Having that safety blanket to go 1-on-1 with Christian and Julian Stadeli underneath took away the bread and butter post game that the Timberwolves relied upon.
The Knights came through with three blocks and ended the first quarter on a 11-2 run to control a 16-8 lead.
“It goes back to the length and athleticism Providence has,” Long said. “We talk about having tools in the tool shed all the time, and I think we left a few of them behind in the first half. We could have used some countermoves in the post and on the perimeter, but that’s also credit to St. Mel for what they did defensively.”
Providence’s defense continued to give the Timberwolves fits, while its offense put up the points at a rapid pace.
The Knights, behind Tyriel Nelson and Deion Jackson, shot out on a 8-0 run to open the quarter that extended the lead to 24-8.
It remained a 16-point deficit at halftime at 29-13, and it was simply too much for the Timberwolves to overcome.
“We started out good, but came up short on a few shots that swung momentum,” Long said. “Momentum is hard thing to swing, but when it’s going your way and it’s snowballs, it’s tough to stop. We called a few timeouts to try and stop the bleeding, but the ball was going down for them and it wasn’t for us.”
Christian Stadeli finished his high school career with 11 points and seven rebounds while Brian Fehr added seven points and four rebounds.
The Timberwolves finished just 9 of 39 from the floor, 2 of 13 from distance and 9 of 16 from the free throw line.
The Knights were 18 of 41 from the floor, 2 of 7 from deep and 14 of 19 from the free throw line.
This team quite will possibly go down as the best in Cissna Park history, and rightfully so with a 33-5 final record along with a regional, sectional, super-sectional and second-place finish at state to end it all.
They were tested all year, but the work didn’t start over the summer. It begin back when this team finished just 7-22 as freshman.
“We struggled a lot back in my freshman year,” senior guard Conner Lober said. “But we got together a bunch of times and kept telling ourselves that we had to stick it out. We knew we could do something great and because of that belief, we got closer as a group, kept improving and now we’re here.”
After getting to a sectional final unexpectedly in 2017 and bounced out of regional abruptly last season, they made it their season to make it to Peoria over the this past summer.
“We had camp shirt made with a navy ship on the back called the USSCP,” Long said. “The slogan was ‘All in it to win it’, and we used that as motivation all season. We were ranked preseason No. 1 and maintained a top five ranking all year with a huge target on our backs. They bought in that pressure is a privilege and lived up to those high expectations.”
And now, this unreal journey for the Julian and Christian Stadeli, along with Lober, Fehr and Baliey Sluis has come to an end.
During their four years, they amassed a 75-55 record (54-14 in the final two years) and put Cissna Park back on the map.
“What a ride and a journey its been for these five outstanding young men,” Long said. “All five are winners and are going to do a lot of great things. Our team chemistry and culture was second to none, and these guys sacrificed so much over the years. They’ve set great examples for our younger guys and I couldn’t be more thankful for them. I’m now retiring and I couldn’t have asked for a better group or way to go out.”