Since we’re at what feels like the halfway point of the season, now’s a good time to take a look at three sports in the Western Big Six: boys and girls basketball and wrestling.
Moline (13-4, 4-0) — What we’ve learned: Without Deonte Billups, Moline has a decent and competitive team, but with him they can beat just about anyone.
Also, the broken hand Billups suffered may turn into a blessing in disguise. It kept the long basketball season fresh for the Maroons when they had to go without Billups for the Pekin Holiday Tournament.
It also gave them extended looks at Nolan Griffin, Jon Moore and Sam Monroe and helped the team develop more depth.
What they need: The continued development of Drew Wiemers, who’s turning into a decent scorer and excellent team player, and for Billups to excel down the stretch. If he does, watch out. The rest of this team, including senior Ben Monroe and junior Brody Harding, is thus far coming along just fine.
Rock Island (8-7, 1-2) — What we’ve learned: The Rocks have a nice one-two scoring punch in Randy Tucker and JaMir Price.
What they need: Much like last year, the Rocks desperately need a third bona fide scorer and a tad more consistency out of Tucker and Price.
Alleman (10-6, 1-3) — What we’ve learned: Suarahb Patwal is an excellent player/shooter. His brother is not too bad either. The Don Morris Gym is a great place to play and appears to have enough seats at this point as they’ve yet to sell out against either UT or Moline.
What they need: Seniors Andrew Barrett and Will Mihm must step up on a consistent basis. If they do, Alleman could go a long way at tournament time. If they don’t, they may not make it out of the regional.
UTHS (7-8, 0-3) — What we’ve learned: The Panthers have discovered a player in Delaney Little, who can flat-out shoot.
What they need: Coach Ryan Webber lamented the team’s rebounding and defense in its loss Saturday to Rockford Lutheran. The Panthers have a few needs. From the one game I saw, it’s mainly rebounding and another scorer to complement Little.
Rock Island (12-6, 5-0) — What we’ve learned: The Rocks are not invincible. The solid defeat at the hands of Pleasant Valley at Wharton Field House, along with their losses on the national level, have burst the bubble of the Rocks.
What they need: This team can still make it to state, but it’s clear they’re missing last year’s apparent MVP, Justice Edell, whom coach Thad Hoover praised often a year ago. Apparently she was the glue and the locker room leader.
I can’t believe Rock Island’s girls play in the small girls’ gym and the wrestlers wrestle in the field house.
I realize there could be scoreboard issues, but a switch by these two teams — for about five games/matches a year — would benefit both.
The cozy confines of the girls’ gym is great for shooters. Yet, as the Rocks advance along the tourney trail, bigger gyms are the norm, not to mention if you make it to state and Redbird Arena.
Depth perception in any gym can affect shooters who are not used to it. If they played at the field house, they would be more used to it.
They’re great. But I would have loved to have seen both the Annawan boys and girls teams this year. And say so long, farewell to Pekin.
It’s a shame the best girls’ player in Illinois, Jayde VanHyfte, did not get a chance to play in front of a big Quad-City crowd.
Moline (21-4, 1-0) is well on its way to another Western Big Six crown.
Charlie Farmer at 106, Isaiah Tapia at 113, Ellex Williams at 120, Grant Ohlsen at 145, Jayden Terronez at 152, Hunter Henning at 195 and Cobie Underwood at 285 all have at least 20 wins. Terronez's next win will be his 30th.
Coach Jacob Ruettiger is definitely measuring up as a head coach, no doubt about that.
Alleman (20-4, 0-1) is definitely on the rise under James Healy, despite its tough loss on criteria to UTHS, 34-33, last week.
Alleman is led by seniors John West (24-6) at 182 and Ryan O’Hern (23-7) at 160, plus freshmen Billy Taylor at 113, David Dierickx at 120, Jack Patting at 132 and Gage Mowry at 106 are all performing well. Patting and Taylor both have 28 wins.
Coach James Ealy credits senior leadership and adding the mixture of talented freshmen, giving the Pioneers a full lineup as keys.
While I am at it, thanks Moline and Assumption for having the decency to have a roster sheet for fans with both teams’ wrestlers on it at recent meets I’ve covered. It shows these athletes some respect.