Brea Beal is one of the nation's most prized girls basketball recruits for 2019. Jinaya Houston already has signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at Iowa.
When Rock Island and Davenport North clash in the signature game of Saturday night’s IHMVCU Shootout at Augustana College, eyes will drift in the direction of Beal and Houston — the two most accomplished players currently in the Quad-Cities.
“It actually gives me a lot of motivation and confidence to keep my head straight and set goals for myself in that game,” Houston said. “I think it’ll be a great matchup.”
Beal is a 6-foot-1 sophomore averaging 20.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. The five-star prospect is ranked fourth nationally in her class by HoopGurlz.
Houston is a 6-1 senior registering 20.6 points and 8 caroms per contest. The four-year starter, who is closing in on 1,400 career points, had multiple Division I offers before choosing Iowa.
Both are returning all-staters and were co-captains of last year’s Quad-City Times All-Metro team. Both can bury the 3-point shot. Both can wreak havoc for opponents with their ability to score off the dribble. Both have a knack for scoring in traffic.
“She’s an amazing player," Beal said of Houston. “It’s fun playing against people who are just as good as me.”
In all likelihood, Beal and Houston will guard each other during the game. They've faced off in scrimmages and fall league games but never in an official high school contest.
“Our games are a lot alike,” Houston said. “She has the ability to shoot it from far range and post up people with her size.
“It will be fun to see how her future turns out in the next coming years.”
Beal and Houston have crossed paths on the AAU scene as well. Beal plays for the Midwest Elite while Houston is with the All Iowa Attack.
“Before the game, we will probably laugh, say good game,” Beal remarked. “But during the game we are at each other’s heads. At the end, we are just ballplayers and we just hoop.”
Beal and Houston are the main attractions, but there will be plenty of other talent on the floor for the Rocks, ranked No. 3 in Illinois Class 4A, and Wildcats, No. 4 in Iowa Class 5A.
North’s Jacionna Stowers, a four-year starter, and Paige Bradford are double-digit scorers. Rock Island’s Chrislyn Carr averages almost 14.5 points per game and has garnered Division I attention.
“We are not playing two-on-two,” Rock Island coach Thad Hoover said. “We have five players out there and so do they. We need to maximize our five and the way we are playing, using everybody and playing together.”
Both teams have had this matchup circled for some time. Rock Island won a nip-and-tuck fall league game against North several months ago on a Carr putback at the buzzer.
Rock Island is coming off a tournament championship in Bloomington over Christmas break. North begins a rugged three-game stretch Friday after a 17-day layoff.
“Some games we’ve had great spurts and then backed down in other periods,” Houston said. “The way we’ve practiced the last couple of days, I think by the end of the season people will see what we really have to offer and how good this group can be.”
If nothing else, the game should serve as good preparation for what both teams hope are lengthy postseason runs in late February. A packed house is anticipated at the Carver Center.
“It is going to be a great game and great atmosphere,” North’s Coral Dillie said.
Here are four other story lines to keep an eye on at this weekend's shootout:
Even though Mississippi Athletic Conference schools have not participated in the girls shootout the past two years, Illinois has been dominant in the event.
Illinois held a 9-0-1 advantage in the Dearrel Bates Mississippi River Shootout and won 41 of the 60 games from 2005-14.
Sherrard and Geneseo are a combined 8-0 in the bi-state event while Rock Island and Moline each have an Illinois-best seven wins.
Assumption is the only Iowa school with a winning record at 6-3.
Holiday tournament carryover
While Iowa schools are trying to shake off the rust from the holiday layoff, all seven Illinois teams in the Shootout are coming off holiday tournaments.
The tournaments were especially beneficial to the four Quad-City Western Big Six schools as they compiled a 13-3 record.
Rock Island took the championship of the State Farm Holiday Classic (large-school division), while Moline was third at Peorial Manual and United Township finished third at the KSB-Dixon Holiday Classic. Alleman won the consolation title of the State Farm small-school division.
“We are seeing progress out of them,” UT coach Carie Walker said of her 12-5 squad. “They’re doing a lot of good things. In good and bad games, we are finding ways to pull some games out.”
Moline actually competed in two holiday tournaments and was 6-3 in that stretch.
“We saw so many different types of basketball,” Moline coach Tracy Sant Amour said.
Assumption, North Scott and Pleasant Valley are among the Iowa teams who field rosters with siblings who log significant minutes.
Assumption's Bailey, Carlye and Delaney Brown are triplets. Bailey is the Knights' top scorer at 16.2 points per game while Carlye averages 9 points an outing and shoots better than 34 percent from the arc.
North Scott features two sets of siblings — Karli and Rylie Rucker along with Maddie and Presley Case. Karli paces the Lancers in scoring at 15.5 points a contest while Rylie is among team leader in assists and steals.
Ellie and Carli Spelhaug are PV's top two scorers at 16.4 and 9.2 points per game, respectively. Ellie is a junior and Carli a sophomore.
Sherrard is rolling
With a 15-1 record, a No. 2 state ranking in Illinois Class 2A and fresh off a title in the Riverton Christmas Tournament, one might think the Sherrard Tigers view the IHMVCU Shootout as a chance to show the Quad-City area just what they got.
But coach Doug Swanson sees it mainly as just another game, and a chance to perform against “great competition.”
“It’s another game for us to go in and compete and play a really good Bettendorf team,” he said.
The Bulldogs provide a tough matchup, he said, citing the Bulldogs' Emily Ivory.
“They are a very talented team with good guards and good size,” Swanson said. “They are a very athletic team that likes to get up and down the floor. We have to know where that Ivory girl is. She’s a very talented player who can score in multiple ways.”
He’s also impressed with the Bulldogs’ defense. “They can get after it,” and provide full-court pressure.