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Moline and North Scott are the preseason favorites in the Western Big Six and Mississippi Athletic Conference this winter for boys basketball.

As expected, those schools will clash in the 25th annual Genesis Shootout.

It just won't transpire in the marquee game.

Bettendorf and Rock Island, both with Division I point guards, will play the finale on Saturday, Dec. 15 at Augustana's Carver Center.

Rock Island coach Thom Sigel admitted at Monday's press conference he was surprised his team landed in the nightcap.

"Sean (Taylor) and Shamus (Budde) must have had something going on that Saturday night, maybe a social engagement," Sigel said of the Moline and North Scott head coaches. "I thought that would be the (marquee) pairing.

"It is an honor for us to be in that game."

Pairings are based on voting conducted by the school's athletic directors and head coaches along with input from Genesis Shootout organizers.

The final game does pit two of the most electric playmakers in the Quad-Cities -- Bettendorf's D.J. Carton, an Ohio State signee, and Rock Island's JaMir Price, headed to Bradley.

"Everybody will enjoy that," Bettendorf coach Curtis Clark said. "Even us as coaches, with players of that caliber, it is kind of nice to get out of the way and watch them play basketball. Both of those players are very, very good at what they do."

Organizers have tightened up the schedule this year. Instead of an hour and 45 minutes slotted for each game, it will be 90 minutes.

The first game still tips off at 10 a.m., with the finale scheduled for 7:15 p.m., more than hour ahead of previous seasons.

Series bragging rights are at stake this year.

In the previous 24 meetings, Iowa and Illinois each have won 11 times and tied twice. The Hawkeye state has captured five of the last six Shootouts.

Clark hopes his team can rally around being in the final game. Without an injured Carton last year, the Bulldogs lost to Galesburg by 36 points.

"To be honest, we had some guys in our locker room talking a little bigger than what they needed to about where we should be placed prior to last year," Clark said. "We didn't prove anything.

"The way we performed last year, I told our guys we deserve to be (in the first game). So I do hope we play with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder and something to prove, just mainly from the standpoint of our own basketball program and our tradition."

Davenport West and Riverdale tip off the Genesis Shootout at 10 a.m., followed by Davenport North and Geneseo around 11:30.

Davenport Central, already with a road win over Dubuque Hempstead and a home victory against state-ranked Dubuque Senior, is in the 1:15 p.m. contest against Alleman.

Central coach Craig Wurdinger was surprised by the early placement.

"There are a lot of good teams on the Iowa side, but I hope we're a little better than what people think," Wurdinger said. "You've got to go out and prove it on the court. It is motivation for our guys to show we belong."

Assumption and United Township face off for the second straight year at 2:45 p.m., followed by Pleasant Valley and Galesburg at 4:15 p.m. and North Scott against Moline at approximately 5:45 p.m.

Moline thumped North Scott 55-39 in the Genesis Shootout two years ago. The Maroons had three sophomores starting in that game who now are seniors in Deonte Billups, Brody Harding and Drew Wiemers.

"It should be a fun rematch," Taylor said. "(North Scott), I just saw them smoke everybody in the Rock Island (Justin Sharp Shootout) this summer. Shamus does a wonderful job. He's had great teams, great players."

Even with four starters returning, Budde said his team still is trying to find itself in the first week of December.

"We're still trying to figure out our identity a little bit and figure out who those guys are for us and who we're going to go to come February," Budde said. "We do have the pieces and the talent, but we have a few more unknowns than knowns right now."

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.