The Batters Box 1-24-12

Tom Batters

Is it too early to give Metamora coach Danny Grieves my unofficial “Mid-Illini Coach of the Year” award?

Maybe.

Grieves, who has the Redbirds in the hunt for a conference title, still has to face Washington twice, and Pekin and Morton one more time.

Pekin and Morton are tied at the top of the conference standings (both are 6-1). Metamora is right behind them at 5-1. Washington is 4-2.

Now, how many of you thought Metamora would be 5-1 in the conference at this point in the season? How many of you would have predicted a dominant win over Morton and a win over the No. 2 ranked team in the state (East St. Louis)?

When I brought this up to a Metamora fan recently, he said, “Getting those two transfers helped put a lot.”

True.

Jared Dehm (transfer from Richwoods) and Jackson Grieves (Danny Grieves’ son) are integral parts of this team.

But, you can’t just simply imply that Metamora’s success is due to those two players coming into the program.

Let’s give Coach Grieves the credit he deserves.

Have you seen the way this team plays?

Bodies hit the floor for loose balls. Five guys move constantly on offense. They cut to the basket, set screens, pass the ball with pinpoint precision, run up the floor for fast break points...

That’s a reflection on the coach.

For home games, I usually sit close to the Metamora bench, so I get to see and hear things that the general crowd doesn’t.

One thing that stands out is that Grieves is always prepared. He seems to know what the other team is going to do, and then he promptly calls a play or makes an adjustment to counteract the other coach’s move.

He’s intense, focused and passionate on every single possession.

He uses his bench effectively (a skill that some coaches can’t seem to grasp). He inserts David Gualandri, Tianen Chen, Mitchell Billimack and others into the lineup at the right time, and for the right amount of time, to give his starters some rest or create a needed spark.

Washington’s Kevin Brown, who has dealt with injuries and adversity, is always a worthy candidate for the award. Pekin’s Dave Mott has his team playing a lot better than I would have predicted. And, Morton’s Jarrett Brown also deserves consideration.

But, Grieves gets my vote.

BRING IT ON

Eureka High School will host state-ranked teams on back-to-back nights this week.

On Thursday, the Eureka girls will host Bloomington Central Catholic, the No. 6-ranked team in Class 2A.

This is a rematch of the game earlier this season when the Hornets shocked the Saints in Bloomington, ending BCC’s 37-game conference win streak.

On Friday, the Eureka boys team hosts Normal U-High, the No. 3-ranked team in Class 2A. Eureka will look to snap a two-game losing streak.

Both games start at 7 p.m.

HORNETS WIN AGAIN

The Eureka girls beat U-High 52-42. Kayla Bryant scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Eureka is now 16-6 overall and 7-3 in the Corn Belt Conference.

NO. 2 SEED

The Eureka High School girls basketball team received the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Class 2A Stark County Regional.

Peoria Christian (16-5) received the No. 1 seed.

The Hornets (15-6) will open Regional play at 8:10 p.m. Feb. 8 in a semifinal game against the winner of the game between No. 3-seeded Stark County and No. 6-seeded IVC.

If Eureka wins that game, it will play for the Regional title at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9.

The other Regional semifinal game (6 p.m. Feb. 8) will feature Peoria Christian against either Fieldcrest (the No. 4 seed) or Farmington (the No. 5 seed).

The winner of that Regional will advance to the Knoxville Sectional to play the winner of the Bloomington Central Catholic Regional.

The BCC Regional features top-seeded El Paso-Gridley and No. 2-seeded Bloomington Central Catholic. El-Paso Gridley is undefeated and ranked second in the state. BCC is 16-4 and ranked No. 6 in the state. One of those losses came against Eureka earlier this season.

The winner of the Stark County Regional and the winner of the BCC Regional play at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14 in the Knoxville Sectional semifinal. The Sectional championship game is at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16.

The winner of the Knoxville Sectional will advance to the Monmouth College Supersectional Feb. 20.

The Class 3A Regional seeds are scheduled to be announced Thursday.

Metamora is in the East Peoria Regional with East Peoria, Pontiac, Washington and state-ranked Morton.