The greatest show in southern Illinois is for all intents and purposes the No. 1 show in all of Illinois.
At least in terms of Class 2A.
The Harrisburg High School boys' basketball team, who has since the beginning of Janurary been the state's top ranked team in 2A arrived in Peoria Thursday afternoon and didn't waste any time getting to work.
With their marching orders in hand, the Bulldogs quickly went to work preparing for tonight's (Friday's) matchup at 8:15 p.m. against St. Joseph-Ogden.
The Spartans come into tonight's game at Carver Arena inside the Peoria Civic Center with a record of 29-3. They beat Riverton in the Super Sectional Wednesday night and are making their first appearance in the state tournament.
Harrisburg head coach Randy Smithpeters likens St. Joseph-Ogden to that of Teutopolis. … and maybe Nashville. …and maybe Casey-Westfield.
"They are the combination of good things that a lot of those teams do and put it all together as one," Smithpeters said Thursday night after his Bulldogs wrapped up their practice session on the same floor that the Bradley University men's basketball and Peoria Rivermen hockey team play on.
"I think we need to defend the same way we did against all those teams," Smithpeters said. "We don't need to let guys have open looks at three's, like at times we did against Teutopolis. "St. Joseph-Ogden will put the ball on the floor and penetrate some with their athleticism, so they are very good passers. They're a lot like Nashville, who will hit an open man and make that extra pass to get an open look."
St. Joseph-Ogden is coached by Brian Brooks, who also doubles as the school's principal.. The Spartans' three losses this year come to Fairbury (Prairie Central), Pleasant Plains and Teutopolis.
Brooks in his 10th season at St. Joseph-Ogden, enjoying his best season this year.
St. Joseph-Ogden did play Massac County this season, beating the Patriots 69-57 back on Jan. 26.
Smithpeters said that the two teams played in a summer camp at Vandalia, but also admits that neither team had their full roster of players.
That common opponent in Teutopolis is something that Smithpeters believes will be beneficial, strictly from the standpoint that the Wooden Shoes are very similar in SJO.
"We're probably fortunate in that fact that Teutopolis was the same kind of team as St. Joe's. Teutopolis had a lot people that could shoot three's, a lot of people that were skilled and they were a long, decent-size team."
The Spartans are led in scoring this year 6-foot-3 junior forward Brent Schluter, who averages 14.2 points per game, while 6-3 senior guard Chase Patton averages 12.1 points per game. The only other player averaging double figures is 6-0 junior guard Nate Mitchell at 10.7.
Page 2 of 2 - On defense, Smithpeters said that St. Joseph-Ogden will likely play a man-to-man defense.
Smithpeters noted that it's not a one-man wrecking crew for St. Joseph-Ogden.
"If you go back and look at their leading scorer list, it's often times a different person every night and they rotate through that."
If there is one advantage for the Bulldogs, Smithpeters believes it will come in the form of 6-6 senior forward Dakota Upchurch.
"I don't know if they have the size to match up with him. However, on the other end, they don't have a guy for Dakota to guard because he'll be out on the floor.
"That's the chess match right there."
Winnebago vs. Seton Academy
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Carver Arena, Peoria
Harrisburg vs. St. Joesph-Ogden
When: 8:15 p.m.
Where: Carver Arena, Peoria
Radio: WEBQ 102.3 FM & 1240 AM
Twitter: @spydieshooter, @hbgsports
Third Place Game— 6:30 p.m.
Championship— 8:15 p.m.
Michael Dann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @spydieshooter.