For the first time since Dec. 6, 2005 Arcola is to play Neoga in a battle of two area boys’ basketball teams today. The contest is one of seven games involving area teams. In the National Trail Conference Windsor is to play host to Stewardson-Strasburg in the ‘Blue Hatchet’ game and Windsor’s Homecoming. In the Little Illini Conference Cumberland is to play host to Hutsonville-Palestine and Casey-Westfield, 4-0, is to travel to Bridgeport to face Red Hill. In the Okaw Valley Conference Sullivan is to open play at undefeated Decatur St. Teresa, while Shelbyville is to play at Monticello.

All games are to start at 6:15 p.m. with the junior varsity contests followed by the varsity with the exception of the Okaw Valley Conference contests which have the junior varsity games at 6 p.m.

The Neoga-Arcola game is to broadcast on WLKL 89.9 FM, Cumberland on WHQQ 98.9 FM; Shelbyville on WRAN 98.3 FM and the Sullivan contest is to be broadcast on WDKR 107.3 FM.

Neoga (1-8) at Arcola (3-2)

The last time these two teams met was a 66-49 Neoga win, which was a year after the Borries’ brothers (Art Borries was the Neoga coach and Ben Borries was the Arcola coach) coached against each other at Arcola with Neoga winning 67-52.

The only common opponent is Sullivan. Arcola beat the Redskins 30-28 last Tuesday, while the Indians lost 51-35 a week ago at Neoga.

The Purple Riders enter on a 3-game winning streak with all three games won on the final basket by freshman Kolin Seaman.

“We have done a better job taking care of the basketball,” said Arcola coach Chad Graves. “In the first couple of game we turned the ball over too much. Our defense has gotten better each game.”

As for the Sullivan game Graves said he didn’t expect that low scoring of a game.

“We have not shot the ball well yet,” said Graves. “Our kids have been figuring out the offense and moving the ball from side to side.”

Arcola averages 48.6 points per game compared to 47.1 for the Indians. Defensively, the Purple Riders have allowed an average of 54.6 points per game, while Neoga has given up an average of 61.

Neoga is coming off a 90-55 loss to Casey.

“Casey is very athletic and I thought we played a little bit better,” said Neoga coach Clay Haurberg. “We just didn’t have anyone that could match up with Brandon Wolfe or Trivette Scales. They just plain beat us. We have had some young kids coming in off the bench and senior Brandon Maroon made his first start against Casey and id a nice job.”

Neoga had three players in double figures against the Warriors as Jake Baker, who leads the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game, scored 19 points, Wyatt Krikie had 13 and Riley Walk added 10.

“We need to score more than 55 points,” said Haurberg. “We have been in some close games (four losses by a total of 24 points). Our biggest problem all year long has been the opponent’s attack the basket and we are fouling. We have to force the ball away and force jump shots. We have to get off this losing skid (seven). We have had some leads going into the fourth and then lose it. Some may say it is because we are inexperienced, but how long can you say you are inexperienced. We are nine games into the season now and cant’ make excuses. We have 19-20 fouls per game and that may not seem like a lot, but the opponents are almost always on the free throw line. We have to get after the loose basketball and get the right person the right touch and the right time.”

Arcola is led by sophomore Nick Hudson and Seaman with 13.4 and 12.8 points per game.

“We have to take care of the basketball and slow down their transition game,” said Graves. “I know they like to get out and run. We have to get back on defense and do the little things.”

Stewardson-Strasburg (3-2, 0-0) at Windsor (1-4, 1-1)

Stewardson-Strasburg beat Windsor in the season-opener 89-46, but the Blue Devils are coming off a 62-59 NTC win over Browntown which snapped a 23-game losing streak and an 11-game conference losing streak.

“You have to give Stew-Stras credit in the first game,” said first-year Windsor coach Silas Pogue. “They shot the lights out. We have to defend better than we did. I feel like we gave them a lot of second chance shots. The kids are in their third different coach in three years and have done a good job of keeping themselves in position to play with teams early in the year. We have been down just eight points at halftime in several games this year and that is pretty good.”

Stew-Stras is coming off a 76-53 win over Okaw Valley.

“I know Windsor is playing better right now,” said Stew-Stras coach Shane Smith. “We have to come ready to play; it is no different than the last game. Each game is the most important game of the season until it is done.”

The Comets enter with an average of 65 points per game compared to 45.2 points per contest. Defensively Stew-Stras allows 51.8 per contest compared to 65.4 for the Blue Devils.

“Our big concern is keeping them off the glass,” said Pogue. “No. 2 we can’t allow post touches within eight feet of the rim and No. 3 we have to play better on the ball defense than we did the first time.”

Windsor freshman Tristan Warner scored a career-high 27 points (averages 13.8), which was the most by a Windsor player since Kyle Floyd scored 36 points in a 74-49 win over Westville in the Tri-County Holiday Tournament Dec. 29, 2010. Alex Allen, a junior, was also in double figures with a career-high 18 points.

“As a freshman (Warner) you can’t ask for more than that,” said Pogue. “It was good to see Alex (Allen) being aggressive on the offensive end too and that is a great sign. Tristan proved that he deserves to be out their with the varsity guys. The seniors have done such a good job of being leaders.”

The Comets are led in scoring by 6-4 Justin Fulk and guard Brandon Helmuth with averages of 19.8 and 13.6 points per game. Stew-Stras was without Christian Vonderhiede Tuesday and is a game-time decision for today’s contest.

“We had a few too many turnovers in our half-court offense,” said Smith of the Okaw Valley game. “Our transition game was good and the players are very unselfish.”

Tuscola (1-2) at Arthur-Lovington (2-3)

Arthur-Lovington has lost two straight games, but the last one was to Decatur St. Teresa. The Knights average 52 points per game, while allowing 50.4 points per contest.

“We are not playing well,” said Schuring. “Defensively, we are OK, but not as good as we should be. Offensively, we are really struggling. We can’t make shots when we do get good looks. We are trying to figure out where we are and what we want to do, which I somewhat anticipated, but it is going to take some time. Hopefully we are starting to figure things out, but we are not there yet.”

Tyler Schuring is A-L’s top scorer at 9.8 points per game.

Tuscola is playing a Little Okaw Valley Conference school for the third straight time, having beat Villa Grove 63-47 and lost to Heritage 60-56 after opening the season with a 51-42 loss to Maroa-Forsyth, a team that is 5-1.

It is just the second home game for the Knights.

“I am hoping that helps us shoot better; maybe we can get a few more to go in,” said Schuring. “We don’t have a long bus ride and hopefully we can get out of the funk a little bit. If we make shots we will certainly be in the game, but if not we are going to get beat again.”

The Warriors, coached by former Shelbyville coach Matt Franks, average 53.7 points per game and allow 52.3 per contest.

“Tuscola is going to play hard and play physical,” said Schuring. “They have the same coach as last year and they should be better than last year at this time because they have had more time to practice basketball. They will be a lot more basketball ready than what they have in the past (due to football).”

Hutsonville-Palestine (6-3, 1-2) at Cumberland (2-9, 0-3)

The two teams played Nov. 20 in the Cumberland Thanksgiving Tournament with Hutsonville wining 53-45. The Tigers are coached by former Cumberland girls’ basketball coach Travis Titsworth and are coming off a 45-42 win over Dugger, Ind. Tuesday, while the Pirates lost to Charleston 78-36.

Hutsonville averages 60.6 points per game and allows an average of 59.3, while Cumberland averages 39.8 and gives up an average of 59.6 per contest.

The Tigers are led in scoring by sophomore Graham Alspach, who averages 14 points per game, while senior Tyler Hefflin nets 12.1 per contest. Alspach is the top rebounder with 6.9 per game, while classmate Landon Williams is tops in steals with 2.3 and Matt Schmidlin, a senior, averages a team-high 4.2 assists per contest.

Trevor Brumleve leads Cumberland, who is hoping to snap a six-game losing streak, with 11.4 points per game.

Shelbyville (4-2, 1-0) at Monticello (4-1, 0-0)

Monticello’s only loss was a 63-37 game to Pleasant Plains Dec. 1. The Sages, coached by Neoga graduate Kevin Roy, average 51.2 points per game and are coming off a 51-43 win over Stanford Olympia. Monticello allows48.2 points per contest.

Monticello is No. 11 in the Class 2A Associated Press rankings and has to players over 6-6 in Matt Kruse and Bryan Phipps.

Shelbyville scores an average of 47.3 and allows 42 points per contest. The Rams are led in scoring by 6-8 Brody Bence (13.3) and Nate Standerfer (12) points per contest.

Sullivan (3-4, 0-0) at Decatur St. Teresa (6-0,0-0)

St. Teresa enters the game averaging 52.2 points per game and allowing 44.2 per contest. The Bulldogs, the Macon County Champions, have not won a game by more than 14 points and have not scored more than 58 points in a contest, but have not allowed more than 52.

Sullivan averages 42.7 points per contest and allows 44.1 with Andrew Brown leading the way with an average of 12.8 points per game.

Casey-Westfield (4-0, 2-0) at Red Hill (1-8, 0-3)

High-scoring Casey averages 78.8 points per game with two players averaging in double digits in Brandon Wolfe and Zach Murphy at 26.8 and 14 points per game. Trivette Scales played in his first Tuesday and scored 20 points in a 90-55 win over Neoga. The Warrior have allowed an average of 54.8 points per contest.

Red Hill has lost five straight games, including Tuesday’s 59-56 game to Lawrenceville, a team Casey beat 92-70. The Salukis average 39.5 points per game and allow an average of 57.6.

Contact Monahan at mmonahan@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6854.

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