The East E-Rabs have been the powerhouse team of the Rockford area all basketball season. Now they’re out to prove that they’re as good as any team in the state. They get that chance starting Friday night when they take the court in Peoria for the Class 4A semifinals against Evanston Township.
Evanston brings a record of 31-4 into State. The Wildkits are no strangers to Peoria. They were here last year and they finished third in the state. They feel like they have unfinished business to take care of.
“We come down here with the team with one agenda and that’s to win and make it to the state championship,” says senior guard Lance Jones.
“You know when you have that experience and you come up short the previous season it’s easy to talk about getting back to Peoria the entire season and really our guys did a great job of staying focused,” says Evanston head coach Mike Ellis.
Most the the key players from that third place team are back. Evanston’s leader is senior guard Lance Jones. He has committed to Southern Illinois University.
“I just do whatever I can to put my teammates in the best position to be successful,” says Jones. “Make open shots and make the game easier for myself and my teammates.”
Evanston’s starters aren’t especially big. They range between 5’11 and 6’3. but they get after it on defense. In their Super-Sectional win against Stevenson they forced 31 turnovers.
“They are extremely athletic and they can play fast,” says Rockford East coach Roy Sackmaster. “They’re also very balanced. Every guy on the floor out there can be able to knock down a shot.”
With the momentum the E-Rabs have they believe they can play with anyone. They just have to come out this weekend play their normal game and play it well.
“The rest of the state I think they just view us as, ‘Ah yea they’re not that good. They’ve just played weak competition.’ Now it’s our turn to show them what we can do against better competiton on a bigger stage,” says East junior Sincere Parker.
“I’m confident no matter who we’re playing,” adds East senior point guard Chris Burnell. “We’ve just got to keep the same energy no matter who’s in front of us. We’re just trying to accomplish the goal that we set for ourself.”
The E-Rabs are ready for the two biggest games of their young lives this weekend.
“It’s really big of a deal,” says East senior forward Sha’den Clanton. “This is like a once in a lifetime thing. Not too many people get to do this. We got to this stage so I feel really good and I feel blessed.”
The Rockford East-Evanston Township game will tip-off at 5:30 p.m. Friday. That will be followed by the other 4A semifinal game between Chicago Curie and Bellville West.