1. Lanphier – At this point of the season, it seems like it’s Lanphier leading the pack in the CS8, followed by everybody else. Blake Turner’s team is rolling right now, having lost just one game all season which came against an out of the state opponent. The Lions have been paced all year by senior guard Xavier Bishop, who is averaging 24.8 points per game. Bishop became the only player ever to be named to the Pekin All-Tournament First Team four times following Lanphier’s Pekin Tournament championship run, but his fellow backcourt mate, junior Yaakima Rose is beginning to emerge into Lanphier’s next star. Rose was also named to the All-Tournament Pekin first team. The do-it-all guard is averaging 16.1 ppg to go along with 8.5 rebounds. That lethal combination, combined with a plethora of depth, including Aundrae Williams, Cardell McGee and William Boles has allowed Lanphier to light up the score board on numerous occasions this year.
2. MacArthur – The Generals embarked on an impressive run in the Collinsville Tournament, finishing second to a Belleville Althoff team that is one of Illinois' most elite teams. MacArthur got a last second game-winning lay in from Keymonta Johnson to defeat Southeast in the quarterfinals, then steam rolled Lincoln in the semis – two solid wins against legitimate opponents. Ron Ingram’s unit has multiple scoring options and when the Generals get out on top early, they’re a tough team to beat. After getting waxed by Lanphier the first go-around, MacArthur tested the Lions on the road Tuesday night. If it’s Lanphier and the rest in the CS8, MacArthur is currently the best of the rest.
3. Southeast – It’s been an up-and-down year for Southeast. There’s no question we’ve seen stretches of good basketball from the Spartans but inconsistency has plagued this crew. Right when you thought Southeast was about to start rolling, they lost at home to Jacksonville. Then, with a chance to make a run in the Collinsville tournament, the Spartans lost to MacArthur in the quarterfinals due to a sluggish start. The Spartans did return from the post holiday tournament hiatus with a convincing 16-point win over Lincoln on Tuesday. An impressive showing, given how the bulk of the scoring came from players other than D’Angelo Hughes. Can that all-around production continue on a consistent basis? If so, Southeast could climb the power rankings. We’ll find out more about this team at the City Tournament, when the Spartans finally see Lanphier.
4. Lincoln – Coming into the season, the Rail Splitters were looked at as an inexperienced team, so there have been some hiccups along the way due to that, but with more experience, Lincoln has begun to find its stride. The Railers came back from 13-points down in the Collinsville tournament to beat East St. Louis – a building block win for a young team. Following that win, coach Neil Alexander said this current group is only going to get better. The Railers took a little bit of a step back with a loss to Southeast on Tuesday and the week doesn’t get any easier with a date with Lanphier set for Friday night.
5. Glenwood – The Titans didn’t have a great showing in the State Farm Classic over the holidays. Glenwood was matched up against No. 2 seeded Rock Island and didn’t fare well, but the Titans answered the bell with a dominant win over Jacksonville on Tuesday at The Bowl to kick back up the CS8 schedule. We’re not really sure what to make of the 2015-16 Titans midway through the year, hence why Glenwood is in the middle of the pack. What we do know, though, is that Parker Allen continues to be one of the best scorers in the area.
6. Jacksonville – Remember a few weeks ago when the Crimsons beat Southeast and Eisenhower on back-to-back nights before the holidays without their best player in Brady Hays? Those victories had people thinking that the Crimsons could be climbing back up the ladder in the CS8. Jacksonville has since followed that chatter up with a 1-2 showing in the Centralia Tournament and a 25-point loss at home to Glenwood. Are the Crimsons reverting back to that unsteady team we’ve seen in recent years? It appears that way.
7. Rochester – The Rockets’ main problem this year has been putting the biscuit in the basket. Rochester did a good job of that against Springfield on Tuesday, with a 71-52 win over the Senators, but that’s not a win to write home about. Depth has also been an issue for the Rockets.
8. SHG – Congratulations to Carey McVickers on picking up his first CS8 win as head coach of the Cyclones as SHG defeated Eisenhower 67-65 in a nail biter on Tuesday night. The Cyclones are still trying to find an identity with a new coach and with a team that still hasn’t played a ton together on the court. Athletically, though, SHG will give a lot of teams fits.
9. Eisenhower – The Panthers have pieces, but they’re young. Eisenhower’s inexperience has showed. Most of the Panthers’ production has come from underclassmen.
10. Springfield – The Senators’ preseason predicament has carried over into the season, which resulted in a 16th place finish in the State Farm Classic large school boys bracket.
- Pleasant Plains – The Cardinals are human. They faced their biggest test of the season under the bright lights of the Williamsville Tourney championship and fell on their faces. The one bright spot was the big boys, who continue to develop their game. If Plains can limit their turnovers, they can beat anyone and that’s why they stay atop the Power Rankings. Coach Cliff Cameron’s crew responded with their first win of the new year on Tuesday in a big way, blowing out Gillespie. Collins continued his incredible shooting from downtown, going 4 for 8 behind the arc and Austin Finley put up a double-double. Plains will travel to Pawnee on Friday, a good warmup before the County Tourney next week, where they are the number one seed.
- Williamsville – The Bullets continue to improve. Coach Nick Beard’s boys gave undefeated Warrensburg-Latham their best test of the year in the holiday tournament semifinal. The young Bullet team came up three points short but showed us something special. The Bullets took care of PORTA in the third place game to prove they are the second best team in the Sangamo right now, with all due respect to Athens. Harrison Creswell and Matt Watson make the Purple and Gold go, but guys like Jake Pennell and Zach Dellert have to step up in order to push the Bullets into the next level. Williamsville might get another shot at Plains next week in the county tournament and we’re sure the Bullets are ready for that matchup on a neutral floor.
- Athens – Matt Wendling is probably the toughest matchup for any area team, with all due respect to Isaac Collins. Wendling went off in the Waverly Tournament and sophomore Drayton Davis delivered a performance worthy enough of a spot on the all tournament team as well. Devin Richardson had enough blocks to build a Big Nasty t-shirt wardrobe in their four games, and Nick Hanner seems to be getting back to what they thought he could be before the ankle injury. An Athens first place trophy from the Waverly Holiday Tournament can only give this team confidence heading into the second half of the Sangamo season. Their next big test should come in Morrisonville, where they’ll see the likes of 1A perennial power Nokomis.
- Riverton – The one-two combination of Ryan Roscetti and Zak Merchant is a scary sight for Sangamo teams in the second half. Both are averaging about 13 points a game and the Hawks seem to have things figured out. Riverton is coming off a second place finish in the St. Teresa tourney and they followed that up with a win over Auburn to open their conference schedule. Starting the county tournament off against Rochester won’t be easy for the Hawks, but we'll learn a little more about what we can expect from them down the stretch.
- PORTA – The Bluejays have flown their way back onto the top five portion of the power rankings. Playing Plains to the wire in the holiday tourney semifinal showed us this team may be figuring things out with a young roster. Max Muller is averaging almost 19 points per game and is the obvious go-to guy on this team, but Michael Curry continues to show he’s a serious scoring threat as well. The Jays will get a another shot at Williamsville in a couple weeks, then we’ll see if they can move up the Power Rankings list.
Lincolnwood – The Lancers would be into the top five if not for a tough break during the last minute of the Waverly Holiday Tournament semifinal. Bryan Graham, who’s averaging 18.4 per game, went down with a serious ankle injury. That may not be such a bad thing in the long run though, if they can get Graham back before the postseason. Seth Foster stepped up in the title game against Athens and kept them in it as long as he could. If the Lancers can survive the slate in the MSM without Graham, they’ll be awful dangerous come regional time.
South County – The Vipers have competed with Carrollton twice in the past two weeks but came up short both times. Instead of sulking, South County went on to win the consolation bracket at the Waverly Holiday tournament, beating some quality teams like New Berlin and North Mac. Lewis Wallbaum is a matchup nightmare for MSM foes and Justin Gill can get buckets. Look for the Vipers to make a run at the conference title this season.