What a difference three months makes.
Last Friday's Teutopolis/Breese Central game was easily the best high school sporting event I've ever covered. The drama, the storylines, the intrigue with everything on the line was unrivaled.
It was quite a turnaround from the first T-Town game I ever covered.
After arriving in Effingham in December, the first game I attended at J.H. Griffin Arena was the Teutopolis/Highland game on Dec. 18.
I'd heard a lot about the Shoes, but they came out about as flat as possible as they fell behind 29-13 at the half.
Coach Andy Fehrenbacher even replaced his entire lineup in the second quarter with all reserves, including a couple players who split time with the junior varsity.
Teutopolis found its stroke in the second half, but didn't come back. Fehrenbacher didn't mince words in the postgame interview, calling the effort "extremely frustrating."
At the time, I didn't know what it meant for Teutopolis in terms of their season. But a spark was lit that day.
Since that loss, Teutopolis is 21-1, and have won 20 straight. Those players who came off the bench? Among them was Reed Hardiek, who has turned into a good shooter and floor spacer for the Shoes. Cody Will also came off the bench that day, and he had double digit points Friday against BC in a gritty performance.
The final player to find his footing after that loss? Friday's hero Brett Mette, who soon after claimed a starting spot along with Will, and Mette is one of the few freshmen to ever start for Teutopolis.
Now, the Shoes are in very familiar territory for their program. They've advanced to their third straight Super-Sectional, and they couldn't have come closer to make the state finals in the past two seasons, losing by one point both years.
Harrisburg should be as tough a test, if not a tougher one. Harrisburg enters today's Super-Sectional at a whopping 30-1. Their lone loss comes to a nationally ranked Dyer County (Tenn.).
Tyler Smithpeters leads the Bulldogs with about 17 points per game, and Capel Henshaw averages 14.9 points per game as well.
Ultimately, it'll come down to two cliches of the postseason: senior leadership and defense.
Throw out the stats for Teutopolis. Kyle Pruemer may be second on the team in scoring, but he's been on both teams that lost in Super-Sectional play, missing a layup in the waning seconds of last year's loss to Normal University.
There's no stat that can quantify how much Pruemer, Derek Smith and the other Shoes will want to redeem themselves after back-to-back heartbreaks.
The team I saw in December probably couldn't have. The team I saw Friday night, that came back from three down in 40 seconds against the defending state champs?
Ryan Czachorski can be reached at (217) 347-7151, ext. 135, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What a difference three months makes.
St. Elmo tourney bracket set
The brackets for the annual St. Elmo Holiday Tournament have been released, with the Altamont Indians gaining the top seed.
Wenthe, Wooden Shoes win 60-50
The Shoes instantly regained the lead and put Salem away, giving them the 60-50 win that could be spelled with a capital “W,” for Bobby Wenthe, as far as Salem head coach Bob Frederick was concerned.
St. A tops Beecher City 54-34
St. Anthony’s Homecoming spirit — and balanced scoring — lead the Bulldogs to a Homecoming win over Beecher City 54-34 Tuesday night.
St. Anthony slows Altamont in 46-26 win
Altamont couldn't maintain a scoring presence other than a 14-point second quarter, only scoring seven points in the second half, as St. Anthony (5-0, 2-0 NTC) stayed undefeated this season with a 46-26 win on Monday.
Flaming Hearts roll in Apollo opener
Effingham will play Charleston on Jan. 31 for a chance to beat the Trojans for a third time this season and if the game is anything similar to the previous two, the Flaming Hearts will have the season sweep.
The Hearts dominated the Trojans on Friday 65-29, beating Charleston for the second time in less than two weeks, during which Effingham accumulated 133 points in two games.
Barnes, Beecher City beat Cowden-Herrick
Cowden-Herrick and Beecher City don't meet often anymore across the span of a school year.
With co-ops in every sport but varsity volleyball and boys basketball, the rivals had one of their rare matchups Friday night for Beecher City's Homecoming.
Fittingly, the game was headlined by a former Hornet and current Eagle, as Brady Barnes had 23 points for Beecher City as they bested the Hornets 60-44.
T-Town's Zerrusen, Koester make HOF
Two star players from two of the last three Teutopolis boys basketball teams to make the IHSA final four, including the only championship team, are entering the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Maxey, SE/B down Cougars in OT
Allowing St. Elmo/Brownstown’s Levi Maxey to have the ball with the game on the line was the last thing South Central head coach Rick Simmons wanted on Tuesday, but the first thing he knew the Eagles would look to.
Indians race past Pirates
Eight minutes was enough for the Indians to get their legs beneath them, as they raced out to a definitive 71-35 victory over the Pirates to start their season.
Effingham moves to .500 with win over Robinson
Effingham had its first home match of the season Tuesday against the Robinson Maroons, and sent the fans home happy.
The Flaming Hearts won six of the eight contested contests and took the dual 48-27 on the night.
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- St. Elmo tourney bracket set