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Capital Classic preview Lawrenceville site
Aces could be team to beat
LAWRENCEVILLE - How long will it take for Mount Carmel to find its basketball legs?

If the answer is not long, then the Golden Aces are probably the favorite to emerge from the Lawrenceville site at this weekend's 25th annual Basketball Capital Classic.

Mount Carmel, host Lawrenceville, Marshall and Pinckneyville, led by Lawrenceville graduate Bobby Waggoner, will make up the field in the gym at the new Lawrenceville High School.

The Golden Aces, who replace Neoga in this year's tournament, are a little behind the other teams due to the fact that their football team advanced to the third round of the post-season tournament. However, a 71-70 setback to Greenville on Nov. 16 means the team will have a full roster for the Cap Classic.

Mount Carmel coach Tyler Buss says his team is capable of quickly getting up to speed.

"These guys are three-year starters," he said. "Our team has played together for a while now, so we should have a little bit easier transition than in the past."

Mount Carmel

The Golden Aces return to the tournament for the first time since 2001. The team has played in the tournament seven times with an overall record of 16-10.

The Golden Aces return a pair of double-figure scorers in 6-0 junior Levi Laws (17.1 ppg) and 6-3 senior Reece Metcalf (17.1 ppg). Other probable starters are 6-3 senior Riley Raber, a former Edwards County standout, 5-11 senior Thomas Allen and 6-5 senior C.J. Diel. Off the bench, Buss plans to turn to 5-10 junior Cole Jamison, 5-7 junior Sam Deisher, 5-10 junior Deric Wright, 6-3 senior Austin Thompson, 6-1 senior Caleb Kline and 6-3 junior Gabe Margelin.

Buss says the tournament will give his team a chance to prepare for the Big Eight Conference season.

"We have three huge conference games in the month of December," he said. "This will allow us to hopefully be playing well when we enter those games."

Marshall

Veteran coach Tom Brannan, who guided the Lions to Basketball Capital Classic championships in 1993 and 2008, returns no double-figure scorers from last year's team that finished 22-9.

"We're excited and optimistic," Brannan said. "We're young, but we have a chance to be a pretty competitive team."

A pair of 6-2 seniors, Derrick Davidson and Drew Morris, figure into Brannan's plans. Others who will get extensive playing time are 6-3 junior Keegan Steele, 6-3 sophomore Chazz Lindsey and a pair of freshmen, 6-0 Brock Finkbiner and 6-4 Spencer Shaffner.

"We want to use the Capital Classic to win and get better," Brannan said. "It will be interesting to see how our team and others progress."

Pinckneyville

The Panthers of coach Bobby Waggoner finished 18-13 a year ago, and reached the Capital Classic championship game in their first tournament appearance.

However, the Panthers were hit hard by graduation and will bring a young and inexperienced team to the tournament.

"This group has worked to improve their strength and skill, so they have good potential to have a successful season," Waggoner said. "I know they will improve considerably from the beginning of the year until the end."

Seniors Brayden Cowley and Henry Dudek, both 6-1, are in contention for playing time, as are juniors Nolan Luke, 6-1, Brian Taylor, 5-10, Caleb Dahn, 6-3, Tristan Fisher, 5-11, Adam Banach, 6-2 and Jacob Downard, 5-10. Sophomores Clayton Houghland, 6-2, and Sam Simpson, 6-4, are also candidates to contribute.

"Most of them saw limited time last year, and none of them averaged in double digits," Waggoner said.

Waggoner says the tournament is a chance for his young team to get some needed seasoning.

"We hope to use the tournament to prepare ourselves for the conference schedule and to see how they react to playing on the road against good competition," he said.

Lawrenceville

The Indians were 0-4 in the Capital Classic a year ago, but second-year coach Randy Bishop is hoping for better things this time.

"We hope to be competitive with those teams," said Bishop, whose team finished 5-21 last season. "We'd like to win it, and we'd at least like to get to that final night. I'm hoping our kids are in the first-place game, or at least the third-place game."

Six sophomores, Harry Loeb, 6-0, Brandt Cochran, 5-10, Dylan Volkman, 6-1, Jordan Shick, 6-0, Brady Benson, 6-3 and Cody Steffey, 6-0, are in contention for starting positions.

The Indians will also turn to 6-0 junior Thomas Mahrenholz and 6-0 senior Austin Wanke, as well as possibly 5-10 freshman Bryce Winningham. John Thompson, a 6-0 senior, will miss the tournament with a finger injury, while 6-0 junior John Barnes is slowed with an ankle injury.

Lawrenceville is the only team in the field that has played in every tournament. The Indians have a 37-47 mark in the Capital Classic. The Indians won titles in 1994 and 1995 and have finished second three times.





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