The Rockets know well the danger of being the top seed in an IHSA regional. After last year’s conference double (tournament and regular season) winning triumph, Unity’s splendid season was honored with a No. 1 seed in the Monticello regional.
In their first game the Rockets were dealt a shocking loss by Alex Thorson and eventual regional champions St. Thomas More.
This year Unity’s hard work so far this season has been recognized, and the IHSA have seeded them first in the Tuscola regional. The team will certainly remember the lesson from last year and they will also take to heart two advantages they have: 1. STM cannot be their first round opponent; 2. Thorson is wearing maroon and white this year.
Thorson, the area’s assist leader, has been the general of the Rockets’ offense this year. With his regional championship experience, he can be a great asset for the team.
Unity will need that experience as they face their first round opponent. The way the bracket is set up, either Monticello or Prairie Central will be the team Unity plays first.
A third meeting with the Sages could be a very tough game for Unity. Because these teams know each other so well by now, a regional match-up could be a surprising game. With each team trying to stop the other from doing what has worked previously, someone who hasn’t taken a shine yet might emerge as a hero.
Of course, Monticello has to get to Unity first. Standing in their way is Prairie Central. The Hawks have had a more uneven season than Monticello. During the first half of the season Prairie Central went 8-4, but once the calendar flipped to 2012 the Hawks started to slip. Since January began they have won just two games, going 2-9 and losing their last three games.
If Unity were to win against Monticello/Prairie Central, they would most likely meet either second-seed PBL or third-seed STM.
The Sabers would be a familiar foe for Unity, as the two teams met up in December. Unity got the best of STM in their meeting, 71-57, but saw a less experienced team.
Since that time STM has won eight and lost seven but faced very tough conference competition as well as quality non-conference opponents. Sophomore guard Jaycee Hillsman has become one of the area’s top scorers, and senior guard Cortez King is strong in the paint.
PBL features a similar style of play as STM. Their center, Gauge Snider, is a very good player and scores seemingly at will. He is fed by speedy guards Dakota Zenner and Tanner Harris.
The Panthers get in trouble when other teams play tough defense, however. They barely eked out a win over Cissna Park, 26-21, because their offense was throttled. If the game becomes a fast-paced affair, PBL could also struggle. In their loss to St. Joseph-Ogden early in the season the pace picked up, and the Panthers struggled, losing 55-49.
It would be easy to call the Tuscola regional a good draw for Unity. But it would have been easy to say that last year as well.
If the Rockets want to claim another regional title they must play their own game. Unity has a good chance against any team, from Prairie Central to PBL, but only if they dictate the tempo and play tough defense.
Unity is more than capable of winning their regional. Thorson is going to provide excellent leadership as well as assists. If he can find Matt Restad for three, Taylor Black on the break, Aaron Larson in the paint or Austin Fender open anywhere on the court then the Rockets will score a lot of points and lift a trophy at the end of the week.