EUREKA – While Eureka posted a 5-20 record a season ago on the basketball court, that is a bit misleading. In eight of those, which all ultimately ended in losses, the game’s outcome was still in doubt as late as the fourth quarter.
“Last year, we did not have as much experience,” said Hornets’ head coach Tim Meiss. “Experience will be a big part of it (this year). Everyone will have a bit more experience and we’ve been practicing some of those situations.”
The Hornets return two starters off the 2016-17 squad whose season concluded with a 58-48 loss to El Paso-Gridley in the Farmington Regional. Those two are 6-foot-2 senior forward Hunter Umland and senior guard Jake Bachman. As a team, Eureka scored an average of 45.8 points per game. Umland and Bachman are two of six players who saw court time so the offense has the potential to put the ball in the basket more often.
According to Meiss, he was optimistic following Friday’s intersquad scrimmage.
“We looked good at our scrimmage,” pointed out Meiss, who is in his 33rd year at Eureka with a 504-337 record. “In the past, we’ve scored in streaks. Hopefully, we’ll score a little more consistently and have the opportunity to be more explosive.”
Umland and Bachman will be joined in the starting five by 6-2 junior forward Alex Brittain and senior guard Keith Walder. Meiss is still undecided on the other starter. Six-five junior forward Keegan Zimmerman and senior guard Austin Schrock saw minutes off the bench.
Defensively, Eureka’s charges allowed 52.3 ppg last season.
“Right now, man (to man) is a strong suit,” stated Meiss, who has a 605-442 record as he enters year 41 on the prep sidelines. “Defense is going to be a strength.”
Ridgeview (30-2) and Tremont (26-4) each went 12-1 to share the Heart of Illinois Conference regular season title, while the Mustangs won the McLean County tournament to claim possession of the traveling trophy. The top two squads this season shape up to be Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (22-9) and Heyworth (22-7), whom the Hornets face in back-to-back games on the road.
“When they get everybody back and going, I think they’ll be the team,” said Meiss of GCMS, who has seven players, including two starters, still involved with football.
Meanwhile, Eureka should finish higher than a tie for 10th place.
“I think we can be in the upper half,” Meiss commented. “A lot of that will be what we do offensively. Defensively, we’re one of the best in the conference. It’ll depend on our offense.”
The schedule is as follows (all non-tournament game will begin @ 7 p.m. unless noted):
Nov. 28: @ Peoria Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 1: vs. Roanoke-Benson
Dec. 5: vs. Lexington*
Dec. 8: vs. LeRoy*
Dec. 12: vs. Tri-Valley* @ Downs
Dec. 15: vs. Ridgeview* @ Colfax
Dec. 19: @ Central Catholic
Dec. 22: vs. Prairie Central
Dec. 28-30: Macomb-Western tourney
Jan. 5: vs. EP-G*
Jan. 9: vs. Putnam County
Jan. 13 & 15-20: McLean County tourney
Jan. 23: @ Deer Creek-Mackinaw*
Jan. 26: vs. Blue Ridge* @ Farmer City
Jan. 30: vs. Tremont*
Feb. 2: vs. Fisher*
Feb. 6: @ Heyworth*
Feb. 9: @ GCMS*
Feb. 13: vs. Fieldcrest*
Feb. 16: @ Flanagan-Cornell*
Feb. 19-23: Regional
Notes: Former Corn Belt Conference rival Prairie Central returns on the schedule. The five wins last year were the fewest for a Meiss-coached squad since a 4-18 campaign back in 1984-85 at Yorkville. That next season was his first at Eureka.