EUREKA – The first six games on the docket for the Eureka boys’ basketball team will all be away (at least three neutral and possibly three true road encounters). That stretch might set the tone for the kind of season they have.
“We’ll find out how poised we are to play in those situations,” said head coach Tim Meiss.
The Hornets posted a 19-11 record a season ago, which concluded with a 50-47 loss at regional host Monmouth-Roseville. Among the losses via graduation was Keegan Zimmerman, who earned first team Heart of Illinois Conference honors. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 22.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest. His 665 points set a new single-season record and accounted for 38 percent of the offense.
With Zimmerman no longer in the fold, Eureka should be more of a balanced attack.
“I think so,” said Meiss, who starts his 35th season on the Hornets’ bench with a record of 535-361. “We have guys who can score. We’re looking for consistency.”
Junior point guard Matt Martin is the lone starter back. Classmate Colby Blunier saw minutes off the bench, as did promising sophomore jumping back Trevor Heffren. The Hornets averaged an even 59 points per game in 2018-19.
On defense, Eureka yielded 49.4 ppg.
“One of the big things is rebounding,” stated Meiss, who has a record of 636-466 over 42 years as a prep coach. “We’re going to have to concentrate on rebounding and not give up second shots. I think we’ll be able to defend. It’s just a matter of finishing it off with the rebound. Rebounding is the most worrisome.”
With quickness being an asset, the Hornets may use it in large doses on the opposition.
“We’d like to uptempo,” Meiss simplified. “We’re going to find out.”
Third place two A finisher Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (33-3, 12-0), coached by Eureka College graduate Ryan Tompkins, captured the HOIC regular and McLean County tournament titles.
According to Meiss, he lists two fellow county squads that could in the running for the top spot.
“For me, Fieldcrest and EP-G (El Paso-Gridley), he mentioned. “Then there’s three or four with that potential.”
He listed Deer Creek-Mackinaw, Tremont and his Hornets as the next tier.
Eureka tips off the GCMS Invitational today with a 5 p.m. contest versus Fisher, which will not count in the league standings. The Hornets go up against against Tri-Point Wednesday at 5 p.m. On Friday, they’ll close out pool play action with Prairie Central at 4 p.m. The remainder of schedule is listed below (all non-tourney varsity games will tip shortly before 7 p.m. unless indicated):
Saturday: crossover game in the GCMS Invite @ 4 or 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 3: @ Peoria Christian
Dec. 6: @ Central Catholic
Dec. 10: vs. Lexington*
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Dec. 13: vs. Le Roy*
Dec. 17: vs. Tri-Valley* @ Downs
Dec, 20; vs. Ridgeview* @ Colfax*
Dec. 21: Eureka College Shootout @ Reagan Athletic Complex
Dec. 26-28: Macomb tourney
Jan. 7: vs. Roanoke-Benson
Jan. 10: vs. EP-G*
Jan. 14: vs, Putnam Co.
Jan. 18 & 20-25: McLean County tourney
Jan. 28: @ Deer Creek-Mackinaw*
Feb. 1: vs. Illinois Valley Central @ Chillicothe, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 4: vs. Tremont*
Feb. 7: vs. Fisher*
Feb. 11: @ Heyworth*
Feb. 14: @ GCMS*
Feb. 18: vs. Fieldcrest*
Feb. 21: @ F-C*
Feb. 24-28: Regional
Notes: IVC is new on the schedule, as they replace Brimfield. Ex-Illinois State guard Todd Kagel takes over at Tri-Valley. His father, Dennis Kagel, coached Fairbury-Cropsey (currently Prairie Central) from 1977 to ’83. Mitch Holmgren is back on the sidelines with DCM. He directed the Chiefs for 10 seasons (’03-’12), highlighted by a fourth place finish in one A in the ’10-’11 campaign. DCM (24), Tremont (24), EP-G (22) and F-C (20) all reached 20 wins a season ago.