MINONK – Having to keep track of one threat behind the three-point line is not easy. Two is tough, while three can be downright taxing.
Fieldcrest has three players back who sank at least 50, led by senior guard Hayden Carls with 66. He is followed by classmates and fellow guards in Derek May (64) and Ryan Naas (50).
According to the only coach the program has ever had, Matt Winkler, that has never happened before.
“It helps with our experience coming back,” said Winkler, who enters his 27th year at the helm.
That could cause problems for the opposition if they decide to go man or zone on defense.
“I expect everybody to plays us man because we shoot the ball so well,” stated Winkler, who has a record of 545-108. “We have six or seven guys who can shoot. If teams zone us, we’ll just put all five guys out around the line.”
May scored at a clip of 13 points per game last year for the Knights, who posted a 19-11 record and a regional championship. The season ended with a 60-49 loss to Chicago Corliss in the Clifton Central Sectional. Carls was at 8.8 ppg and Naas chipped in at 6.4. Another starter back is sophomore point guard Jaxon Cusac-McKay, who averaged 9.4 points and handed out six assists per contest. They graduated 6-foot-5 post player Cameron Grandy (11.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game). As an offense, Fieldcrest averaged 55.7 ppg.
Defensively, the Knights allowed an even 50 ppg down almost seven points from the previous year,
“I love playing man, putting pressure on the ball and getting their back to the basket,” commented Winkler. “Losing Cam hurts us around the basket. I thought toward the end of last year something clicked and helped us go on the run we did.”
Six-five senior post Clay Wells will round out the starting five.
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (25-4, 12-1) is the reigning Heart of Illinois Conference champion. The Falcons figure to be the team to beat again, as, according to Winkler, like his ballclub, return four starters.
Fieldcrest will try to improve upon a share of fifth place.
“Our conference is mighty tough,” said Winkler. “With our experience and with a good senior class, we hope to improve upon a 7-6 record. Our goal is to win the conference. Our goal is to win the (McLean Co.) tournament. Our goal is to win a regional.”
With Blue Ridge’s shift to the Little Okaw Valley Conference, HOIC squads will now play 12 games rather than 13.
The schedule is as follows (all non-tournament varsity games will tip @ 7 p.m. unless indicated):
Nov. 27: @ Lexington*
Nov. 30: versus Tri-Valley*
Dec. 1: @ Orion, 2:45 p.m.
Dec. 4: vs. Dwight
Dec. 7: vs. Flanagan-Cornell*
Dec. 10: vs. Ottawa Marquette, 5 p,m. in Colmone Classic @ Spring Valley Hall
Dec. 12: vs. Kewanee, 6 p.m. in Colmone Classic
Dec. 14: game in Colmone Classic
Dec. 15: game in Colmone Classic
Dec. 18: vs. Midland
Dec. 26-29: State Farm Holiday Classic @ various locations in Bloomington-Normal
Jan. 4: @ Le Roy*
Jan. 8: vs. Roanoke-Benson
Jan. 11: vs. El Paso-Gridley*
Jan. 15: vs. Tremont*
Jan. 18: vs. Ridgeview* @ Colfax
Jan. 19 & 21-26: McLean Co. tourney
Jan. 29: @ GCMS*
Feb. 1 @ Deer Creek-Mackinaw*
Feb. 5: vs. Putnam County @ Granville, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 8: @ Heyworth*
Feb. 12: vs. Eureka*
Feb. 15: vs. Fisher*
Feb. 18-22: Regional
Notes: Dwight and Midland are new on the schedule. The Knights enjoyed the biggest turnaround in program history a season ago. Their 19 victories were a plus 11 improvement from the previous campaign. Ridgeview (28-5) is the reigning McLean Co. tourney champ, while DCM (26-7) also exceeded 20 wins. The mercy rule will go into effect this season, which will have a continuous clock to begin the final period if one squad holds a lead of 30 points or larger. May needs 83 points to reach 1,000 for his career. That should likely happen during the Colmone Classic. Colby Vernay begins his 44th year as an assistant coach over three schools (Mid-County, Midland and Fieldcrest).