Tonight's Western Big 6 girls' basketball spotlight game almost has an Indianapolis 500 tone to it.
Official scorekeepers, start your pencils!
Tonight will be the first chance to Rock Island and Galesburg play "the system" against each other. It is an official scorers worst nightmare. Both coaches this season substitute girls five at a time and do so every minute or less.
Anyone making bets on the number of substitutions would be wise to take the over as it will probably get into the triple digits.
It should be one of the most exciting games in a long time, and with the talent on both teams, a fairly high-scoring one. The votes were split between the Rocks and Streaks on who the top team in the league would be this year. Tonight, Galesburg gets to host.
In the other games, Moline is hoping to send Quincy back down south with their 30th straight conference loss, while Alleman tries to get in the win column against a United Township team that will argue it still is in the hunt for a repeat of the Big 6 crown they shared with Galesburg last season.
Rock Island (6-0, 2-0 WB6) at Galesburg (7-1, 2-0 WB6):The game of the night pits two of the top 10 teams in the state against each other for Western Big 6 supremacy. It should be exciting basketball to watch, too, as both teams will be rushing in new players every minute, making for fast and furious action.
Galesburg adopted the system a few years ago; this is the first year the Rocks are giving it a shot. With their depth and athleticism the Rocks are going to push the reigning Big 6 champs on their home court much like they did last year, losing by just one point.
"We're still a long way away from doing it as well as Galesburg does," Rocky coach Thad Hoover said. "We're learning, as a staff, what to work on, and anytime you start something new, there are going to be growing pains."
Both the Rocks and the Streaks won close games last week. Galesburg needed overtime to get past Quincy and Rocky slipped past United Township in the fourth quarter.
"Every game is big in this league because there are only 10 of them, and if you can win one on the road, it's huge," Hoover said. "We're the two favorites only because we're both 2-0, but anytime you play at Moline, UT, Galesburg or Alleman, it's a toss-up."
The Rocks were ranked No. 8 in 4A by the Associated Press; the Streaks received a No. 5 ranking in the only poll conducted before the first of the year.
Jessica Lieber is a scoring machine for the Silver Streaks, and a threat to shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. She'll more than likely move into the top 10 scoring all-time for Galesburg by the end of the weekend. For a team with as much history as the Streaks have, that is really saying something.
The Rocks have a star as well in Shavonne Brewer, who most likely will hit the 1,000-point mark by Christmas. The young Rocks also are getting stellar play in the post from sophomore Mercedes Jackson and junior Shamia Clark.
United Township (5-5, 1-1 WB6) at Alleman (5-4, 0-2 WB6):The Panthers want to stay in the title chase. After nearly pulling off an upset last weekend at Rock Island, they need to bounce back to remain in the hunt. The Pioneers need to get the ship pointed in the right direction and home cooking could be what the doctor ordered.
Erin Morrisey has played tremendously for the Pioneers and will be a force down low tonight. It has been well-documented that the Pioneers are without their top 2 players, but you won't find any sympathy from opponents, and Alleman knows that.
"We're learning our roles and getting better at executing on offense and defense," Alleman coach Jay Hatch said. "It's a chicken and egg thing. You're not going to win unless you have confidence, but you can't build confidence without winning. We're trying to build confidence in practice and hope the result in games is better. It's getting there; we're not far away."
UT is getting solid play from its senior leaders, twins Jen and Jaime VanWatermeulen, and also sharp-shooting soph Tayler Dobrinske. With both teams known for their staunch defense, the winner of this game might only need 40 points.
Quincy (4-4, 0-2 WB6) at Moline (2-6, 1-1 WB6):The Blue Devils Big 6 losing streak is at 29 games now, but after taking Galesburg to overtime last week, notice has been served that Quincy could be upset-minded every Thursday. Arai'ya Dade and Jordan Fletcher pose outside and inside threats against anyone and Hannah Reller is a solid forward.
The Maroons have a solid core group of girls, but have struggled finding a consistent scoring threat. Jordan de los Reyes is almost always the most athletic girl on the court at any time because of her overall athleticism, while Morgan Gerard may be their most heady basketballer. How the rest of the lineup shapes up will determine where the Maroons fall in the league standings, and whether or not they can hold home court advantage and move the Blue Devils streak to 30 games.
Top 6 season scorers 1. Jessica Lieber, Galesburg, 18.0 ppg. 2. Shavonne Brewer, Rock Island, 15.8 ppg. 3. Sharron Diggins, Galesburg, 14.3 ppg. 4. Anne Bohnert, Alleman, 12.7 ppg. 5. Erin Morrisey, Alleman, 11.7 ppg. 6. Tayler Dobrinske, United Twp., 10.8 ppg.