When he arrived at Galesburg in 2008 to take over its storied, but struggling, boys' basketball program, postseason glory was not the first step forward in Mike Reynolds' mind.|
"The first thing for us was to try and get competitive in our conference (the Western Big 6) again,'' said the 1993 Orion graduate. "Looking back, we hadn't been competitive for a long time, so that was step number one. We took second this year, so we got that accomplished. Step number two, that was to get over the hump in the postseason.''
Now, that second step on Reynolds' agenda has been achieved. Following up their 7-3, runner-up finish (to Class 4A sectional finalist Rock Island) in the Western Big 6, the Silver Streaks (20-13) are headed to the sectionals themselves for the first time in 12 years after last Friday's 45-39 hometown regional-final win over Quincy Notre Dame.
"What's most impressive is that this is such a young team,'' said Reynolds, who has just four seniors on a roster that will take on defending 3A state champion Peoria (12-16) tonight at 7:30 at Washington High School in the Peoria Sectional semifinals.
"They figured things out in the last year. Losing a heartbreaker to Moline by one point at Galesburg, that was our epiphany. The guys really started to figure things out, and learned that every possession counts. Our only loss after that was when C.J. (Rocky guard C.J. Carr) hit that 3 at the buzzer against us.
"Coming into regionals, we knew QND was good, but also that we'd won seven of our last eight games, and that we've played extremely well at home. Not only physically, but we've done a better job mentally.''
The Silver Streaks' youth is also very troubling for Galesburg's opponents in and out of conference. For example, the Big 6's leading scorer, 6-foot-4 forward Grant Gibson (18.7 points per game in league play), is still only a sophomore, and is averaging nearly 22 points a night overall.
Then there's Gibson's classmate, guard Joe Williams, who averaged 11.3 points per game in WB6 action and joined Gibson as a first team all-conference pick. Fellow guard Ethan Meeker averages nine points per game, as does Williams. Meeker stepped up last Friday, scoring 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to carry Galesburg past the top-seeded Raiders.
"He's played extremely well,'' Reynolds said of Meeker. "Some think of Ethan as just a 3-point shooter, but he's shown that he's able to rip it to the rim.''
With all the youth, the future is bright for the Streaks. However, the four Galesburg seniors -- including honorable mention All-Big 6 guard Travon Diggins -- are keeping everything in the now. Reynolds hopes his team can take the next step, and provide a fitting 15th anniversary commemoration of Galesburg's 1998 Class AA state runner-up squad -- also the program's last sectional-winning club.
"Sometimes we've gotten in the mix of everyone telling us how fine the future is going to be,'' said Reynolds. "But we've got four seniors, and they want to make sure the future is now. They want to take advantage of every opportunity we get.''
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