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Boys basketball: Cougars have hands full with Madison's quickness, athleticism

In this corner ...

Three years ago, the Eastland Cougars finished their season with a pair of losses at the Class 1A state tournament. This afternoon, they can avenge that final loss, when they take on the Madison Trojans in the 1A state semifinals at Carver Arena in the Peoria Civic Center.

While the key components are different for both teams, Eastland coach Tony Dunlap has gotten a look at the main pieces of this year’s Trojans (20-11). Dunlap took advantage of snow postponing Tuesday’s Class 1A NIU Supersectional in DeKalb to watch the 1A Jacksonville Supersectional on the Internet.

“It’s interesting, cool, scary, whatever you want to call it,” Dunlap said about seeing the Trojans again. “They’re an outstanding team with a great tradition, and they’re the real deal.”

What Dunlap saw was a scoring machine in Madison’s Marquis Borney. The 6-foot, 2-inch senior guard averaged 19 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in earning first-team honors on the Associated Press All-State Team, announced Thursday. Borney led Madison in scoring in 26 out of 31 games this year, including 20 of the last 21.

While Deontay Starnes is the only other Trojan to average double figures in scoring, Madison has six players scoring at least 6 points per game, and four grabbing at least 6 rebounds per contest.

Borney and Starnes (10.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg), a 6-5 junior forward, are joined in the starting lineup by 5-9 junior guard Tyvon Powers (8.2 ppg, 3.7 apg), 6-3 senior forward DiJon Bryant (8.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and 5-9 senior guard Johnny Meitzenheimer (6.1 ppg, 5.0 apg). Seniors Quincy Ware (4.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg), a 6-1 guard, and Carvel Dixon (6.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg), a 6-foot forward, provide a spark off the bench.

“They dribble drive, just keep coming at you,” Dunlap said. “They have great outside shooting, a big, strong post player, and they may be the best offensive rebounding team in the state. We’ve definitely got our hands full.”

Like Eastland, the Trojans like an up-tempo game. Madison has hit the 70-point mark seven times this year, and averages 60 points per game. The Trojans have outscored their opponents 60.0-55.8 during the season, with that mark moving to 64.6-46.9 in their 20 wins. Eight of their 11 losses have come in games where they failed to score 60 points.

On the flip side, the Cougars (30-3) have allowed just three teams to score 60 points all year – and all three games were losses.

Offensively, Eastland has failed to score 50 points just three times, and is 1-2 in those games. When they reach the 50-point plateau, the Cougars are 29-1. They have outscored opponents 60.7-43.0 per game this year, including 61.5-40.9 in their 30 victories.

“They’ll play a 2-3 zone, with some man-to-man mixed in, and they’re very quick and athletic,” Dunlap said. “We’ll have to be patient, try to break down the zone and do what we do. Hopefully our defense will play to the best of our ability and keep it close so our offense can do its thing and give us a chance at the end.”

While Eastland’s only trip to state resulted in a fourth-place trophy in 2010, Madison has been to the tournament a dozen times, and earned a spot in the top 4 four times. The Trojans won Class A state titles in 1977 and 1981, added a fourth in 1980, and most recently claimed third in 1A in 2010.

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