J. Thomas McNamara
Peoria–With its 79-69 win over Sesser-Valier last Tuesday night in the SIU Carbondale super-sectional, Central A&M became the fifth team from the Decatur and Macon County area to reach Carver Arena.
For the first time in its history, Central A&M is headed to Peoria for the state tournament finals to play Cissna Park Friday morning at 11 a.m.
The Raiders broke open a tight game in the third quarter to punch their ticket to the Class 1A finals where they are guaranteed no worse than a fourth place trophy.
Griffin Andricks got the Raiders off to a great start scoring seven points and then in the second half Jacob Paradee and Connor Heaton took over as Central A&M exploded for a 53-37 lead after three quarters.
Paradee scored a game high 23, Heaton 21 and Griffin Andricks posted a double double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
With his 13 points scored Andricks became the latest Raider to score 1,000 points as he entered the the game at 991. He took 1,004 into Friday’s game.
The Raiders now have won 21 straight and 32 games overall this season to go with three losses, none of which has come to a Class 1A team. Their only losses came to 4A Lincoln Way East in the Effingham-Teutopolis Classic Christmas tournament, and to Chicago Corliss and Williamsville, both 2A teams. By the way, Corliss was also in Peoria last weekend playing for the 2A title.
Tuesday night’s victory avenged last March’s loss to Goreville in the SIU super-sectional. The Raiders goal ever since then has been to play this weekend in Carver Arena. Mission achieved. But they’re not finished, they want to bring another state championship to south U.S. 51. Meridian won a Class 1A championship in 2009, which was the second year of the four-class system.
Decatur and Macon County has a history of doing well once they get to Peoria’s Carver Arena as Maroa-Forsyth won a state championship in 2007, which was the last year for the two-class system, the Trojans placed third the year before, Meridian won the state 1A title in 2009, St. Teresa was runnerup in 2015 and Warrensburg-Latham has two third places for its appearances there in 2003 and 2005.
Since 2003, those five teams–Central A&M, Decatur St. Teresa, Maroa-Forsyth, Macon Meridian and Warrensburg-Latham–from Decatur and Macon County areas have enjoyed success at Carver Arena inside Peoria’s Civic Center.
Sometimes it is harder to get to Carver than it is to win there as Jason Doty and Rob Smith can attest as Doty’s Hawks fell to Pana in the Millikin super-sectional in 2000-01 and Smith’s Central A&M Raiders fell last March in the SIU Carbondale super-sectional to Goreville.
Doty is still haunted by that setback and Smith and his Raiders were too until Tuesday night’s win over Sesser-Valier wiped away all those nightmares from March 2018.
Maroa-Forsyth and Meridian have won state championships, St. Teresa a runnerup and Warrensburg-Latham two thirds. The Trojans also earned a third place trophy.
In 2003 Vic Binkley’s Warrensburg-Latham Cardinals placed third and two years later in 2005, they repeated their third place finish.
Chad Cluver’s Trojans placed third in 2006 and came back the following year in 2007 to win the Class 1A championship which was the last year for the two-class system. Cluver now coaches his hometown Watseka team.
They were the second school to win football and basketball championships in the calendar school year. Carlyle is the other.
Two years later in the second year of the four-class system, retired coach Jack Blickensderfer coached his Meridian Hawks to the state championship in 2009.
And then in 2015, St. Teresa’s Tom Noonan coached the Bulldogs to their runnerup finish in Class 2A, behind the play of Christian Williams, J.D. Mattingly, Jake Handley, Patrick Althoff and Rashan Smith.