The News-Gazette's boys' basketball final Top 10: St. Joseph-Ogden is No. 1

Apr. 20—One area team was consistent from November to March and finished atop The News-Gazette's final area boys' basketball poll of the 2023-24 season: St. Joseph-Ogden. Here's how the rest of the rankings shook out one more time from the winter, courtesy Sports Editor Matt Daniels:

1. St. Joseph-Ogden

➜ Record: 27-7

➜ Previous ranking: No. 1

➜ What worked: A team effort, with Tanner Jacob and Logan Smith leading the way, helped the Spartans win an outright Illini Prairie Conference regular-season title and a Class 2A regional plaque. SJ-O pushed Teutopolis to the brink in the Sweet 16 before losing in overtime.

2. Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin

➜ Record: 30-4

➜ Previous ranking: No. 2

➜ What worked: A 20-game win streak from Dec. 27 through Feb. 23, buoyed by the play of Keison Peoples, Ayden Ingram and Chaz Dubois, sparked the Blue Devils to a Vermilion County tournament title, an outright Vermilion Valley Conference title and a Class 2A regional title.

3. Unity

➜ Record: 26-5

➜ Previous ranking: No. 3

➜ What worked: Senior steadiness mixed in with a dose of promising underclassmen. Henry Thomas, Dalton O'Neill, Dane Eisenmenger and a host of others made coach Matt Franks' first season with the Rockets a memorable one, resulting in a Class 2A regional title.

4. Arcola

➜ Record: 26-7

➜ Previous ranking: No. 7

➜ What worked: An outright Lincoln Prairie Conference title and an appearance in a Class 1A sectional title game highlighted a superb season, with Braden Phillips, Tanner Thomas, Jackson Miller and others shining brightly.

5. Tuscola

➜ Record: 28-6

➜ Previous ranking: No. 4

➜ What worked: The Warriors, sparked by stalwarts Jordan Quinn, Josiah Hortin and Kam Sweetnam, won their first 15 games, the Monticello Holiday Hoopla title and a Class 1A regional title. Nothing to hang their heads about.

6. Centennial

➜ Record: 20-11

➜ Previous ranking: No. 6

➜ What worked: Tim Lavin's 23rd and final season coaching the Chargers ended with the program reaching 20 wins for the first time in nine years and playing for a Class 3A regional title. Promising sophomore Jadin Schilb worked well with seniors like Todd Makabu.

7. Clinton

➜ Record: 28-5

➜ Previous ranking: No. 5

➜ What worked: Coach Vic Binkley has overseen a basketball revival in DeWitt County. Mason Walker and Dawson Graves played a large role, too, in the Maroons winning the Central Illinois Conference title.

8. Oakwood

➜ Record: 25-8

➜ Previous ranking: No. 8

➜ What worked: Alec Harrison, Brody Taflinger and the rest of the Comets rode an impressive January that featured a runner-up finish at the Vermilion County tournament into helping the program win its most game since the 1986-87 Oakwood team went 26-3.

9. St. Thomas More

➜ Record: 22-12

➜ Previous ranking: Not ranked

➜ What worked: Multi-sport standouts like Peace Bumba, Wilson Kirby, Andrew Tay and Cole Kemper got STM off to a strong start and strong finish. The Sabers overcame struggles in Illini Prairie Conference play to win a Class 1A regional title, the program's first since 2014.

10. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley

➜ Record: 20-13

➜ Previous ranking: Not ranked

➜ What worked: Brayden Elliott, Ty Cribbett and Spencer Kleist helped veteran coach Ryan Tompkins' program hit the 20-win mark for the first time since 2019 as the Falcons reached a Class 1A regional title game.