The News-Gazette's boys' basketball Top 10: Unity vaults into No. 1 spot

Jan. 12—Only one area boys' basketball team is still undefeated entering the second Friday night in January. And Unity makes the leap to No. 1 in

The News-Gazette's weekly Top 10 for the first time this season because of its impressive start. Sports Editor Matt Daniels with more on the poll:

1. Unity

Record: 16-0

Previous ranking: No. 2

What's working: The Rockets' talent and leadership is coming through. Whether it's Dalton O'Neill one night, Henry Thomas the next or Dane Eisenmenger after that, Unity coach Matt Franks sure has a good thing going in southern Champaign County. Unity plays at Paxton-Buckley-Loda on Friday night before a quick turnaround to play Limestone at 10 a.m. Saturday in the East Peoria MLK Shootout.

2. Tuscola

Record: 15-2

Previous ranking: No. 1

What's working: A two-game losing streak is unfamiliar to this group of Warriors. And the road to a win doesn't get any easier for coach Justin Bozarth's team. Jordan Quinn and Co. head south to play at 6 p.m. Saturday at perennial power Teutopolis in another difficult road nonconference game after back-to-back road losses against Shelbyville and Unity.

3. Clinton

Record: 17-1

Previous ranking: No. 4

What's working: The Maroons haven't let a 62-54 loss to Tuscola on Dec. 28 in the title game of the Monticello Holiday Hoopal deter them. Dawson Graves and his teammates have won three straight after Tuesday night's double-digit nonconference win at Monticello. A compelling Central Illinois Conference opener greets Clinton this Friday night when Shelbyville visits DeWitt County.

4. St. Joseph-Ogden

Record: 13-4

Previous ranking: No. 3

What's working: Losing two straight games isn't what SJ-O coach Kiel Duval had in mind before Friday night's Illini Prairie Conference home game against a good Pontiac team. Tanner Jacob and the Spartans will look to bounce back this weekend — they also host Maroa-Forsyth on Saturday night — after double-digit losses to Teutopolis and Pinckneyville.

5. Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin

Record: 17-3

Previous ranking: No. 6

What's working: The Blue Devils haven't lost since a 63-45 setback at St. Joseph-Ogden on Dec. 19, rattling off seven consecutive victories. The latest happened Tuesday night, with Keison Peoples and Ayden Ingram carrying BHRA in a close 59-53 home win aginst Armstrong-Potomac. The Blue Devils are the top seed at the Vermilion County Tournament and open at 8 p.m. next Tuesday against Salt Fork at Danville Area Community College.

6. Centennial

Record: 11-6

Previous ranking: No. 5

What's working: The Chargers are on a bit of a slide entering Friday night's rivalry showdown at Champaign Central, with three losses in their last four games. All to good teams in Lincoln-Way East, Morton and Normal Community. But still losses. Coach Tim Lavin is no stranger to the Central-Centennial rivalry, and will need another big game from Jadin Schilb in order to top the Maroons.

7. Westville

Record: 14-3

Previous ranking: No. 7

What's working: Coach Ed Barney's Tigers have won four of their last five games before they try to emerge as the top team at the Vermilion County Tournament. Drew Wichtowski and pals beat Danville First Baptist on Thursday night, and will face Salt Fork at 3:45 p.m. Saturday in its first Vermilion County Tournament game on the DACC capus.

8. Prairie Central

Record: 13-4

Previous ranking: No. 9

What's working: Levi Goad and the Hawks have had nearly all week to focus on this Friday night's home Illini Prairie Conference game against Rantoul after Tuesday night's trip to play state-ranked Morton was canceled because of bad weather. Coach Trevin McCulloh's program ended a two-game losing skid last Friday night with a quality 48-41 road win against St. Thomas More.

9. St. Thomas More

Record: 12-4

Previous ranking: No. 8

What's working: If bad weather holds off and the Sabers can't make the trip to Chillicothe IVC on Friday night, it'll mark STM's first game since cruising to a 68-39 win against Sangamon Valley/Tri-City last Saturday in Taylorville. But even if coach Brandon Martin's team can't play the Grey Ghosts, a bigger test awaits closer to home next Tuesday night: a game at Unity.

10. Sullivan

Record: 14-4

Previous ranking: No. 10

What's working: The switch to the Lincoln Prairie Conference has treated coach Craig Toler's team well. Sullivan opened the new year with double-digit wins against Villa Grove and Cerro Gordo/Bement and carries a 5-0 league mark into Friday night's road game against Tri-County. The Titans are struggling this season, but a good measuring stick game for Dirk Lane and his teammates happens next Tuesday night when Arcola pays a visit to Sullivan.