PEORIA — Orr junior Raekwon Drake stepped onto the floor at Carver Arena for the first time in his life on Thursday.
“It’s bigger than I expected it to be,” Drake said. “It’s exciting. I’ve waited three years for this and it has finally happened.”
The Spartans had a shootaround in preparation for their Class 2A state semifinal Friday against Monticello.
Drake is the kind of next-level athlete rarely seen in small class basketball. He threw down some monster dunks during the practice session, teasers for what the crowd in Peoria may see this weekend.
“I like to play team ball,” Drake said. “But I’m looking forward to dunking here, I like to put on a show for the crowd.”
Orr (21-5) is the overwhelming favorite to win the Class 2A title. All nine experts in the Peoria Journal Star picked the Spartans to win the championship.
Monticello has 5,500 residents and is located halfway between Champaign and Decatur. This is the first ever trip to state for the Sages (23-5).
Point guard Johnny Dawson runs the show for Monticello, he also has a knack for coming through in the clutch. Sages coach Kevin Roy says that Dawson has made three game-winning buzzer-beaters this season, including one against Quincy Notre Dame in the supersectional on Tuesday.
“He wants the ball in his hands when it comes to crunch time,” Roy said.
6-5 junior Calvin Fisher (16 points per game) and 6-3 junior Luke Stokowkski (13 points) are Monticello’s leading scorers. The Sages have a clear weakness, they are only shooting 52 percent from the free-throw line.
“It has been a struggle all season long,” Roy said. “We’ve been waiting for it to come back and haunt us but so far we’ve been able to escape.”
Adams has led Orr to state in three of the past five seasons, so he knows the drill.
“We are focused, it is more of a business trip this time,” Adams said. “With the first group it was more of a vacation. I don’t know if we can get back down here again so we are going to relish this. Our boys know to go to bed, to be on time for breakfast and practice.”
A Chicago-area final is possible in Class 2A. The other semifinal pits Bishop McNamara (24-7) against Mt. Carmel (28-4).
The Fighting Irish beat De La Salle this season and only lost to Brother Rice by three points. They are led by senior guards Chris Bell (13 points) and Dylan Post (13 points).
Mt. Carmel is a city of 7,000 on the far southeast side of the state with a rich basketball history. The Golden Aces won the state tournament in 1927, back when there was just one class. They beat Peoria Central 24-18 in the title game at Huff Gym in Champaign.
This year’s squad is led by 6-8 junior Jackson Marcotte, who averages 18 points and nine rebounds.Tags: Bishop McNamara, Orr