Metamora boys basketball team sets sights on Class 3A state title
The Metamora Township High School boys basketball team is looking to take the next step after placing second in the state a year ago.
Redbirds coach Danny Grieves feels his team is bringing confidence and determination along with a 32-2 record into this weekend’s IHSA Class 3A state finals in Champaign.
“They're in it to win it. They're not just going to be OK with second, third or fourth place,” Grieves said during his IHSA media teleconference this week. “With that comes along a work ethic, and I've never had a team work so hard down the stretch here, trying to shore things up and polish things up.”
The No. 1-ranked Redbirds extended their winning streak to 30 games Monday with a 60-48 victory over Aurora Marmion Academy to win the Ottawa Super-Sectional. That earned Metamora a meeting with No. 9 East St. Louis (25-8) in Friday’s 11:45 a.m. semifinal at State Farm Center.
How much extra pressure comes with the top ranking and lengthy win streak?
“None whatsoever. We don't even notice it,” said Grieves. “Neither one of those was on our list of objectives to start the year. So, it is nice to have that; it's the residual effect of their ability to work and taking on all challenges. But we don't even mention it. It’s not a thing for us.”
A year ago, the Redbirds went 30-7 and made it to state for the first time in program history. While they ultimately suffered a 53-50 loss to Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin in the championship game, Grieves says their experience from a year ago is an advantage.
“There's no doubt that last year, they thought they belonged. This year, they know they belong,” said Grieves. “The confidence that you can have over having a season like that, then having a tremendous summer, and then obviously having a pretty good year this year, I would say their confidence is sky-high.”
Metamora boasts four returning starters from the 2022 runner-up squad: Seniors Ethan Kizer, Drew Tucker and Tyson Swanson, and junior Tyler Mason, with 6-foot-8 junior Luke Hopp rounding out the lineup. The 6-6 Kizer earned first-team all-state honors, while Mason led the Redbirds’ balanced attack in scoring and assists.
“We've done a pretty good job of shooting the ball this year,” said Grieves. “When you’ve got guys that can all stroke it but (are) very unselfish – it doesn't matter who gets the points and they're just looking for the win – that's kind of the attitude that we've given them, and they've really taken hold of that.”
Metamora could be on a collision course with Chicago Simeon (30-3), which shares the No. 1 ranking. The Wolverines face St. Ignatius (24-11) in the first semifinal at 10 a.m. The winners play for the title at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“The only pressure I really put on them was to have fun,” said Grieves. “If you can do that, we play pretty good when we’ve got a smile on our face.”