WMBD/WYZZ-TV - PEORIA, Ill. -- llini Central and U-High may have the shortest bus rides to Carver Arena but they've interesting journeys to get to the state tournament.
Illini Central (17-12) is making it's first ever appearance at state. And after opening the season with a 3-10 record, the Cougars weren't exactly thinking about an appearance in the class 1A semifnals.
That's why the players are soaking this up.
Justin Onken/Illini Central junior guard: "When we pulled up, it was surreal," junior guard Justin Onken said of the 60-minute bus trip from Mason City to Peoria Thursday. "We saw our sign out front and started taking pictures. It's been crazy. Coming out of the tunnel (Friday) will be insane."
The Cougars play Carrollton (29-4) at 12:15 in the first game of the day.
U-High, targeted to be a state contender since November, is at state for the first time since 1999. The Poneers (27-4) almost fell a game short of Carver Arena.
They trailed Teutopolis by 16 points to open the fourth quarter of Tuesday's super-sectional game but rally to win 60-59.
"I was looking at the scoreboard, getting nervous. But I saw the run coming," said U-High senior guard Tommy Schiller of the Pioneers fourth-quarter rally. "Sometimes we get some big runs, so we can pull it out anytime."
U-High tangles with Rockford Lutheran (29-3) in a class 2A state semifinal at 6:45 p.m
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