MINONK, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Basketball practices in March.
They’ve become customary at Fieldcrest. It’s just the Knights had hoped to have a bigger prize to play for this month.
“Our goal this year was to get to the state tournament, head coach Matt Winkler admitted. “We had to readjust our goals.”
The Knights knocked on the door to their first state appearance last March, They got as far as the state super-sectional where they lost to Timothy Christian.
Fieldcrest has a whopping 11 seniors on this year’s roster, all hungry to win the school a state title. But without a state tournament to play for this year, they’re playing for a season-ending Heart of Illinois Conference title this week.
“It’s not a regional championship or sectional,” said senior Cory Land. “That’s how you have to look at it. That’s what you’re playing for in these type of games.”
Fieldcrest (10-1) hosts unbeaten LeRoy and once-beaten Dee-Mack this week. If the Knights win them both, they will earn that conference title.
The Illinois High School Association determined it couldn’t hold a state basketball tournament following this shortened season. And the HOIC isn’t having a conference tournament so the seaosn ends this week for Fieldcrest.
“We made state in seventh and eighth grade, won a regional every year in high school. Every year we’ve played for the big prize,” said senior Jaxon Cusac-McKay. “We can’t get that this year. It’s frustrating.”
Nonetheless, it’s been a memorable year Winkler, who won his 600th career game with a victory at Tremont on Feb. 20. He says what he’ll remember most about this team is how his players adapted to everything during this COVID-shortened season.
“Not everything goes your way all the time and you have to adjust.,” Winkler said. “These guys have made the greatest adjustments you can ask them to make. I’m thankful to the good Lord above we get a chance to play this year.”