May 20, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Title time: SJO boys’ basketball to face unbeaten BHRA in regional championship game

Kiel Duval doesn’t mince words when describing the Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin boys’ basketball team.

“They are really good,” the St. Joseph-Ogden High School coach said of the Blue Devils.

Duval and his Spartans will find out how good — and if SJO can become the first team to knock off BHRA this season — when the two teams clash at 7 p.m. on Friday during the Class 2A SJO Regional championship game.

Top-seeded BHRA (31-0) advanced to Friday’s title game after holding off No. 11 Oakwood 62-52 in Wednesday night’s first regional semifinal game. The second regional semifinal game in St. Joseph saw the host and fourth-seeded Spartans defeat No. 6 Villa Grove/Heritage 56-40 behind 19 points from Ty Pence, 12 points from Jordan Kelly, eight points apiece from Payton Cain and Payton Grimsley and seven points from Chance Izard.

“I was proud of the guys and how they came out to play,” Duval said. “It has been one of their goals from Day 1 to play in the regional final. It was good to see them check that off their list.”

SJO (23-8) will need another balanced effort against BHRA. The two teams are familiar with one another already this season, with the Blue Devils beating SJO 65-51 on Jan. 18 in St. Joseph.

Stopping BHRA standout guard Drew Reifsteck will be key for the Spartans.

“It is hard to simulate a player like Reifsteck in practice,” Duval said. “He’s special. You just don’t see guys like that. Along with that, they have other good players around him. That is the reason they have the record they do. For our guys, it is getting them locked into all the details on the scout. It is a tough game no matter how you look at it. We will have to be pretty special.”

Friday night’s game has more meaningful implications than the regular-season one between the two schools, with the winner advancing to next Tuesday’s 7 p.m. Pontiac Sectional semifinal game against either Coal City (19-11) or Pontiac (16-12). Those two teams meet for a regional title at 7 p.m. on Friday in Coal City.

Duval is optimistic the rugged schedule the Spartans faced in winning the Illini Prairie Conference title this regular season will help prepare them for Friday night.

“Our conference is one that you have to show up every night or you get drilled,” Duval said. “No excuses. You have to come out ready to play. In a postseason game, it is the same. You either show up, or you go home. We are just trying to keep the guys hungry.”

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