'Some big shoes to fill': PBL boys basketball to start 2017-18 season with retooled roster

PAXTON -- The Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School boys basketball team revealed itself to its fans on Friday as it hosted its preseason scrimmage.
The team looked different from last year, to say the least -- and it was not just because of the new uniforms.
After a season in which PBL went 21-8 and reached the IHSA Class 2A sectional finals for the second straight year, the Panthers said goodbye to eight seniors, including all five of their starters.
“We graduated a couple of big senior classes over the last couple of years, so we've got a whole new group of guys coming in this year," PBL head coach Adam Schonauer said. "There are a lot of opportunities for guys. There are a lot of positions that are open right now. Guys are competing in practice and getting after it, so I'm excited for the season.”
Friday's scrimmage concluded PBL's first full week of practice as it prepares for the 2017-18 season.
“We've been able to get four days of practice in right now. It's going well. Our seniors have learned from other seniors the lingo of how things are supposed to be done, and they're now carrying that on to some of these juniors and sophomores who are joining the varsity team for the first time, so the transition has been pretty smooth," Schonauer said. "Guys know what the expectations are, and right now, it's just about getting their basketball legs under them and getting the feel for the game after a long football season.”
One of the three seniors on PBL's varsity roster this year is 6-foot-0 guard Tyler Pichon, who played a role for the Panthers off the bench last year. As of Jan. 30, 2017, he had three points per game with a 42-percent three-point field-goal percentage, an 89-percent free-throw percentage and eight total steals last year.
“Tyler's been great. He worked really hard this offseason. He's done a really good job, now being a senior, of being a little more vocal during the practices and kind of getting after some guys a little bit more and trying to encourage them," Schonauer said. "It's a new role for him. We had some upperclassmen in the class fill that role, but he has looked really good during practice. We're expecting a great season out of him. I have some big expectations for him.”
PBL's other seniors are Austin Sanders, who averaged 3.1 points with a 44-percent three-point field-goal percentage as of Jan. 30 of last year, and Brady Barfield, who averaged 1.4 points per game with a 100-percent free-throw percentage and a 40-percent three-point field-goal percentage as of that date last year. During Friday's varsity scrimmage, Sanders made two early treys.
Pichon made four free throws to help extend the Blue team's lead to 10-2 during the scrimmage, as an offensive-rebound putback by Austin Gooden resulted in the White team's lone basket during the run.
After Ben Jarboe made a basket, Tommy Quinn converted on a three-point play to cut the White team's deficit to 10-7 before Mason Ecker made free throws to make the score 10-9. A Gooden layup gave the White team an 11-10 lead before he and Ecker each made a layup to extend the lead to 15-10.
Andrew Swanson made a free throw for the Blue team to conclude the scoring as the White team won 15-11 in the scrimmage.
The junior Ecker and sophomore Drake Schrodt each had 11 points for PBL's junior varsity team in a 38-34 overtime win last year over Tuscola, one of two wins with which the Panthers' JV team concluded its season. Dalton Busboom, another sophomore, had seven points while Gooden, a junior 6-foot-3 forward, had four points and fellow juniors Andrew Swanson and Tanner Coe had three and two points, respectively.
In a 39-33 victory in the PBL JV team's season finale last year over Cissna Park, Schrodt had 11 points while the junior 6-foot-0 guard Quinn had seven points and Ecker, Gooden and Busboom each had six points.
“Those guys have some big shoes to fill. We had some talented seniors graduate, but they're coming along just fine. Those guys had really good sophomore seasons and had some good seasons at the lower levels coming up, so they expect to win. They're going to compete. It's just going to be about catching them up to the speed of the game and the physicality at the varsity level. It'll be a process for some of them," Schonauer said. 
"We'll be a much better team come January and February than we will be in November and December. It's just going to take some time with them learning at the varsity level and getting better. These guys have great attitudes and are working hard. I have no doubt that we'll be a tough out come postseason time.”
For the second straight year, PBL will have a third week of practice before its first regular-season game due to having no Thanksgiving tournaments to play.
“There's good and bad with that. I'd rather be playing some games and getting a better look for our team. Our guys kind of get the itch there around that time to start playing some different times," Schonauer said. 
"It's almost too long of a break, and we get tired of beating up on one another, but at the same point, we need those practices right now. We've got a lot of inexperienced guys at the varsity level, so we're just getting our system put in place and our guys prepared to play, and it's not necessarily a bad thing to have those extra days of practice to do that.”
The Panthers' season will start with two home games. Their regular-season debut will be played Tuesday, Nov. 28, against Hoopeston Area, which finished its season with a 23-5 record after a 20-1 start.
“Hoopeston returns quite a bit from its team last year. They really had an outstanding season, so that'll be a really good test to start off," Schonauer said.
Last season, PBL won its first Sangamon Valley Conference title since 2012. This year, the Panthers' SVC debut will be at home against Dwight on Friday, Dec. 1, before PBL travels to face Clifton Central on Friday, Dec. 8.
“Both of those teams should have some really good seasons as well," Schonauer said.
A 51-48 overtime victory over Watseka clinched a share of the SVC title for PBL last year. The victory came less than a week after the Warriors claimed the SVC Tournament championship with a 71-61 victory in the title game over the Panthers.
The two teams will meet in Paxton for a regular-season contest on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, after Watseka hosts the SVC Tournament on Jan. 30-Feb. 3.
“Watseka returns quite a bit from last year's team," Schonauer said. 
Momence will visit Paxton on Friday, Jan. 5.
"Momence returns just about everybody from its team with guys who were playing varsity when they were freshmen and sophomores," Schonauer said. 
Cissna Park will host PBL on Friday, Feb. 16.
"Cissna Park has a really good junior class that was playing varsity minutes as freshmen and sophomores, and are now very experienced and were very successful at the junior high level," Schonauer said. 
"Our conference should be very competitive this year with a lot of these teams that, over the last couple of years, played some younger guys, and now they're juniors and seniors. I'm sure they're expecting some good things.”
In between PBL's games against Dwight and Clifton Central, the Panthers will travel to Bloomington to face Central Catholic, a No. 1 seed in last year's IHSA Class 2A Monticello Sectional, on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
A rematch of last year's Gibson City Regional championship game against GCMS, which PBL won 43-40, will be played in Paxton on Tuesday, Dec. 12, before the Panthers travel to Fairbury to face Prairie Central on Friday, Dec. 15.
After PBL hosts Monticello in a rematch of last year's sectional championship game -- which the Sages won 41-32 in overtime -- on Tuesday, Dec. 19, the Panthers will participate in the Sages Holiday Hoopla in Monticello from Dec. 28-30.
“I'm really happy with our schedule. We've got some good teams on there. It's going to be a really competitive schedule," Schonauer said. "We may take some lumps early just because we have some really good teams on that schedule and we've got guys catching up to the varsity level, but it'll pay its dividends come January and February and into the postseason. We'll be a seasoned team by that time.”
After the Momence game, PBL will face Tolono Unity in the St. Joseph Shootout on Saturday, Jan. 6, before hosting Rantoul on Tuesday, Jan. 9, and St. Thomas More on Friday, Jan. 12, and traveling to face St. Joseph-Ogden -- in a rematch of last year's regional semfinals, in which PBL defeated SJ-O 59-56 -- on Friday, Jan. 12.
“You want to play really good competition throughout the season. That just prepares you for the postseason. You're going to have to beat a team the caliber of some of these guys to win a regional championship," Schonauer said.
"It's going to take us a little bit of time just because we don't have a ton of experience, but you want to play some of that competition, have a little bit of adversity and see how guys respond and learn from it and prepare for the postseason.”
In the boys' freshman/junior varsity scrimmage held Friday prior to the varsity scrimmage, the JV team won 34-2.
In the girls' junior varsity scrimmage, the Blue team won 6-3. The White team won 10-8 in the girls' varsity scrimmage
In the 3-point contest, Kyle Poll won overall after sinking five 3-pointers in the first round, 10 in the round-of-five. Liberty Jamison won on the girls' side with eight 3-pointers in the first round and seven in the round-of-five before she and Poll.
In a 3-point shooting competition between Jamison and Poll, they each made seven 3-pointers before Poll made six treys to Jamison's three in a tiebreaker.
No.    Name            Year    Height    Position

2    Brady Barfield        Sr.    5-6    G
4    Tanner Coe        Jr.    5-11    G
5    Drake Schrodt        So.    5-9    G
12    Mason Ecker        Jr.    5-9    G
13    Tyler Pichon        Sr.    6-0    G
21    Tommy Quinn        Jr.    6-0    G
22    Austin Gooden        Jr.    6-3    F
23    Kyle Poll            Jr.    6-0    G
24    Austin Sanders        Sr.    5-11    G
30    Ben Jarboe        Jr.    6-2    F
32    Dalton Busboom        So.    6-1    F
33    Andrew Swanson        Jr.    6-1    F
34    Jordan Thilmony        Jr.    6-0    F   
45    Jake Rich            Jr.    6-2    F


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