“Hey, North Clay Cardinal basketball team...Colton Bailey talkin’...I would really like to play for a Regional Championship...and if you guys want to come along...well, hop on my back and I’ll carry you...”


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


“Hey, North Clay Cardinal basketball team...Colton Bailey talking...I would really like to play for a Regional Championship...and if you guys want to come along...well, hop on my back and I’ll carry you...”

And that’s exactly what happened Thursday night at the Class 1A South Central Regional in Farina...the Cardinals rode past Odin, 76-63 on the back of the 5-foot-9 senior point guard from North Clay, and tonight will meet Woodlawn for the Regional crown. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., in Farina.

From the opening tip, Bailey handled the ball, and the Eagles, often dribbling through, past, and around defenders...then either pulling up for the three-pointer, or going in for the foul, or the lay-up or both, along with several assists to his Cardinal teammates for even more points, and several steals on the defensive end.

“He just puts his head down and goes and says you can’t stop me,.” North Clay coach Brian Wattles said of Bailey. “He never stops. He’s relentless.”

Bailey staked the Cardinals to a 21-15 first quarter lead, a 41-29 halftime margin, and a 55-51 edge after three periods, hitting his second three-pointer of the game from just inside half-court to beat the third quarter ending horn.

“Other guys would give up and just thrown it up there,” Wattles said. “You could see, the follow through and the effort.” 

And the only thing that could stop Bailey on this night...his own stomach, late in the game.

“He got sick vomited over her on the sidelines,” Wattles said. “He had to run off, get himself composed and come back. He was sick on senior night, too. He’s just got something.”

Seven other Cardinals scored between two and 16 points, led by Micah Schnautz with 16 and Dalton Zimmerman with 12.

“It was just an outstanding effort,” Wattles said. “Kids stepped up who don’t normally play, and filled their roles very well.

Meanwhile, the Cardinal defense limited Tyler Parrish, who Wattles called ‘one of the best Class 1A players in the state of Illinois, to only 14 points.

Now comes the third meeting between Cardinals and Cardinals this season. And this one is for all the Regional marbles. And the Cardinals, the ones from North Clay that is, are hoping the old adage ‘you can’t beat a good team three times in the same season’ proves true versus the Cardinals from Woodlawn.

“These kids have already played in a couple of championship games already this season, and I know they are going to go out and give it everything they’ve got,” Wattles said.

In the first meeting, on Jan. 12 of this year, at Woodlawn, the host team rode a 16-7 first quarter lead to a 66-31 win over North Clay. Andrew Grahn was the only North Clay player to score in double-figures, finishing with 10 points.  Six-foot-seven junior Josh Wiggs lead Woodlawn with 22 points.

Then, in the Midland Trail Tournament championship game, back on Jan. 23, in Louisville, it was close for three quarters, before Woodlawn pulled away for a 51-36 win. In that game, Grahn scored 14 points for North Clay, while Micah Schnautz added 10. For Woodlawn, Dawson Verhines, a 6-foot-2 junior, led the way with 18, while Wiggs added 14.

Along with winning the MTC Tourney, Woodlawn is also the undefeated MTC regular season champion, and brings an overall record of 23-5 into the Regional Finals. North Clay, who finished runner-up in the MTC regular season race at 8-2, is 18-5 overall as of today.

To reach the Regional Finals at South Central, Woodlawn, who entered as the No. 1 seed, defeated Webber Township 78-33, and Patoka, 48-36, while North Clay, at No. 3, opened with a 63-34 win over Sandoval, before topping Odin on Thursday.

However, Woodlawn played their Regional semifinals on Wednesday, and will have had an extra day’s rest going into tonight’s affair, while North  Clay doesn’t.