The Washington boys basketball team is back at full strength.



With a large contingent of players practicing with the football team during its extended postseason, the Panthers were shorthanded.



Washington made the most of those circumstances and got to work extensively with a talented freshman class.


The Washington boys basketball team is back at full strength.

With a large contingent of players practicing with the football team during its extended postseason, the Panthers were shorthanded.

Washington made the most of those circumstances and got to work extensively with a talented freshman class.

After the Panthers lost to Joliet Catholic Nov. 13 in the Class 5A quarterfinals, the other half of the basketball squad joined the mix.

WCHS head coach Kevin Brown said no basic fundamentals were skipped over in an effort to catch up.

Washington was 22-4 last winter and won its fifth consecutive Mid-Illini Conference title with a 12-1 mark.

Morton snapped the Panthers’ streak of four straight regional championships.

Many of the players’ football backgrounds will translate on the hardwood to a physical hoops team in 2009-10.

The athleticism of the group also is noteworthy.

“This is one of the most athletic teams since I’ve been here,” said Brown, now in his sixth season.

The Panthers lost a dynamic senior class that was part of some historic achievements.

“No doubt we lost some good people. There’s some things we can learn from those guys,” Brown said.

Dyricus Simms-Edwards is helping Bradley University as a freshman after back-to-back first-team all-M-I awards.

He averaged 18 points, five rebounds and 3.6 points per game while shooting 53 percent from the floor and 75 percent from the free-throw line.

Ben Worner was a first-team all-conference pick after shooting 50 percent overall and canning 75 three-pointers while providing 14.7 ppg.

Brian Tigue twice was tabbed for second-team all-league honors. He chipped in 6.3 ppg and 4.3 rpg as a senior.

Corey Sharp was a hard-nosed defender and Jacob Weston helped in the post.

Senior guard Robert Izaguirre is completely healthy since June after missing the final 11 games last season.

Isaac Fisher, a sophomore guard, has shown leadership.

Izaguirre and Fisher both can play point guard in an effort to offset the loss of Simms-Edwards at the position.

Before going down with the injury, Izaguirre was third on the team at 7.1 ppg and posted a strong assist-to-turnover ratio.

Brown mentioned juniors Mark Roth and Ryan Grebner as scoring threats on the perimeter.

Roth made 37 treys with 39-percent accuracy as a sophomore. Grebner has improved his game in the offseason.

Junior post Dalton Wagler has been a big surprise with the strides he has made.

Seniors Colton Underwood, Andrew Watson and Sam Ryan as well as junior Connor Underwood all are options in the post.

Colton Underwood was an amazing free-throw shooter a season ago, connecting on 83 percent of his tries. He also added 4.3 boards per night.

The rest of the team consists of: juniors Cameron Sharp and Ben Weston; sophomores Jared Holloman and Ben Ryan; and freshman Alec Peters.

Washington’s pursuit of a sixth conference crown in a row will face many challenges.

“The conference is as balanced as it’s been since I’ve been here,” Brown said.

Morton, which reached the Class 3A Rock Island Sectional final, is loaded with talent at every position.

Limestone has arguably the area’s best returning player, Donivine Stewart, and East Peoria may possess its best team since ’04-05.

Canton and Pekin should be better after getting through last year’s lack of experience,

“Every night is going to be a battle,” said Brown.

The State Farm Tournament of Champions began yesterday. There will be 34 games spread out over five days in the fourth-annual event.

Torry Gymnasium is sure to be packed as the competition continues to improve in the national tournament.

“We appreciate how our community supports it,” said Brown.

Washington’s game tonight vs. East Peoria will count in the conference standings.

The Panthers non-conference slate will include Jan. 16 date with Chicago Kenwood in a shootout at Naperville North.

Geneseo also dropped Washington late, so the Panthers replaced that Dec. 5 road game with a Feb. 13 home contest against Lift for Life Academy from St. Louis.

Washington also will play in the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament, an event that seemingly gets stronger every year, for the 43rd time.

New assistants: Jacob Motteler will direct the freshmen this season.

Kyle Weyeneth, a student teacher in Washington, is on the staff this year as a volunteer assistant.