Here are the top 5 Illinois boys basketball teams to watch in the Springfield area

Ryan Mahan
State Journal-Register

Basketball hardware is up for grabs again between in-season tournaments and the road through the postseason. But let’s not completely forget the 2021 season which was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

There are quite a few outstanding returning players who gave their fan bases reasons for optimism this season.  

The State Journal-Register has compiled a list of some of the top area boys basketball teams to watch in the 2021-22 season. Spring records in parentheses. 

Spring's top players:Capital Region High School Sports Awards: 24 honorees for boys basketball

Hillsboro (14-0) 

The Hiltoppers won every game and the South Central Conference title then the school board fired coach Joe Vanzo. A week later, the Hillsboro school board reaffirmed its vote to oust Vanzo in a meeting that led the Illinois Attorney General’s office to rule the school board violated the Open Meetings Act. Lost in all that, Hillsboro returns Drake Vogel for his senior season with new coach Kyle McBrain. Vogel finished with 16.1 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game, made 37 3-pointers and scored on a 46.3% shooting percentage. Mix in Jace Tuetken, Blaze Helton, Gavin Matoush and Will Christian and Hillsboro has the makings of a team with talent and confidence.

Lanphier (13-1)

Lanphier boys basketball head coach Blake Turner celebrates with Lanphier's Ozzie "Tye" Banks Jr. (2) after the Lions defeated Decatur MacArthur in the Boys CS8 Tournament Championship game. [Photo by Jason Johnson]

The Lions lost their first game of the season — a nonconference game against rival Lincoln — before rolling off nine straight, winning both the Central State Eight Conference regular-season and tournament titles. Sure, the Lions lost several seniors, including The State Journal-Register's player of the year in K.J. Debrick, but with seniors Tye Banks and Cam Kincaid and juniors Tae Jackson and Austin Robinson, coach Blake Turner has his eyes set on another CS8 title before heading into the postseason for even more. 

Alumni game:What makes the Lanphier alumni basketball games so special

Pana (14-3) 

The Panthers lost the South Central Conference title game with Hillsboro by a point and also boast some top returning talent in Colin Schmitz and Brenden Schoonover, who averaged 24.6 ppg combined. Add in Kyle Kuhn and Pana returns three of its five leading scorers.  

Petersburg PORTA (11-2) 

The Bluejays rolled through the Sangamo Conference with an 8-0 record and the only losses for the Class 2A school came to a pair of 3A teams: Taylorville and Lanphier. PORTA returns Gavin Arthalony for his junior season.  

Top girls teams:Here are the top 11 girls basketball teams to watch in the Springfield area

Sacred Heart-Griffin (11-4)

Sacred Heart-Griffin's Zack Hawkinson (21) puts up a shot over Southeast's Jason Johnson (11) in the second half during the Boys CS8 Tournament at Jim Belz Gymnasium  in Springfield, Ill., Tuesday, March 9, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

The Cyclones were led in scoring by now-junior Jake Hamilton (12.9 points per game) but SHG coach Tim Allen expects another leap by Hamilton and fellow junior Zack Hawkinson (8.9) — both drawing interest from Division I schools, according to Allen. Hawkinson has an offer from University of Illinois Springfield, as well. 

Contact Ryan Mahan: 857-246-9756,,