First year Illinois Valley Central boys basketball head coach Joe Mintus is preparing the team for another first-year milestone.
Mintus will take his Ghosts to the State Farm Holiday Classic for the first time in his career at IVC Dec. 26.
"It's the first time that IVC is in the big school division," Mintus said. "We are playing teams and schools that are a lot bigger than us. We want to get a little bit better with some of the things that we have struggled with. Those things are checking out and shot selection."
The first milestone for Mintus came when the team won its first game under the coach in a 72-66 victory over El Paso-Gridley Nov. 23 in the IVC Thanksgiving Tournament.
Throughout the first half of the season, the team has been electrified by great shooting performances by just about everyone.
In some games, the offense has been charged by AJ Johnson's shooting, in others, it has been Ben Rashid who led the squad.
Sam Reuter, Caleb Magee and Reilly Owens have gotten in on the action to ensure that whatever lineup Mintus puts on the court, the Grey Ghosts have a solid chance of putting up points.
"I think the big strength for us so far this season is our bench," Mintus said. "When you play four games in four days, you have to have a good bench. We should have fresh legs throughout the tournament."
A talented senior class of Reuter, Magee, Conner Smithson, Johnson, Luke Schaub, Keegan Gauwitz and Adam Reginald does not hurt either.
"I really like our seniors," Mintus said. "They have really stepped up and are off to a good senior year."
The team starts the tournament at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 26 against North Chicago, the fourth ranked team in the tournament.
"They are really good," Mintus said. "They have got three kids that are Division I basketball players. They are quick, athletic and they don't let up. We are definitely going to have our hands full.
"They put so much pressure on you that it is going to be key to take care of the basketball. We will hopefully get good shot selection throughout the game and we have to limit their second chances. I think that if we do that, we will have a chance. They are 9-1 and No. 6 in the state for a reason."
If the Ghosts win, they will play at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Shirk Center in Bloomington against the winner of the Rockton Hononegah and Mahomet-Seymour game.
If the team loses, they will play the loser of that game at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the Shirk Center.
"We have let a couple games slip away, and if we check out better or get a better shot here and there then we might be sitting at 7-2 rather than at 5-4," Mintus said. "We just have to continue getting better as the year goes on. I like our team. Win or lose, they are playing hard no matter what and that is something that high school kids don't always do."
Page 2 of 2 - After the tournament, the team has two goals: win the North Central Illinois Conference and compete in the Regional.
"I think we are a leg up on our three team conference," Mintus said. "We have two games with Princeton and one with St. Bede left, and we obviously want to win those.
"We want to be playing our best basketball at the end of February. Right now we are still a work in progress and are building towards that. We have a week off before the tournament and that has been good for us, with getting a chance to work on some things in between games. I think that will help us in the long run."