Here are 8 unsung Peoria-area boys basketball players ahead of the IHSA postseason

Eureka's Trevor Heffren, right, moves to the basket against El Paso-Gridley's Jake Funk in the first half Friday, Jan. 7, 2022 at Eureka High School. The Hornets fell to the Titans 55-46.
Adam Duvall
Journal Star

A march to the Illinois High School Association boys basketball postseason will soon be underway.  

For the first time, regional quarterfinals across the state's four classes begin Saturday. Semifinals are held next Wednesdays, with regional championship games on Friday.

All types of players will factor in teams moving on through regionals, sectionals and beyond. While all-conference and all-state players get most of the shine, there are some players that may be overlooked.

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Here are eight players flying under the radar this season, listed in alphabetical order:

Hank Alvey, Illini Bluffs

The 6-foot-9 sophomore center is making a big name for himself on the small-school scene. During a five-game stretch in January, he averaged 19.6 points, 13.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 3.2 blocks and 1.4 steals. Alvey went for 27 points and 20 rebounds in a win over Brimfield. IB opens Class 1A regional play by hosting West Prairie on Saturday. 

Richwoods' Jaylen Brown (13) and D.J. Porter greet each other during player introductions before the start of their game against Peoria Notre Dame on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 at PND High School. The Knights defeated the Irish 52-45.

Jaylen Brown, Richwoods

The 6-foot-2 senior guard has been a catalyst for the Knights, who won eight in a row from the Pekin Tournament to an overtime win over Manual. He hit a trio of 3-pointers and scored a game-high 15 points in a 13-point win over Bloomington. Richwoods opens 3A regional play next Wednesday against Metamora.

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Eoin Dillon, Peoria Notre Dame

The 6-foot-8 sophomore forward has emerged as a reliable presence in the Irish lineup. His 11 points came on the strength of three 3-poiners in a 66-45 win over 1A No. 1-ranked Yorkville Christian at the Normal West Shootout. PND opens 3A regional play next Wednesday against the Limestone and East Peoria winner.

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Jake Funk, El Paso-Gridley

The 6-foot-6 senior forward is a major part of the Titans being ranked No. 4 among Class 2A teams and winners of 12 in a row. His pair of free throws helped EP-G survive over Downs Tri-Valley, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds. EP-G meets the winner of Wilmington or Braidwood Reed-Custer in a 2A regional semifinal next Wednesday.

Malachi Persinger, Peoria Christian

The 5-foot-9 freshman guard has taken on bigger scoring role with Wes Hunt still sidelined with injury. He scored 26 points versus Springfield Calvary, 17 against Farmington, dropped 12 over Macomb and put up 13 on Roanoke-Benson. PCS awaits the winner of Princeville and Elmwood for a 1A regional semifinal next Wednesday. 

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Niko Powe Jr., Kewanee

The 6-foot senior guard has helped the Boilermakers to a 20-win season and a Three Rivers Athletic-East championship in record-setting fashion. Powe scored a program-record 50 points — 26 in the second half - in securing the conference title. Kewanee plays the Hall-Illinois Valley Central winner in a 2A regional semifinal next Wednesday.

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Gus Rugaard, Morton

The 6-foot-1 sophomore guard has become a legitimate scoring option for the Potters. He went for a season-high 22 points, hitting six 3-pointers against Peoria High, plus scored 15 as Morton beat Pekin by 13 and 12 points versus Limestone. Morton awaits the winner of Rantoul and Bloomington in next Wednesday's 3A regional semifinal.

Metamora fans hoist junior Drew Tucker on their shoulders while celebrating their 50-45 victory over rival Washington on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 at Metamora Township High School.

Drew Tucker, Metamora

The 6-foot-2 junior forward is one of four options the Redbirds have relied on en route to an outright Mid-Illini Conference title. His 20 points against East Peoria were a career high, while he earned all-tournament team honors at the Metamora Roundball Classic. Metamora opens 3A regional play at home against Richwoods next Wednesday.

Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.