Patoka returns to defend title
NTC teams St. Anthony, Altamont, Dieterich make the sectional grade

NOKOMIS - A very similar looking sectional from a year ago has also emerged at 1A Nokomis this week as three of the four sectional combatants from a year ago are back for another shot at going to state.

Last season Patoka, Effingham St. Anthony and Dieterich were joined by Edwards County at the Red Hill event.

This season Edwards County was 2A and Altamont joined the winner's circle with a win at home over Nokomis, keeping the Redskins from being part of a sectional on their home floor.

Of the eight entry's into the two sectionals pointing towards SIU Arena, six of the teams are back in the hunt from last season.

Four-in-a-row. That is the roll of which the Patoka Warriors are on as of this moment.

For the fourth consecutive season Coach Joe Eddy and his club have a regional championship in tow, having bested Moweaqua Central A&M, 68-66 to win the Bethany Okaw Valley 1A Regional on Friday night.

These Warriors continue to be “the little engine that could”, having just 67 students in the school while routinely beating schools who dwarf them in enrollment.

Having a player that has over 2,700-points for his career and counting is a luxury that Coach Eddy has had for four-seasons.

Six-foot-one senior guard/forward Jered Cain has some mind-blowing scoring numbers for his career.

This season the all-state candidate (shoe-in) has tossed home 23.5 points per outing while gathering in 7.5 rebounds a night.

He can pass as well as he can shoot, dishing out 5.4 assists a game for Patoka.

Cain hit for 28-points in the Friday night victory over the Raiders as the Warriors look to get back to the SIU Arena floor next Tuesday.

Six-foot-five senior forward Garrett Belcher is also a major scoring threat, netting 17.4 points a night while corralling 10.3 rebounds a game.

Belcher tossed in 25-points in the regional title game as Patoka improved to 28-3 on the season, a school record for wins.

Those two have carried the bulk of the scoring load for Coach Eddy this season.

However they have some other capable players who can score when needed.

Six-foot-four senior Jordan Cobb (2.7 p.p.g., 2.2 r.p.g.) and 6-foot-1 senior Bailey O'Brien (5.4 p.p.g., 3.9 r.p.g.) are now varsity veterans who have been a big part of the successful run by this program.

Five-foot-eleven senior Joey Sturgeon (2.5 p.p.g.) and 5-foot-7 senior Skylar Webb (5.1 p.p.g.) along with Colton Hill (1.3 p.p.g.) have helped out.

The Warriors won both of their early season tournaments (Mulberry Grove Thanksgiving, Wayne City Holiday) and finished third at the Vandalia Holiday Tournament.

Their three losses are to Wayne City, Pana and Cisne while quality wins over 2A teams Flora (2) and Shelbyville.

In back-to-back weekends in February, the Warriors won shootout games against West Hancock County (Nauvoo-Colusa-Warsaw Coop) and Madison.

The Effingham St. Anthony Bulldogs and head coach Cody Rincker have some unfinished business to attend to this season.

The Dawgs got all the way to the Red Hill Sectional final last season, losing the rubber game of three contests against Patoka, 64-58, in the sectional championship game.

St. Anthony was horrendous from the floor on that night, hitting just 18-of-56 shots overall.

This season the Bulldogs enter the sectional after "white-washing" the field at the North Clay 1A Regional, topping Grayville 64-45 to win the title game.

Coach Rincker's club nabbed third place in their own tough as nails Thanksgiving Tournament, beating 3A Breese Central for third.

They also have wins over 2A teams Champaign St. Thomas More and Robinson. The Maroons won a 2A Regional at home on Friday.

St. A also won the other two tournaments that they were entered in, winning the Vandalia Holiday Tournament and also the National Trail Conference Tournament.

They hold two wins over Altamont, their opposition on Tuesday night.

They topped the Indians, 74-69, after giving up a big part of their 19-point third quarter lead and then the second victory wasn't easy as the Bulldogs edged the Indians 62-61 back on February 14.

Both games were played on Altamont's home floor.

The losses were to some tough hombres, losing to 2A power and rival Teutopolis, 3A Breese Mater Dei, 3A Effingham and 3A Mattoon.

They were upset by 2A Casey-Westfield in their final regular season home game and after two regional wins are sitting at 24-5 on the year.

Drew Gibson, a 6-foot-4 senior swing-man, has performed at a high level this season for St. Anthony.

Gibson brings in a 20.2 points per game scoring average to the sectional and his field goal percentages are off the charts.

Gibson has hit 56 percent of his overall attempts and a very good 45 percent from the 3-point arc.

Either from long range or driving to the basket, Gibson has been very effective and a huge part of yet another regional title for the North Siders.

Jack Nuxoll, a 6-foot-2 junior forward/guard, has had some big games this season for Coach Rincker.

Nuxoll averages just under nine-points a game for the Bulldogs this season.

Alex Deters, a 6-foot-1 junior, also is in the nine-points per game area.

Adam Levitt, a 6-foot-2 junior, averaged 7.8 points a night while point guard Cade Walsh, a 5-foot-10 junior, has nearly as many assists (166) as he has points (176) as he gets the ball where it needs to be.

Alex Beesley is a 6-foot-4 junior forward (6.3 points, 4.4 rebounds) that is part of a pretty well rounded team.

Six-foot-two sophomore Luke Ludwig has helped out when needed as has 6-foot-5 junior Wyatt Lawrence.

St. Anthony has now accumulated 21-regional titles in boy's basketball while also claiming five sectional championships and three supersectional titles.

In the program's 71-year history, they have a winning percentage of .696.

After having lost five-consecutive regional championship games, the Altamont Indians (20-11) finally reached the sectional for head coach John Niebrugge.

The Tribe took care of business this past week, topping Nokomis 62-53 at home to grab the program's first regional crown since 2009-10.

This coach has lost some heartbreaking decisions in these regional title tilts, but all is forgotten as his club heads into a rematch with NTC rival St. Anthony on Tuesday night.

The theme of the two sectionals feeding into the Carbondale Supersectional is strength of schedule.

The combatants have all worked on beefing up the slate of games with the goal being able to get deep into the postseason.

Mission accomplished for all, including Altamont.

The Indians jumped head first into the Teutopolis Holiday Tournament this past December and took some beatings at the hands of some much larger clubs.

A loss on the final day to Madison ended the event at 0-5 for the Tribe, not exactly the outcome that this coaching staff had wished for.

However the rest of the season Altamont improved.

Since Christmas, the Indians are 12-3 with just losses to Patoka on the road and a pair of losses to St. Anthony at home.

The second loss to the Bulldogs was on February 14 which gave the outright NTC regular season title to St. A.

But the postseason is sometimes a different animal and Coach Niebrugge hopes his team continues its good run of fortune.

Ryan Armstrong, a 5-foot-10 senior, is the top scorer on the club with 16.4 points a night.

Armstrong also leads the team with 4.7 assists a night and grabs 5.1 boards.

He missed a couple of games due to injury but hasn't missed a beat since.

Five-foot-ten junior guard Mitchell Stevenson is also a big part of the scoring parade, netting 13.9 points a contest while being second on the club with 2.3 assists.

In the frontcourt is where the improvement from last season came together in 2016-17.

Senior 6-foot-4 forward Sam Childerson adds 11.4 to the point totals each night by average. He has also been productive on the boards as his 7.3 rebounds a game average leads the team.

Six-foot-four senior Evan Cornett gives the Tribe even more power in the paint (8.7 points, 3.3 rebounds).

Senior forward Wyatt Stone, senior guard Jesus Flores, senior Drake Williams and sophomore guard Alek Biggs give the Indians some depth and options that Coach Niebrugge needs when playing the kind of pressure defense that Altamont has implemented since his arrival at the school.

The Indians are 109-37 under Coach Niebrugge and this is his first regional title as a coach.

As a player at Teutopolis, he was a senior starter for a 27-4 team that made it to the Elite Eight in 1998.

The Dieterich Movin' Maroons got moving at the right time, winning the regional for the second straight season, this time for new head coach Josh Krumweide.

Krumweide inherited a team that won a regional last winter but returned no starters and no seniors so this young coach, in his second season as a varsity mentor, began with nearly zero experience back from the team that won their own regional last season by beating Oblong.

They turned the same trick again this winter, topping the Panthers on the same home floor as in 2016, winning 54-52 to improve to 15-14 on the season.

The come into this sectional with virtually nothing to lose.

Dieterich has lost to all three of the teams at the sectional.

Patoka beat them the week before the regional tournament; St. Anthony smothered the Maroons, 65-40 in the NTC Tournament before Dieterich won two-straight to win the consolation title.

The Bulldogs also flattened the Maroons, 71-37 back on December 16.

Altamont holds a 66-46 win over Dieterich from January 6 while the Patoka loss was 58-48.

for the Maroons to turn the tables this week, they will need to get a big effort from their five junior leaders.

Six-foot junior guard Ryan Radloff averages 18.5 points a night while grabbing four rebounds.

Calloway Campton, a 6-foot-1 junior, tosses in 14.3 a night while also snagging 5.8 rebounds.

Up front, 6-foot-3 junior Tyler Higgs nearly averages a double-double (10.2 points, 9.1 rebounds) for Dieterich.

Five-foot-seven junior Devin Flach and 5-foot-9 junior Bryce McClain combine for a bit less than eight points a contest.

Highlights from the season include a second place finish in their own holiday tournament and the consolation title of the NTC, in which they got four games ou

t of the week because of a play-in game.

They get another crack at Patoka on Wednesday night.