BLACK DIAMOND CONFERENCE
Yellow Jackets, Mules are championship caliber
Chester, Fairfield ready to make some 2A noise; S-V, Ed Co, Eldorado top challengers
BY JACK BULLOCK
Since the beginning of the four-class system in boy's high school basketball, just the Sesser-Valier Red Devils of the Black Diamond Conference were able to climb the state tournament mountain to reach the Final Four.

Head coaches Chip Basso and Shane Garner combined to get the Devils to the state finals one time each, 2009-10 and 2013-14 respectively.

But you can now add another school from the BDC to the list of state finalists.

Coach Todd Tripp got his senior led Goreville club rolling at the right time last season, winning regional, sectional and supersectional titles on the way to a fourth place finish in 1A.

The Blackcats showed that “old dogs can learn new tricks” as this high scoring program became much more defensive minded last winter.

It paid off with a long postseason run; a once in a lifetime run for those seniors who also excelled on the baseball diamond.

Not only did the boy's hoops' team reach the pinnacle, the same group of kids made their third consecutive trip to the finals in baseball just two months later.

The 2018-19 version of Sesser-Valier hoops return some important players from last winter's 21-12 sectional runner up.

As per usual, Coach Garner will have the kids prepared to go.

Coach Tripp will have some new faces after graduating most of the points from last season's 23-13 fourth place finisher.

Included on that list of graduates from Goreville was 2017-18 ABV 1A “Player of the Year” Braden Webb.

Goreville finished fourth in the league last season, having split four games (2-2) with the Red Devils.

The Blackcats lost both regular season BDC match ups but took the measure of S-V when the trophies were on the line; winning the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament title and then the Hardin County 1A Sectional championship, 48-44.

If you don't believe that the Black Diamond Conference West is tough, how about the fact that three of the teams are 2A in enrollment and four of the eight members won over 20-games last season.

The Chester Yellow Jackets were one of the schools over 20 (20-9) in 2017-18 under the tutelage of head coach Brad Norman.

Being a smaller 2A team, the Yellow Jackets often face a difficult large school postseason path to state tournament hardware.

The 2018-19 club looks to continue the winning and are the favorite to win the division title.

Christopher, the fourth of the 20-win teams in the BDC-W, ended up 22-9 with a disappointing regional title game defeat.

The top two scorers from that Bearcats' squad have graduated and there will be a scoring and rebounding void that will need to be filled heading into this season.

There are two more 2A clubs in the division; Trico and Vienna.

The Pioneers will have new head coach in charge as Dan King takes over for Andrew Wilson.

Trico ended up 12-18 on the season and bowed out early in the Pinckneyville Regional.

This club was mostly seniors last season and the remaining ones will have a new mentor running the show.

The Vienna Eagles and head coach Cory Waters are looking to improve.

They stumbled to an 8-19 mark in 2017-18, losing out to West Frankfort at Johnston City in the first round of the regional last February.

Coach Waters will have two returning starters and some promising underclassmen moving forward.

Zeigler-Royalton has had very little success in the most recent past but it hasn't diminished the effort from everyone involved in the program.

Head coach Matt Morgan saw his club play hard but didn't dent the win column last winter.

However those Tornadoes were competitive in a lot of games in 2017-18.

Z-R will have pretty good numbers for basketball this season and hopefully some wins will come from the dedication that these kids have put forth.

ABV likes the Yellow Jackets' chances at taking home the league championship in 2018-19.

For the Black Diamond Conference East Division the Eldorado Eagles pounded their rivals the past two seasons but they graduated a lot of good players after back-to-back great crusades.

Coach Josh Bradley looks to rebuild and to make another title run for a “Three-peat.”

But it appears that Fairfield has the best shot at the title this season as Coach McElravy has some good ones back and some new kids on the block in the sophomore class.

Edwards County just wants to stay healthy all the way through the 2018-19 season, unlike last year's M*A*S*H unit.

Coach Russ Gerlach has some good ones returning that could make a run at the crown.

Carmi-White County graduated most of its starting lineup from a year ago.

Coach Wolff looks to rebuild with some returning players and newcomers.

Hamilton County welcomes home Coach Doug Miller, a former player at McLeansboro, who makes his home just down the street from the high school.

Johnston City and head coach Scott Burzynski are looking for some improvement with some kids returning with experience.

The Tribe has struggled in the past decade plus but they are looking forward to this season.

ABV likes the Mules chances not only in the league but also in the postseason.

For complete team-by-team previews, click on the team links below.

WEST DIVISION
EAST DIVISION
ABV Projected Order Of Finish
ABV Projected Order Of Finish