CAHOKIA CONFERENCE
Freeburg, Columbia top "wide open" Mississippi race
Steeleville favored in Kaskaskia; Red Bud, M-C giving chase
BY JACK BULLOCK
For the larger school version (Mississippi Division) of the Cahokia Conference, there was a newcomer who entered the league in all sports and made a prompt showing on the hardwood in 2017-18.

The Salem Wildcats and head coach Andy Fehrenbacher finished tied with Trenton-Wesclin for the league top spot with each team ended up 8-2.

Salem won both regular season meetings with the Warriors while they ended up with a winning mark overall at 18-10.

From a basketball program that hasn't posted a lot of successful seasons in its long history, Coach Fehrenbacher and staff have put together a nice recent run and the Cahokia Conference appears to be a great fit for the Green and Red.

After being a part of continuing the winning at Teutopolis, Fehrenbacher has breathed a “breath of fresh air” into this part of Marion County.

They closed out the regular season with a winning streak and they lost to eventual 3A Regional champ Centralia in the finals at Mt. Vernon.

Coach Fehrenbacher will have to replace eight seniors with some fresh varsity faces with just one starter returning.

Head coach Brent Brede graduated a bunch of kids (four starters) from a sectional finalist and co-conference champs at Trenton-Wesclin.

The Warriors finished 26-5 after losing on their home floor to eventual fourth-place finisher Pinckneyville in the sectional finale.

Coach Brede has one returning starter with four starters having graduated from a club that won two tournaments last season (Mascoutah, Okawville) while finishing second at Pinckneyville.

It always seems like the Columbia Eagles and head coach Mark Sandstrom are replacing prolific scorers because of graduation.

The Eagles will head into 2018-19 without one of the top shooters in the Metro-East and will need to rally around some good returning players and some underclassman ready to step up.

Coach Sandtrom engineered a major postseason upset in 3A last March as Columbia upended state-ranked and unbeaten Alton Marquette, 55-53 in OT to win the Waterloo 3A Regional title.

The team with probably the most experience returning is Freeburg and head coach Matt Laur.

The Midgets have four returning starters and a bevy of underclassman back from a 14-16 club that stumbled to a 1-9 league mark.

Improvement in all facets is the goal here and it appears this coach will have the club ready for a conference title run in what looks like a wide-open league race.

It isn't often that Breese Central comes off of a losing campaign but the 2018-19 squad will try to improve on the previous season's 13-17 slide.

The Cougars and head coach Jeremy Shubert played well at times last season and got the regional semifinals where they narrowly lost to East St. Louis Sr.

There has never been a shortage of talented kids in Clinton County so look for the Cougars to claw their way back into the conference hunt in 2018-19.

Coach Andy Palmer's Carlyle Indians went just 2-8 in the league and 11-20 overall with a quick 2A loss to Piasa Southwestern in the regional at the East Alton-Wood River 2A Regional semifinals.

They, too, lost some good kids to graduation but others return for Coach Palmer to work with heading into this winter.

There could easily be a logjam at the top of this conference race, but it may come down to neighbors Columbia and Freeburg as to who takes home the prize.

For the Cahokia Conference Kaskaskia Division, the 2017-18 season brought a switch of sorts with Red Bud coming over from the Mississippi Division when Salem joined the fray to add a larger entity.

The Musketeers made and their presence known, finishing tied for first with Steeleville with an 11-1 mark. Unfortunately for Coach CJ Cruser, Red Bud went 7-11 against everyone else.

Those are great numbers “rolling dice” in Las Vegas but they don't help much when it comes to basketball.
They are going to be in a serious rebuilding mode but this mentor knows how to accomplish the goals.

Steeleville had a good first year under head coach Aaron Fiene.

The Warriors took on a pretty good schedule, ending up 11-1 in the Kaskaskia, splitting two games with the Musketeers in the league.

The two clubs locked horns two other times in tournaments with Steeleville winning both contests

Steeleville won the matchup in the Trico/Murphysboro Invitational 32-25 and then again at the Sparta “Mid-Winter Classic” 51-40.

Look for those two teams to battle for the top spot in 2018-19.

However the Marissa/Coulterville Meteors should also have a say in the championship story as head coach Scott Wine has some experience kids back heading to 2018-19.

Two players who started last season for the 10-18 club are back and they were the clubs' top scorers.

With others stepping up, the Meteors should be in the hunt.

Lebanon and mentor Curt Berger played .500 ball in the league (6-6) while going 12-19 overall in his first season running the Greyhounds' show.

They have two returning starters back from a club that beat Marissa-Coulterville in the regional before losing to eventual state champion Okawville.

Valmeyer will have a new head coach this season with Neil Siburt replacing Rick Crossin on the bench.

The Pirates ended up 15-15 overall a year ago and have some kids back from the team that reached the regional semifinals a year ago.

New Athens head coach Conrad Widdersheim saw his promising season go down the drain due to a key injury to his point guard.

The Yellow Jackets went 2-1 to begin the season and then went 3-19 without him.

Coach Widdersheim has a young group to work with heading into 2018-19.

The Dupo Tigers are one of those schools in a tough situation as they are one of the smallest 2A teams in the state.

Coach Steve Roustio saw his team lose it's first 15 contests but they managed to win six of the last eleven games before losing in the regional to Red Bud at Pinckneyville.

The Tigers have four starters returning for a coach who didn't take over the program last season until two weeks before the games started.

ABV looks for a battle between the Warriors and the Musketeers with the Meteors also part of the championship picture.

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

MISSISSIPPI DIVISION
KASKASKIA DIVISION
Projected Order Of Finish
Projected Order Of Finish