Defending champ West Frankfort seeks EHT "3-Peat"
Eldorado, CWC, Benton, Massac ready to challenge; A-J, Meridian, CM eye upsets

ELDORADO - At the 41st Annual Eldorado Holiday Tournament, the West Frankfort Redbirds are going for the 'trifecta' of championships, hoping to add another title to their two previous titles at this 'Granddaddy of Southern Illinois' event.

Coach Kevin Toney's team romped past four victims last season in winning the tourney title in convincing fashion and this edition of WF hoops is capable of a repeat performance.

The Redbirds with four straight wins this week would join NCOE as the only team to win three consecutive EHT titles.

The Reed Jackson lead Cardinals won the championship in 1988, '89 and '90.

However a recent loss on the road on December 23 to SIRR Ohio rival Massac County will have some people thinking that the Birds can be had this week.

West Frankfort dropped a 60-44 game on the Patriots home court Friday night and must refocus on the task at hand.

Their only other loss was a last second defeat at Pinckneyville in the season opener.

Since then, WF has impressive wins over Nashville and Murphysboro and to enter the EHT at 6-2.

Matt Weeks is leading the club with 17 p.p.g. while sensational sophomore Isaiah Simelton has emerged as a scoring threat at 15.5 p.p.g.

The 6-foot-2 senior Weeks has the ability to take over a game offensively and is the one that needs the ball at crunch time.

Dustin Wall is a 5-foot-10 senior who is the Redbird point guard. He has gradually taken charge of the WF offense.

Kyle Brown, a 6-foot-4 senior, has helped out a great deal adding some additional offense to the attack.

"I think about six or seven teams could win it," said Toney. "And almost any team there could beat those six or seven team on any given day."

Eldorado holds the second seed in this event and is banking on the return to the floor of 6-foot-4 senior forward Craig Parks.

Sidelined with a knee injury for three weeks, there is a question mark as to his availability for the Eagles on opening night against Pope County at 8:30 pm.

He damaged his knee in a game against Hamilton County on December 6 and has been rehabbing it since.

In his absence coach Greg Goodley's troops have rallied around 6-foot-2 guard Ryan Frailey and 6-foot Daniel Etienne.

Frailey is a Hardin County transfer who has stepped up and played well, taking on more of the scoring responsibility.

Etienne has also blossomed this season, improving on his scoring. Both of these players are senior leaders.

The Eagles are 8-2 on the season, with losses to Salem and Fairfield.
Carmi-White County is the third seed and the 8-1 Bulldogs have come out of the gate in 2005-06 like gangbusters.

A single loss to Heath (KY.) at the Marshall County Shootout back on December 3 is the only setback in first-year coach Jarrod Newell's season.

Keegan Dennis, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, is averaging right at 16 p.p.g. in the nine Bulldog contests.

Tyler Choate is a 6-foot-1 senior guard that has averaged 14 points per game while 6-foot-4 senior Mark Healy is chipping home 12 p.p.g.

Lincoln Talley, a 5-foot-10 senior, is averaging four assists from the point guard position for the Bulldogs.

Six-foot-one senior Chase Kittinger is the top rebounder on the club with six rebounds a game along with seven points per outing.

He had a season-high 14-rebounds against Johnston City last week.

Six-foot-four senior Jim Kress and 6-foot-2 sophomore Travis Jones have given this coach some good minutes off of the bench.

CWC won the Grayville Thanksgiving Tournament and could add the EHT title to its resume.

"I think it is a pretty even tournament up and down the bracket," said CWC coach Jarrod Newell. "Basketball in southern Illinois pretty exciting right now. It is hard to predict what is going to happen."

The fourth-seeded Benton Rangers have an opportunity to enact some revenge in their opening round game.

Coach Matt Wynn's club has drawn NCOE in the first round for the second consecutive year.

The Fighting Cardinals sent Benton to the consolation bracket last season with a 47-38 opening game win.

The Rangers responded with three straight wins to take home the consolation title, but the loser's bracket is not where Benton wants to be this week.

"We have a chance to redeem ourselves this week against NCOE," said Wynn, whose Rangers stand 6-2 heading into the event as the fourth seed. "We feel like there it a lot of parity and the top four seeds are solid. We will have to play good basketball to win games. We have never been in the title game at Eldorado and we are hoping to stay on the winner's side this year and perhaps win the championship."

Mason Satterfield, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, tops the Rangers' scoring parade at 13 points per game.

Bryson Hammond is a 6-foot senior that has added 12 p.p.g. while 5-foot-10 senior Seiger Shurtz and are right at 11 p.p.g.

Counting out any team coached by Joe Hosman is a grave mistake, especially when it concerns the Eldorado Holiday Tournament.

Hosman's Massac County Patriots have won five EHT titles to go along with two third place finishes and a pair of fourth place trophies.

In 20 seasons at Eldorado, the Pats have a .697 winning percentage (48-21), which is the best of any team who has played at least 10 seasons in this tournament.

This season fifth seeded Massac County is 6-3 with that win over West Frankfort Friday and this coach is hoping the momentum continues into the EHT.

Six-foot-five senior forward Mike Vanvleet tops the 'Patriot act' with 15 p.p.g.

An inexperienced backcourt has gotten better, as it always seems to with this coach.

Christmas time seems to bring out the best in the Massac County family. Look for a strong showing this week from the Hosman troops.

Anna-Jonesboro has a 'one-two' punch capable of leading the Wildcats to a string of victories and a championship this week at Duff/Kingston Gym.

Coach Jim Drew can point at the dinner table to one of the team leaders, 6-foot-4 senior Jimmy Drew.

This coaches son is a typical 'gym rat' type, possessing a good shooting eye from all of those shots taken during his youth.

His running mate in the Wildcats' system is Ramehl Macon, a 'cat-quick' senior point-guard who topped A-J with 18 points a game last season and his numbers are similar in 2005-06.

Drew is a 3-point threat anywhere past the midcourt stripe, averaging 15 points a game.

Anna-Jonesboro enters the fray with an 8-2 mark, with just defeats at the hands of Nashville and Vienna.

Meridian and coach Jeff Mandrell are athletic enough to make a challenge to reach that final day on the winner's side of the bracket.

The seventh seeded Bobcats have 6-foot-6 sophomore Marland Johnson and 6-foot-4 Jarrel Stockstill leading their offense.

Rhonye Lincoln, a 6-foot senior is anchoring the Bobcat backcourt.

Eighth-seeded Hamilton County has played shorthanded without Cedrick Graham in three of their four games, all losses.

Graham missed the first three contests with a broken jaw, but returned in a loss at Waltonville last Tuesday with 20-points.

This 6-foot-2 senior is one of the better athletes in the Deep South.
Their first round opponent will be a tough morning challenger.

Harrisburg has struggled to produce many victories despite playing well.

Coach Randy Smithpeters club stands 2-6 but have played some good teams close.

They gave top seed West Frankfort all they wanted and then some in a 56-55 loss back on December 9.

Cliff Ford, a 6-foot-4 senior, has been a double-digit scoring producer throughout his career.

The Bulldogs will have a real shot at a win as they face Hamilton County at 10 am on Monday.

Carrier Mills (5-1) is another overlooked team when the seeds were announced.

These Wildcats have the Mitchell twins, Jeremiah and Nathaniel, topping this athletic team that is also capable of an extended stay this week at the EHT.

Coach Mark Motsinger's club will present a challenge to Meridian in the opening round.

The Fairfield Mules, after a staggering start at the Capital Classic, have played much better for coach Scott McElravy.

Six-foot-three senior Todd West leads the 4-4 Mules.

Century (4-6) enters the field for the first time, replacing South Egyptian Conference mate Egyptian in the field.

Norris City-Omaha-Enfield (3-7) has a solid point guard in Michael Laughard, a 5-foot-10 senior.

Pope County, Gallatin County and Hardin County are three Greater Egyptian Conference teams entered in the event; joining Carrier Mills in the EHT.

All three will need to pull upsets on Monday to advance to the winner's side.

The Pirates (3-6) have 6-foot-1 senior Dustin Dougherty leading coach Ryan Fritch's squad.

The Hawks (2-7) have yet to find a winning formula, despite pretty good scoring from point guard 6-foot senior Andy Montgomery and 6-foot-3 junior forward Blaine Barker.

Hardin County (2-2) has been led by Jamie Fowler, a 5-foot-10 senior guard.