BENTON
BY JACK BULLOCK
The reality of the southern Illinois basketball is that the four-class system doesn't help everyone.
Ask anyone in the SIRR Ohio Division.
Last season the Benton Rangers had a pretty good basketball team.
With players returning they accomplished many goals and finished the campaign at 25-6 overall and 7-3 in the league.
But what could have been a long postseason journey lasted just two games, losing to Carbondale in the 3A regional semifinals.
Coach Ron Winemiller lost three graduates from last season off the starting unit but the kids coming back are going to be a very good squad of players set to battle for the conference title.
Gone are starters Kruz Hayes, Brendan Ritchason and Chase Owens, all were cogs for a successful season that featured an undefeated run at the Benton Invitational Tournament and a repeat championship at the Goreville Invitational.
Coach Winemiller will turn to senior Derek Oxford, a 6-foot-1 senior forward who added 12 points a night to a potent Rangers' offense last winter.
Six-foot-one senior Austin Wills is also back (11 p.p.g.) along with senior Timmy Henson, who netted seven points a game while handing out 2.7 assists for the Rangers in 2015-16.
Benton will have a lot of depth and they will need every warm body available against as tough of a schedule as you will find in the South.
Five-foot-ten junior Gehrig Wynn is part of the mixture along with Cade Thomas, a 5-foot-8 junior.
Parker Williams, a 6-foot-2 junior, along with 6-foot Hamilton Page were mentioned by Coach Winemiller, who is in his eighth season at the helm.
Six-foot-six junior transfer Zach Avery will ad some size while 6-foot-5 sophomore Brandon Lutz was part of a 14-1 junior varsity from a year ago.
Six-foot-one freshman Carson Lewis also made the list.
“We have three very seasoned guards that have all started all or part of three seasons. If they all stay healthy, they will have over 150 career starts by the end of the year,” said Coach Winemiller. “We will be small and will have to overcome that every night out. We have to be able to do that with skill level and effort. I think our conference is an absolute crap shoot. Any of 4 or 5 teams could win it this year. I am hoping as close as we got to winning it last year it will make our guys even hungrier to compete for it this year.”
2017-18 VARSITY SCHEDULE
N27-D2 Goreville Invitational Tournament J26 @ Herrin

D8

Herrin J27 Carterville
D12 @ Carmi-White County F2 West Frankfort
D15 @ West Frankfort F3 Benton "Rich Herrin Shootout"
D16 @ Nashville F9 @ Harrisburg
D21 Harrisburg F10 @ Metropolis Massac County
D29-30 Pinckneyville "Duster Thomas Classic" F16 Murphysboro
J5 Metropolis Massac County F20 @ Mt. Vernon
J12 @ Murphysboro F23 Salem
J15-20 Benton Invitational Tournament F26-M2 IHSA Regional TBD