Coach Jon Brown and his Crab Orchard Trojans have been on a nice run in southern Illinois.
For a very small school, they have beaten most of the ones that they were supposed to beat and have pulled a shocker or two along the way.
Twenty wins at this school was rare before this mentor arrived on the scene but now that total is common place.
Last season the Trojans went 23-8 overall, 5-2 in the Greater Egyptian and were ousted form their own regional by Steeleville in the semi-finals.
One key element is missing from last season.
Lane Hutson, a 5-foot-9 senior guard and ABV Special Mention 1A choice, has graduated. The good news is that he was the only senior on the team that won their own Thanksgiving tournament along with a second place finish in the GEC tournament.
“Overall we have experience and a good balance of inside/outside punch,” said Coach Brown, who led this program to three consecutive regional titles in 2012-14. “Defense, three-point shooting and rebounding will be team strengths. We struggled with Ferrell out of the lineup last season but he has worked hard and appears in prime shape.”
The Trojans return three starters, including probably the best front court in the GEC.
Six-foot-three Caleb Vaughn is a senior forward who scored 11 points a night for Crab Orchard last winter and his 4.4 rebounds a game were second to senior front court standout McKager Ferrell.
Ferrell is a 6-foot-2 senior forward who is a three-year starter who brings 9.6 points and 8.1 rebounds a game back from a year ago.
With those two up front, the Trojans will be formidable in the conference and in non-league games.
Five-foot-eight junior Cameron Stephens was also a starter last season and his 6.6 points a contest were a big help.
The second half of the season saw Coach Brown find a new starter with Hunter Franklin earning his way into the “five.”
Franklin is a 6-foot-2 senior who netted 6.7 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Coach Brown likes a full court game and to do this with success he needs good reserve help.
He mentioned a couple of others who will be part of the party.
Levi Vinson, a 5-foot-10 junior, who started part-time but had full-time results.
Chaise Whitehead is a 5-foot-10 sophomore who could see time off the bench at the small forward position. He is an explosive player and very good rebounder for his size.
“Gallatin County will be very tough. Seth Ramsey is one of the best players to come through the conference in the past 20 years. The entire conference will be competitive and predicting the order of finish was a challenge,” added Coach Brown.
N20-25 Crab Orchard Turkey Tournament J12 @ Galatia
N28 Norris City-Omaha-Enfield J16 @ Thompsonville
D1 @ Golconda Pope County J19 @ Wolf Lake Shawnee
D5 Junction Gallatin County J22-27 GEC Tournament @ SIC
D8 Galatia J30 Thompsonville
D9-16 Wayne City Holiday Tournament F6 @ Carrier Mills-Stonefort
D19 Waltonville F9 @ Norris City-Omaha-Enfield
J5 Ullin Century F13 Cobden
J6 @ Tamms Egyptian F16 Elizabethtown Hardin County
J9 Carrier Mills-Stonefort F19-23 IHSA Regional TBD