PATOKA
BY JACK BULLOCK
The biggest surprise of the basketball season in 2015-16 was the post-season run of the Patoka Warriors.
When you look at 1A boy's basketball recently, there was a school that captured a lot of hearts and attention over the past four years in southern Illinois, and state-wide for that matter.

The school of just 63 total students managed to go on a four-year run that produced four-consecutive regional championships and a run all the way to the Elite Eight.

The Patoka Warriors and head coach Joey Eddy put together a string of seasons that likely will never happen again at this small school in Marion County.

During this march towards their own school's record books carrying a sledge hammer, the Warriors went 97-33 in those four seasons.

The two kids wielding the hammers were Jered Cain and Garrett Belcher, two young men who helped carry this program to heights that they had never fathomed.

Last season, the run by these kids end with a loss to eventual state champs Effingham St. Anthony in the sectional title game at Nokomis.

A cold night from the foul line combined with a hot night from the Bulldogs spelled doom for Patoka as they fell two games short of their ultimate goal of reaching Peoria.

The Warriors 29-4 squad set the mark for best record in the school's history while Cain put together a career of 2,817-points and 869-rebounds, with 786-points as a senior.

Belcher was over 1,000-career points as this duo were exciting to watch.

Unfortunately it is another year and this time the Warriors will have to rebuild.

The top six players graduated, with Bailey O'Brien, Jordan Cobb, Joey Sturgeon and Skylar Webb joining Cain and Belcher in the ceremony last May.

Coach Joe Eddy will have to look at a whole new group of kid to move forward.

Six-foot sophomore Colton Hill played some important minutes in the most recent postseason run as a freshman.
It's now his turn to be one of the fixtures for the Warriors.

Kolton Walker, a 5-foot-11 senior, along with Devin Back, a 6-foot senior, are also returning with Back returning after a year hiatus.

Back logged a lot of minutes as a sophomore two seasons ago.

Six-foot-four junior John Burks, looks to step up from the JV squad this year.

Dominic Beyers is a 5-foot-9 guard who transferred in from Odin and should, according to Coach Eddy, make an impact.

Other sophomores for Patoka include 5-foot-7 Ethan Finckbone, who will help out in the backcourt.

Six-foot Hunter Jolliff, 5-foot-9 Ty Cain and Tyler Alexander will all help.

Add these names to the roster who will get a chance.

Austin Hinkel, Jacob McCoy, and Branden Torbeck round out a big sophomore class looking to make noise for several years.

Coach Eddy also mentioned the freshman class that has six players.

Five-foot-eight Jordan Gebke has the best chance to crack the varsity rotation, a strong defender who can score.

Matt Landreth, Dylan Richardson, David Ellsworth, Lucas Barnes, and Ben Jenkins round out the class.

For a school this size, that is a pretty good list of boys who are looking to be a part of some that was very special the last four seasons.

“We are a young team that is replacing basically an entire roster. We have a couple people with varsity experience that will be looked upon early. The past few years we have had a couple guys stand out, but this team will be different,” said Coach Eddy, who played on a regional championship team at Ramsey back in 1999-2000. “I think that we have 10 guys who will be fighting for minutes. It will allow us to play a different style and be more aggressive. We are a young team that has 14 freshman and sophomores in the roster with only four upperclassman.”

OUTLOOK – No one will expect that this team will suddenly be able to replace over 4,000-points missing from the last four seasons of Patoka basketball. But this program won't roll over and play dead, either. One of the good things about winning it that it gets kids who are growing up in the program to become more excited about wearing the team colors and they will work hard to become a part of what has transpired in the recent past. They will be more than competitive in the EIC.

2017-18 VARSITY SCHEDULE
N20-25 Mulberry Grove Turkey Tournament J19 Altamont

N28

@ Odin J23 Centralia Christ Our Rock Lutheran
D2 Farina South Central F1 Crab Orchard
D5 Mulberry Grove F2 @ Sandoval
D9 OPEN DATE F6 @ Cowden-Herrick-Beecher City
D26-29 Vandalia Holiday Tournament F9 Ramsey
J2 @ Cisne F13 @ Webber Township
J5 Wayne City F16 Dieterich
J12 St. Elmo-Brownstown F19-23 IHSA Regional TBD