EFFINGHAM ST. ANTHONY BULLDOGS
BY JACK BULLOCK
It was a dream season in 2016-17 for the Effingham St. Anthony Bulldogs, one few anyone involved with this program will ever forget.
Battling through a tough end of the regular season slump the Bulldogs turned on at the right time when it got to the post-season.
The campaign culminated with a 49-46 overtime win over Okawville to win the 1A state championship in Peoria.

Behind first time all-state and ABV all-south selection Drew Gibson, the Bulldogs finished the season 30-5 and brought home the top prize last March.

Gibson was the only senior on the club that overcame a double-digit half-time deficit to Woodlawn at the Carbondale Supersectional and then took care of both Chicago Hope and Okawville to win the programs first boy's basketball state championship.

With everyone back except Gibson, the Bulldogs were ready to be the top ranked preseason ABV and state-wide 1A squad.

However with the IHSA success rate rule in place for private schools, St. Anthony has been bumped up a class to 2A for the post-season.

Although it isn't a death penalty in a basketball sense, it makes the post-season a much tougher challenge for head coach Cody Rincker and his club as the enter the 2017-18 season.

The defending National Trail Conference regular season and tournament champs and also the reigning Vandalia Holiday Tournament titlist, St. Anthony has four starters, a wealth of young experienced talent and a junior varsity squad that finished 16-2 last season, all in place to improve.

Coach Rincker has the luxury of having a point guard to run things with Cade Walsh back for his senior season.

Walsh is a 5-foot-11 senior who netted five points and dished out five assists a contest as a junior.

Coach Rincker calls him a team motivator and leader, which is nice to have on the floor again.

Six-foot-two senior Alex Deters tossed in eight points and was a high energy defender for the Bulldogs.

Another of the returning players who was very good on both ends of the floor is Adam Levitt, a 6-foot-2 senior forward. Eight points a night and five rebounds were part of his resume coming into this season from last year.

Six-foot-four senior Alex Beesley tossed is another of the five points, five rebounds players.

Jack Nuxoll, a 6-foot-2 senior, was the sixth man for the Bulldogs last winter, giving instant offense with 8.5 points a night.

Coach Rincker has other players who will come into more minutes off the bench this season.

Six-foot-five senior Brandon Runge will provide some size in the lineup when he comes into games as will 6-foot-5 senior Wyatt Lawrence.

A trio of junior guards, 6-foot-2 Luke Ludwig, 5-foot-9 Quinton Milleville and 5-foot-9 Ben Strullmyer should be in the plot along with senior forward 6-foot-5 Brandon Runge and 6-foot-4 junior Bryson Wall.

Six-foot-five Jacob Dust, a sophomore forward, should also be in the running for playing time.

The Bulldogs will open the season as they always do when they host a tough, mostly large school, Thanksgiving Tournament.

“I expect to be at the top in both the NTC regular season and conference tournament. We will try to repeat in both. With all of our returning players we will have some lofty expectations,” said Coach Rincker. “I feel Dieterich will be a very solid opponent in the conference, they have many returning from a deep post season run as well. Altamont will more than likely be solid after a sectional appearance. Our club needs to buy-in and take the attitude of "not letting our past be greater than our future. It is okay to be proud and confident based on our accomplishments last season. But, that is exactly what they are, LAST season. We will look to compete night in and night out at practice and games trying to give ourselves a chance to be successful.”

OUTLOOK – If they hadn't went up to 2A, you could pencil them in as a real threat to repeat as state champions. However the classification is what it is. They have skill, experience and depth at every spot and they will be heavily favored to win the conference championships and also the Vandalia Holiday Tournament again this season. Gibson won't be an easy piece of the puzzle to replace, but look for all of the other kids to step up statistically this season. ABV believes they could make a run in 2A.

2017-18 VARSITY SCHEDULE

N20-25

St. Anthony Turkey Tournament
J9 @ Neoga
N28 @ Sullivan J12 Breese Mater Dei
D5 Cowden-Herrick-Beecher City J19 @ Windsor-Stewardson-Strasburg
D8 @ St. Elmo-Brownstown J23-27 NTC Tournament @ Altamont
D12 Newton F2 Teutopolis
D15 @ Dieterich F6 @ Farina South Central
D19 Robinson F10 Teutopolis Shootout
D26-29 Vandalia Holiday Tournament F13 Altamont
J2 North Clay F16 @ Casey-Westfield
J6 St. Anthony Shootout F19-23 IHSA Regional TBD