WEST FRANKFORT
BY JACK BULLOCK
The West Frankfort Redbirds can point to a key stat that summed up most of their 2016-17 basketball season.

Coach Kevin Toney's club just couldn't win the close games that could have made the overall record much better than ended up.

The Redbirds lost eight of their games last winter by a total of 19-points.

So instead of potentially being 18-10, West Frankfort ended up 10-18, losing to Eldorado in the regional semifinals, 42-40, on the Eagles' home floor.

West Frankfort had several seniors on that squad a year ago that are now gone and Coach Toney will have some new ones to take their places.

Gone from the squad via graduation are Austin Gladich, Noah Allen (who were two year starters) and Andrew Sturgill (who started as a senior).

Jaryd Clark, Scotty Clinton, Ethan Riddle, and Stanley Powell are also gone from the team that ended up 1-9 in the SIRR Ohio.

Coach Toney has some kids back who have different levels of experience returning from last season.

Six-foot-five senior wing player Keagan Thrash, who is a two-year starter for the Redbirds.

Kyle Hammers, a 5-foot-11 junior guard, also started a season ago for Coach Toney.

Both of these vets will carry with them leadership responsibilities as the 2017-18 season begins.

Five-foot-nine senior guard Lucas Wolfe also started some contests as a junior and a sophomore.

Those three have the most time served on the varsity floor and they will need to continue to improve as well as lead the younger teammates.

Coach Toney has some size to add to the lineup and off the bench.

Six-foot-six senior Bradlee Croslin and 6-foot-4 senior Lucas Davis are in the discussion along with a couple of guards; 5-foot-11 senior Jacob Russell and 5-foot-8 senior Brendan Russell.

The junior class that will need to be ready features 6-foot-1 Ryley House, 6-foot-3 CJ Johnson and Cole Levanti will fill various roles for the Redbirds, according to Coach Toney.

“I feel that it will be very important for our club to prepare for each opponent in the same attentive and eager fashion, regardless of the ups and downs our season or our schedule will bring. We certainly want to shed the idea that it’s acceptable to play hard but to only come close,” said Coach Toney. “I can see where we could put different combinations of players on the court at different times as the season progresses, opponents bring various challenges, and players improve different skills at different rates.”

OUTLOOK – The Redbirds were close to being a much better team last season when it comes to the won-loss record and turning things around on the scoreboard won't be an easy chore against the schedule that they run into each season. Coach Toney has some talented kids who are willing to work. A basket here and a defensive stop there and last season could have been an entirely different picture. Look for some of those numbers to turn around for this hard working bunch in 2017-18.

2017-18 VARSITY SCHEDULE
N21 @ Pinckneyville J12 Metropolis Massac County

D1

@ Salem J13-20 West Frankfort Mid-Winter Classic
D2 @ Carterville J26 Harrisburg
D5 Eldorado J27 @ Anna-Jonesboro
D8 @ Harrisburg J30 Du Quoin
D15 Benton F2 @ Benton
D16 Goreville F9 @ Murphyboro
D26-28 Eldorado Holiday Tournament F10 Herrin
J2 Murphysboro F16 @ Metropolis Massac County
J5 @ Herrin F19-23 IHSA Regional TBD
J6 Sparta F26-M2 IHSA Sectional TBD