Woodlawn seeks eighth title
Top-seeded Cardinals face strong field
Goreville, Christopher, host Red Devils round out top four seeds

SESSER - The 37th annual Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament shapes up to be a extremely competitive event with the top six seeded teams having a combined record of 37-19.

The Woodlawn Cardinals are the number one seed at the event, coming in with a 6-3 mark under head coach Brian Gamber.

His young club started out the season in a very tough Carlyle Kaskaskian Classic where they went 1-3 with losses to ABV 2A #1 Pinckneyville, Carlyle and Freeburg while getting a victory over Greenville.

But since that opening week, the Cardinals are on a five-game winning streak with victories over Christopher, Webber Township, Waltonville, Odin, and Christ Our Rock Lutheran.

Woodlawn is led in scoring by sophomore guard Blake McKay with 15-points per game to go with 5.3 rebounds.

He also has dished out 4.1 assists on average for Woodlawn.

Junior guard Jackson Bennett adds 10.1 points a night for the offensive charge of the Cards while 6-foot-1 sophomore Race Rynski averages 7.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Senior 6-foot-2 forward Blake Fewkes (9.5 p.p.g.) and Chase Hollenkamp, a 6-foot sophomore (6.3 p.p.g.) help out with the scoring and the defensive end of the floor.

Freshman twins; 5-foot-11 Hunter and Hayden England, have added to the depth of this club that is playing well on its current win streak.

After the 1-3 beginning against 2A teams, the Cardinals are 5-0 against 1A competition.

Last season's fourth place finish ended a winning streak at this tournament for Woodlawn as the Cardinals had won six-consecutive SVHT titles (2010-15).

The Cardinals also won this event in 2008.

The second choice in the seeding went to the Goreville Blackcats and head coach Todd Tripp.

These 'Cats have also gone into combat with some good teams to begin the campaign.

They host a qualilty tournament of their own in which they went 3-2 in the first five games and are at 5-2 entering the SVHT.

Losses to 2A Anna-Jonesboro and 3A Benton are the only blemishes on the slate that includes wins over 2A Johnston City, West Frankfort and Hamilton County along with victories over 1A Hardin County and Cobden.

Five-foot-eleven senior guard Braden Webb has been a team-leader for the past three seasons wearing Black and Yellow and his numbers prove his worth.

Webb has posted 21.8 points a game for the Blackcats so far this season.

He also is the top dealer on the squad, dishing out 3.5 assists per game.

Two other Blackcat starters are putting in double-figures in scoring a night; Tanner Dunn, a 6-foot-3 senior, and Peyton Massey, a 5-foot-11 senior.

Dunn is tossing in 11.5 points and commanding the boards at 6.1 rebounds while Massey adds 10.6 p.p.g.

Six-foot-three senior Cole Tosh helps out with 5.5 points and nearly six rebounds a game.

Six-foot-two sophomore Landon Albright adds to the totals and depth with 6.6 p.p.g.

The third-seed Christopher Bearcats, the defending tournament champions, come into the event without one of their key players.

Head coach Eric Stallman will be missing 6-foot-5 senior guard Jared Curry, who injured his knee in a December 12th win over Waltonville.

Without Curry in the lineup, the Bearcats will have to get production from other sources.

Curry was averaging 9.8 points a game but he was also one of the top 'Cats on the boards for the club (5.7 rebounds) while running things from the backcourt.

But the top scorer for the team is Bradley Young, a 6-foot-4 forward, and he is more than capable of picking up some of the scoring slack.

Young averages 18.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest are leading the Bearcats, who have some quality wins in their 6-2 start to the season.

Six-foot-two sophomore Bryce Pratt adds 11.7 points and 4.1 rebounds to the mix while another double-digit scorer Gabriel Motsinger is at 10.3 points and two rebounds a game for Christopher.

Five-foot-ten junior guard Dalton Saeger is a 8.1 points and 3.1 boards.

The Bearcats won their own Thanksgiving Tournament “internet style” as they took down the “WWW” with wins over Waltonville, Wayne City and Webber Township, beating the Trojans for the title, 66-60 in overtime.

The two losses are to Sesser-Valier and Woodlawn, while the Bearcats have also toppled Waltonville, Cobden and Trico.

Despite not having Curry, the Bearcats shouldn't be overlooked and are deserving of their seeding.

The host Sesser-Valier Red Devils have also dealt with some injuries this season however head coach Shane Garner has his club playing well heading into this event.

Like rival Woodlawn, the Red Devils have a strong early schedule that helps out in the long run.

Sesser-Valier lost their first three games of the year at the Du Quoin Tip-Off Classic to 1A powerhouse Cairo, 2A Du Quoin and 2A Carmi-White County.

Their other loss is to another 1A juggernaut Okawville.

But the resume boast a win over 3A Massac County down at Du Quoin and victories over Christopher, along with 2A teams Chester, Johnston City and Vienna.

Lukas Gunter, a 5-foot-11 senior guard, has been hampered by an ankle issue since the beginning of the season but is on the mend.

Tyler Winchester, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, joins Gunter for a solid backcourt combination, which is always a plus for a program.

Six-foot-two senior Preston Launius, a senior captain, has been around the program a while now having started for Coach Garner for the past three-seasons.

Joshua Gunter, a 6-foot-1 senior, is another of the senior veterans on this seasoned squad.

Six-foot-three senior Addison Page, 5-foot-11 senior Peyton Rock, 6-foot-3 forward Seth Boles are all in a deep rotation that gives this mentor multiple options.

Junior guard Eli Gunter, junior guard Reid Basso and senior forward Kadin Kiselewski have all seen important minutes on the floor as this coach has many lineup choices.

The Cobden Appleknockers head into the tournament with the most games under their belts, standing at 8-5 overall.

Coach Rhett Barke's club started off the season with a 4-1 showing at the Vienna Thanksgiving Classic, losing to 2A unbeaten Eldorado.

The early wins were over Century, Carrier Mills, Galatia and Vienna.

Cobden also has victories over Elverado, Dongola, Shawnee and Joppa.

Coach Barke and his school have put together a tougher schedule in which the Appleknockers should reap some benefits from it later in the season.

The other defeats have come from 2A Anna-Jonesboro, 1A Christopher, 1A Mounds Meridian and 1A Goreville.

Five-foot-ten senior point guard John Russell and 6-foot-3 forward Clayton Eck have been around the block for this program.

Two sophomores for Cobden have been improving on their freshman seasons from a year ago; 6-foot-5 Joe Brumleve and 6-foot-1 Dylan Lewey.

Freshman Noah Franklin, a 6-foot-4 forward, has also played well for the Appleknockers.

Cobden has the potential to be a big factor in this event.

The Chester Yellow Jackets have also been in with some tough teams in the early going of the 2017-18 season, which is by design for this program under Coach Brad Norman.

These Jackets have played well against this slate and are sitting at 7-3 overall heading into the tournament.

Topping the scoring for the Yellow Jackets in the early going of the season is 6-foot-4 senior Keith Kiner III who is averaging 14 points a game.

Sophomore Ian Reith, a 6-foot-4 forward, and 6-foot junior guard Colin Wingerter are both right at 10 points per contest.

Five-foot-ten senior guard Josh Haberberger and 6-foot-1 Jake Haberberger have both been keys to the early success as have 6-foot junior guard Jakob Cushman.

Nick Heffernan, a 5-foot-11 senior, has also been important along with Drake Bollman, a 6-foot-2 junior forward.

Chester has victories over St. Louis North Tech, St. Louis Roosevelt, Lovejoy, Steeleville, Vienna, Waterloo as well as a triple-overtime win over Trico.

The losses are to 3A Murphysboro, 2A Anna-Jonesboro and Sesser-Valier.

The Steeleville Warriors are 5-5 in a early season schedule which has produced some highlights and low lights.

Coach Aaron Fiene is in his first season as the varsity head coach and his team has some good wins over Sparta, Red Bud, Valmeyer, Marissa-Coulterville and Dupo.

But the better clubs they have faced have produced the losses, with defeats at the hands of 2A Harrisburg, Trico, Chester, Red Bud in their second contest against each other, and 1A power Okawville.

In the Okawville contest the Warriors showed some improvement, even in the 53-43 loss on the road.

Owen Gross, a 6-foot-2 junior, tops the Warriors with 16 points a game for Coach Fiene.

He tossed in 25-points in a 53-43 loss to Okawville on December 15.

Gross is a swingman type who can play multiple positions on the court.

Six-foot-seven senior Noah Valleroy has emerged as a go-to player in the post, averaging seven points a game while helping give Steeleville a needed inside presence.

Six-foot junior guard Mel Mulholland and 6-foot-4 senior Eli Wittenborn are both in the five points a game range.

The Johnston City Indians are the eighth-seed despite of a 3-7 mark overall.

Head coach Scott Burzynski took over this program this season and the Tribe have taken some lumps against some good teams.

However this team is starting to play better and they will be a tough out this week.

They started the season with just a win over Hardin County to go with four losses to Benton, Goreville, Anna-Jonesboro and Hamilton County at the Goreville Invitational.

The other three defeats have come against Carmi-White County in overtime, Sesser-Valier and Eldorado.

They have a key Black Diamond Conference win over Fairfield and they posted a win at home over Galatia to enter the tournament off of a win.

Chase Selby, a 6-foot junior guard, is averaging 16-points a game so far this season.

He led the Indians to the Galatia win with 27-points in the 69-57 victory last Friday night.

Coach Burzynski also has two other players in double-digits in scoring; 5-foot-9 senior guard Matt Campbell and 5-foot-9 junior Houston Hall.

Campbell is averaging 13-points a game while Hall is downing 11 a night.

Luca Gualdoni, a 6-foot-4 senior, has excelled on the boards this season for the Indians while adding around seven-points a game.

He had 10-rebounds in the most recent game for JC.

Other players contributing are senior Tyler Yotkewich, junior Tyler Beasley and junior Josh McPherson.

The Odin Eagles new head coach Tyler Mitchell is more than familiar with this tournament, having played in it as a prep while at Zeigler-Royalton and also as a coach of Waltonville in recent seasons.

Mitchell has his club playing much better than expected as they are at 5-3 overall.

They took home the consolation championship from the 16-team Metro-East Lutheran Thanksgiving Tournament, going 3-1 in the process.

After lossing to 2A Piasa Southwestern in the opening game, the Eagles topped 2A Litchfield, Lebanon and then St. Louis (MO.) Prep to win the consy title.

After wins over Patoka and South Central, Odin dropped back-to-back Midland Trail Conference games to Webber Township and Woodlawn.

Coach Mitchell has a very good young guard in 6-foot-2 sophomore Lucas Shaffer, who is posting 13.8 points a game so far this season.

He is also grabbing just over six-rebounds a night.

Six-foot senior Seth Nix adds 12.6 to the totals per game while Caleb Jourdan, a 6-foot-3 forward, posts 8.6 p.p.g.Six-foot junior Gage Roberts and 6-foot-4 senior Dylan Friend are adding a few points to the production.

Sophomore Tristan Rhynes, a 6-foot-5 forward, also is in the rotation.

The Eagles opening round matchup against Johnston City could be one of the better games in the early part of the tournament.

Marissa-Coulterville and head coach Scott Wine are sitting at 4-4 overall for the season and the Meteors have been led by junior Cameron Bowlby, a 6-foot guard, who is drilling home 15.6 points a game for M-C.

Six-foot sophomore Logan Jones adds 12.1 to the scoring as those two are the only Meteors in double-digits.

Mason McHughes, a 5-foot-11 senior, is at 6.4 p.p.g.

Thompsonville and head coach Pete Gordon are at 4-5 on the young season and the Tigers are looking to make a splash this week at the SVHT.

Four of these Tigers can score as the foursome all average double-figures in scoring.

Corbin Fitch, a 6-foot-1 junior, is leading the pack with 16.3 points a game.

Six-foot-seven junior Anthony Darge tosses in 11.3 a night while Reed Raubach, a 6-foot-5 junior, is at 11.8 p.p.g.

Tyson Kessler, a 5-foot-10 guard, is at 10.1 p.p.g.

The Galatia Bearcats come into the tournament at 4-7 with wins over Crab Orchard, Carrier Mills, Norris City-Omaha-Enfield, and Joppa.

Three players who are leaders for the Bearcats this season; 6-foot-3 senior Ben Mitchell, 6-foot-4 senior Will Pullilam and 6-foot senior Austin Stevens.

New Athens is 4-4 for head coach Conrad Widdersheim and the Yellow Jackets are topped by 6-foot-6 senior Jaxon Heintz who is at 16.2 points and 8.3 rebounds a game.

Landon Deutschman, a 5-foot-8 senior and 5-foot-10 senior Joel Mattingly are also in double-digits in scoring for the Yellow Jackets.

Waltonville enters the tournament at 2-6 on the season, with wins over Zeigler-Royalton and Sandoval.

McKendal Malone, a 5-foot-11 junior guard, has stepped up for Coach Anthony Lowery.

Century enters the tournament at 5-4 under head coach Jerry Johnson.

Cason Hight, a 5-foot-9 senior, 6-foot-2 senior Colin Ryan and 5-foot-11 senior Marcus Davis are leaders.

Zeigler-Royalton has yet to pick up a win this season (0-6) for head coach Matt Morgan but the Tornadoes continue to work hard.

Six-foot-two senior Cole Sanders is at 11-points a game for Z-R while teammates 6-foot-5 freshman Gannon Dollins and 5-foot-7 freshman Trevor Mills add nine and seven to the numbers in the scorebook.