The 39th annual looks strong
Goreville, Christopher, Altamont, Marissa-Coulterville loom large
Cobden, host Red Devils, Odin, Sparta round out the top eight
SESSER-VALIER – For the first time since 2001, the Sesser-Valier Red Devils will come into their own holiday tournament as the defending champions.

Last season the Red Devils beat Marissa-Coulterville in the championship game, 57-54, to win their first SVHT title since 2000.

Coach Garner's club, after a tough beginning of the season, enters the tournament as the sixth seed and they will need a big effort this week to make it back-to-back championships.

Six-foot-one senior Peyton Bates and 5-foot-11 senior Logan Kirk, along with 6-foot-1 junior Garrett Gunter, give Sesser-Valier three scoring options.

Tanner Eubanks, a 5-foot-10 senior guard, along with Ryker Kiselewski, a 5-foot-9 senior, also log a lot of minutes for Coach Garner.

Jake Newbury, a 6-foot-1 junior, and 6-foot senior Seth Newton, also come off of the bench.

The Red Devils are missing Gavin Woodward, a 6-foot-2 sophomore guard, who has missed the beginning of the season.

His potential of playing in the SVHT not known at this time.

The hosts are 3-4 on the season, with the losses coming against 2A ABV ranked Fairfield, 2A West Frankfort, and 1A power Okawville.

They most recently dropped a tough 48-46 overtime decision on the road at rival Christopher, who is the number two seed in the event.

Sesser-Valier has triumphs over Johnston City, Chester and Zeigler-Royalton.

The Christopher Bearcats sit at 7-1 for Coach Eric Stallman, with the lone defeat coming on the road at ABV ranked 1A Woodlawn, 57-53 in OT.

The starting five for the Bearcats have all put together good seasons, led by 5-foot-11 senior guard Gabe Motsinger.

Six-foot-one senior Bryce Pratt and 5-foot-10 senior Grant Gordon, along with 5-foot-9 junior Kye Garver and 5-foot-10 sophomore Mason Goins, add to the production.

Coach Stallman's club won its own Turkey tournament with wins over Webber Township, New Athens and Wayne City.

They then rattled off victories over Cobden, Carrier Mills-Stonefort and Sparta before losing at Woodlawn.

The Bearcats sit at 7-1 for Coach Eric Stallman, with the lone defeat coming on the road at ABV ranked 1A Woodlawn, 57-53 in OT.

The number three seed is a northern invader who enters the tournament for the first time.

The Altamont Indians come south to the SVHT as one of the top 1A programs in the south central part of Illinois.

ABV ranked the Tribute at #9 in 1A and they have not disappointed.

Coach John Niebrugge brings his club into the tournament undefeated at 8-0.

They have six wins over class 2A opposition with victories over Greenville, Pana, Newton, Staunton and Hillsboro, all of which are members of the South Central Conference.

Altamont also has triumphs over 1A Cumberland and South Central.

Coach Niebrugge was a standout player for Teutopolis, a starting guard on the 1997-98 Wooden Shoes squad that reached the Elite Eight in Peoria.

He coaches just like he played as his teams will always be defense/rebounding oriented.

But the Tribe also have kids that can score.

Five-foot-eleven senior guard Aidan Jahraus and 6-foot-2 junior Kaden Eirhart lead the Indians in scoring but they also get significant help from 6-foot-1 senior Noah Teasley and 5-foot-10 senior Denver Duckwitz.

Six-foot-three senior Jared Kollmann adds some size to the front court for Altamont, who is a member of the National Trail Conference with rival and ABV 1A preseason third ranked Effingham St. Anthony.

Coach Wendell Wheeler brings his Cobden Appleknockers to the SVHT as the fifth seed.

Cobden comes in at 10-3 overall after having gone 4-1 to finish in second place at the Vienna Turkey Tournament with a single loss to 2A Eldorado.

The other two losses were on the road at second seeded Christopher, 50-42 and most recently a 62-59 overtime loss at Steeleville.

Six-foot-six junior guard/forward Noah Franklin is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Appleknockers and can play all five positions.

Joe Brumleve, a 6-foot-5 senior forward, who is at 18 points and nine rebounds.

In the backcourt, 5-foot-11 senior Dylan Lewey is right at 10 points and five assists a game.

Six-foot-two forward Landon Britt starts 6-foot-4 freshman Tyler Franklin and 6-foot-3 senior Jose Lopez both come off of the bench for quality minutes so far in 2019-20.

Noah Franklin and Brumleve give Cobden a lot of size and athletic ability in the paint.

They already have some key wins, including their first ever victories over Mounds Meridian, at the Vienna Tournament and also on the road on December 10th.

Other wins have come against Lyons County (KY.), 2A Anna-Jonesboro in overtime, Agape Christian, Vienna, Century, Carrier Mills-Stonefort, Joppa-Maple Grove and Shawnee.

Marissa-Coulterville went 25-3 last season, losing in a regional title game a year ago.

Coach Scott Wine's team is searching for some consistency as they head into the tournament on a two-game losing streak and have been so far a bit of a disappointment at 5-4.

The wins have come against 2A Piasa Southwestern, 2A Gillespie, and 1A clubs Father McGivney, Elverado and Dupo.

The defeats were handed to them by Cahokia Conference rival 1A Steeleville, 1A Metro-East Lutheran, 2A Roxana, and 2A Sparta most recently, a 60-50 loss on the road last Friday.

The Meteors have perhaps the best player in the tournament in 6-foot-4 senior Sebastion Ivory-Greer.

He is averaging a robust 17.3 points a contest.

Logan Jones, a 6-foot-1 senior, is tossing in just over 16 points a night.

Six-foot-one Blake Steinwagner along with 6-foot senior Kade Portz and 6-foot-3 senior Austin Gilley are in the mix of players for Coach Wine.

Portz has played just two games for the Meteors after being injured for the first seven games.

The top seeded team is the Goreville Blackcats and head coach Todd Tripp.

Goreville is unbeaten at 10-0 entering the tournament.

The Blackcats have six wins on the slate against 2A teams; Anna-Jonesboro, Benton, Hamilton County, Harrisburg, Johnston City and West Frankfort.

They won their own Goreville Invitational and the other wins have come against 1A teams Hardin County, Zeigler-Royalton, Mounds Meridian and Thompsonville.

The Blackcats average margin of victory this season has been 25.2 points a game with no one coming closer than 10 points of Coach Tripp's troops.

Goreville has depth at every spot on the floor with senior veterans 6-foot-2 Landon Albright and 5-foot-10 Luke Brown as returning starters that have made an impact so far this season.

Seniors Nick Compton, a transfer from Trico, along with sophomore Briley Dunn, senior Logan Hankins, junior Kanon Webb, junior Rhet Schuetz and junior Carter Bishop give this coach his deepest team of his career running the program.

Head coach Tyler Mitchell brings his Odin Eagles back to the tournament this season as his team is 8-3 on the season.

The three losses have been to good stock; 1A Woodlawn, 2A Roxana and St. Louis (MO.) Lift For Life.

They have victories over 1A teams Waterloo Gibault, Patoka, South Central, New Athens, Webber Township, Zeigler-Royalton and Thompsonville while the 2A win is over Gillespie.

Lucas Shaffer, a 6-foot-3 senior who is now a four-year starter for the Eagles.

Senior guard Ethan Finckbone and junior Kegan Parrish are the main scorers for Odin.

The two 2A teams in the field will meet in the opening round and both are searching for answers heading into the new year.

The Sparta Bulldogs received the eighth seed in the tournament and head coach Jon Horton has his team at 3-6 coming in.

The record is a bit deceiving having played some good teams that turned into defeats.

Both ABV 2A preseason ranked Pinckneyville (#1) and Nashville (#3) pummeled the Bulldogs.

In the other four defeats Sparta was competitive, losing to Christopher, 2A Chester, 2A Trico and 2A Carlyle, whom they opened the season with a 56-51 overtime loss.

Six-foot guard Carlos Keen along with 6-foot-4 senior Kerry Harris are the team leaders for the Bulldogs.

Sparta owns wins over 1A teams Steeleville, Galatia and Marissa-Coulterville.

Steeleville has beaten both Cobden and Marissa-Coulterville, teams seeded higher than Sparta.

The Red Bud Musketeers and head coach CJ Cruser come into the tournament with a 3-4 mark after starting the year 0-3.

They have victories over 1A highly regarded Cairo along with Cahokia Conference rivals Valmeyer and Dupo.

The losses were to 2A teams Massac County, DuQuoin and Carmi-White County; all three at the DuQuoin “Tip-Off Classic” to open the campaign.

Coach Cruser has two kids averaging double-figures in scoring; 6-foot-1 guards Carter Wiegard and Alex Kueker.

Wiegard is at 14.1 points a night while Kueker is just over 10 points a game.

Bryce Amman, a 6-foot-4 junior, and 5-foot-11 senior Jaden Birkner along with 6-foot-3 sophomore Max Diewald have all played important minutes this season, as have other reserves 6-foot-2 juniors Wyatt Cowell and Max Simpson.

New Athens enter the event at 5-4, with the victories against Waltonville, Waterloo Gibault, Dupo, Father McGivney and Lebanon.

The defeats came against Christopher, Norris City-Omaha-Enfield, Odin and Valmeyer.

Coach Conrad Widdersheim gets points and production from his seniors; 6-foot-2 veteran point guard Joe Range and 6-foot senior Dylan Boone.

Range comes into the tournament averaging 18.1 points a game while Boone is at 11 p.p.g.

Noah Lintker, a 6-foot-2 senior, 5-foot-10 senior Owen Whitworth and 6-foot-1 junior center Ryan Juenger have played in all nine of the Yellow Jackets' games.

The Johnston City Indians came into the 2019-20 season without much varsity experienced and it has showed through 10 games.

After dropping their first nine contests, Coach Scott Burzynski's club got an important win on the road December 21st 57-48 over Vienna.

Without a senior on the roster the Indians are in a rebuilding for the future mode.

Austin Brown is an athletic 6-foot-1 sophomore who has played well for JC.

Six-foot junior Braden Watts and 5-foot-11 junior Jordan Wininger, along with 6-foot-5 junior forward Michael DeJarnett, are part of the process.

With the schedule they have faced, they are not without a chance of picking up a win or two this week.

Waltonville is a very respectable 5-3 on the season as head coach Anthony Lowery picked up a couple of early season wins and a consolation championship at the Christopher Turkey Tournament.Six-foot-three senior Dillon Banach and 5-foot-11 Reagan Newell have been the main cogs for the Spartans, who have wins over Webber Township, Zeigler-Royalton, Ramsey, Sandoval and Christ Our Rock Lutheran.

New Athens, Norris City-Omaha-Enfield and Woodlawn have been the losses, with a 60-35 decision at home to the rival Cardinals on December 21st the most recent.

Zeigler-Royalton began the season with a new coach and have played well enough to have a 4-5 mark.

Coach Jimmy Stevens, a former Tornadoes' player, has led the club to wins over Thompsonville, Webber Township, Shawnee and Vienna, a 66-64 overtime win.

Losses have come against Odin, Goreville, Sesser-Valier, Waltonville and Norris City-Omaha-Enfield.

Z-R is led by 6-foot-7 junior forward Gannon Dollins, who is now in his third season on the Tornadoes' varsity.

Junior Landon Bate and sophomore Joe Earl have been a big part of the Z-R resurgence.

The Galatia Bearcats are 0-7 on the season with most of the losses coming in lopsided ways.

Coach Rod Wallace has 5-foot-10 senior guard Braxton Lane and 5-foot-11 sophomore guard Zane Carlile.

Century (3-7) has wins over Vienna, Shawnee and Dongola and defeats to Cobden, Eldorado, Mounds Meridian (2), Carrier Mills-Stonefort, Agape Christian and Egyptian.

Thompsonville, after a school record breaking season in 2018-19, opened this campaign at 0-10.

Senior Corbin Fitch and junior Grady Furlow led the Tigers.

According to the official 2019-20 roster, both Fitch and Furlow are listed as shorter in height than they were a season ago.

Perhaps there is something in the water system in the eastern part of Franklin County?

Or maybe Rick Moranis showed up to do a remake of the Disney classic "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids?" (wink).