SOUTHERN ILLINOIS "RIVER-TO-RIVER"
Conference Battles, top to bottom in R2R
Nash, Pinck look tough again in Miss; Ohio has Herrin leading wide-open race
BY JACK BULLOCK
The Southern Illinois River-to-River Conference has put someone in the state finals in Peoria in six of the last eleven seasons of 2A boy's basketball.

It is not as an impressive of a record as it was during the two-class system, but it does show the overall talent level produced by this powerhouse league on both sides of the conference.

From 1993-94, the year that the conference began, to 2006-07 (the final year of two-class basketball) there were 14 Carbondale Class A Supersectional's played.

Of the 28 possible teams playing in those “Sweet 16” games, the River-to-River Conference represented 19 of those teams.

Of those 14 contests, this league had the winner in 11 of those games.

Mississippi Division champion Pinckneyville reached the final four last year, and ended up in fourth place with a 31-5 overall mark.

The Panthers sent away some good players but return some key youngsters.

The future is, as always, very bright in this part of Perry County.

Coach Bob Waggoner has been very successful running the Panthers' program.

However Pinckneyville has a key injury to one of the top returning players who may miss extended time as the campaign begins in November.

Just up the road (Rt. 127) to the north into Washington County is Nashville, the Panthers most consistent opposition in the Mississippi.

Head coach Wayne Harre took over the troops last season after a very successful run as the program's girl's coach.

The Hornets have a lot of talent returning to try and turn the tables on Pinckneyville.

Anna-Jonesboro, and ABV 2A “Coach of the Year” Mike Chamness, produced the best mark in the school's history last winter, going for a school record (23-9) in wins and taking home the first regional championship since 2004.

Du Quoin has a new coach in place this season with Jason James taking over the Indians' program after Justin Barrington left.

The Indians will be missing a key transfer heading into 2018-19.

Vast improvement at the end of the season has folks in Sparta much happier.

Coach Jon Norton, after a rough start, got the Bulldogs playing well late in the season that ended at 8-22.

The Carterville Lions also struggled to get wins last season for head coach Shane Hawkins, as they fell to just a 3-27 mark.

Coach Hawkins is hoping for some improvement and some good health this season as injuries took down some key players a year ago.

Graduation took some of the kids but the ones back will play hard for this coach or not at all. That's a given.

The Hornets and Panthers always battle for Mississippi supremacy and this season will be no different.

As for the Ohio Division side the one thing that stands out, and hurts four of the schools, is that their large enrollment forces them to play in the 3A state tournament.

Benton this season is the smallest 3A school at 547 students while Herrin, Massac and Murphysboro have even more than that.

While playing some good competition during the regular season, these “Ohio Players” have large hurdles to clear when it comes to getting out of a 3A regional.

Herrin is the consensus choice among the coaches as second year head coach Sayler Shurtz after his team posted a 12-18 mark and 4-6 in the Ohio.

The Tigers have some talented kids back that look to improve after losing out in the first round of the Mt. Vernon 3A Regional to the host Rams.

Benton and head coach Ron Winemiller sent away a core of players that went 25-6 and 9-1 last winter after a loss to eventual supersectional qualifier Marion in the regional semi-finals.

Massac County battled injuries last winter, with a 13-16 mark and an early postseason exit.

Coach Joe Hosman has over 700-wins and you don't get to that number without being able to rebuild.

Harrisburg lost a lot of players, including one of the top players in the South with Isaiah Salisbury graduating last spring.

Coach Randy Smithpeters is another long time head coach who knows how to rebuild.

Head coach Daryl Murphy always seems to get a lot done at Murphysboro, as each season the Red Devils are in the running for postseason runs.

West Frankfort has a new mentor as Evan Wyllie moves over from Norris City-Omaha-Enfield.

Wyllie inherits some talent to work with as the Redbirds look to improve.

Like Massac, Benton and Herrin, the 3A regionals are tough ones to get out of.

Herrin looks like the likely champ but none of these teams can be counted out.

For complete team-by-team previews, click on the team links below.

MISSISSIPPI DIVISION
OHIO DIVISION
ABV Projected Order Of Finish
ABV Projected Order Of Finish