Bulldogs look to defend title
Top-seed St. Anthony will face worthy challengers
Shelbyville, Flora, Pana, host Vandals

VANDALIA - The 57th annual Vandalia Holiday Tournament has gone through some changes over the years but the bottom line is that there will be a champion crowned on Friday night December 29th that will be deserving.

Defending tournament champion Effingham St. Anthony is the prohibitive favorite to take the honors back to the North Side of town as they return a wealth of experienced talent to the event.

Head coach Cody Rincker, the ABV 1A Coach of the Year from 2016-17, used this tournament to springboard his Bulldogs into a second half of the season which eventually brought them home the school's first boy's basketball state championship.

Although the Dawgs are missing their top player from last season (Drew Gibson) everyone else who was on the roster a season ago has returned.

Coach Rincker has his club sitting at 8-2 on the year. The only two losses came at the hands of 3A Highland back in November in the St. Anthony Thanksgiving Tournament and an overtime loss at 1A conference rival Dieterich, 68-62, back on December 15 on the road.

The victories are against 1A teams Okaw Valley, CH-BC, and St. Elmo-Brownstown; 2A wins against Robinson, Newton and Sullivan. They also hold a decision over crosstown rival 3A Effingham.

Senior Alex Deters, a 6-foot-2 forward, is averaging almost 17 points a game for the Bulldogs this season.

Adam Levitt, also a senior, adds 10.7 to the scoring per outing totals.

Six-foot-two Jack Nuxoll (8.2 p.p.g.) and 5-foot-11 Cade Walsh (6.4 p.p.g.) are both seniors.

Walsh runs the show for the Bulldogs' offense as he has dished out 6.1 assists a contest.

Six-foot-four Alex Beesley is also producing for St. Anthony (5.2 p.p.g.) as well as teammates 6-foot-5 sophomore Jacob Dust and 6-foot-5 senior Brandon Runge, each averaging around four points a night.

Add the names 6-foot-2 Luke Ludwig and 5-foot-9 Quinton Milleville (both juniors) to the list of players at Coach Rincker's disposal.

Junior Ben Strullmyer, a 5-foot-9 guard, and 6-foot-4 junior Bryson Wall provide minutes as well.

This deep, talented squad will be tough to handle at the VHT.

The Shelbyville Rams started the season with eight-straight wins before finally tasting defeat, losing to Petersburg PORTA 53-50 at a shootout on Saturday afternoon, December 23.

The Rams have one of the more prolific scorers in the state in 6-foot-4 senior swingman Malcolm Miller.

Miller is netting an impressive 26.7 points an outing so far for the unbeaten Rams.

His teammates are also putting up some good stats with Turner Pullen, a 6-foot-3 senior, adding 14.3 points a contest.

Six-foot-three sophomore Kentrell Beck is at nearly double-figures with 9.5 points per.

Kade Kull, a 6-foot-1 freshman, is tossing in 8.8 points per game while 6-foot senior guard Brett Spears adds 7.3 points in the games so far.

The Rams sport other victories over Altamont, Okaw Valley, Pana, Windsor-Stewardson-Strasburg, Decatur Lutheran, Hillsboro and Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond.

Coach Phil Leib has his Flora Wolves playing well so far in 2017-18.

His club lost their opening contest of the season to Okawville at the Carlyle Kaskaskian Classic and then put together a six-game win streak.

They finished third at Carlyle by beating Carlyle, Hillsboro and 3A Freeburg, and then proceeded to topple 2A teams Edwards County, Lawrenceville and ABV ranked Mt. Carmel before losing a road conference game at Marshall 50-35 back on December 15.

The Wolves are a senior led club with five of them in the starting line up.

Coach Leib mentioned 6-foot-1 senior Trenton Brown who is topping the team with nearly 20-points a contest.

Drew Woodrow, a 6-foot-4 senior, is in the 15-points a night range for Flora.

Five-foot-ten guard Landon Carder dishes out the assists for the Wolves (5 a.p.g., 7 p.p.g.) while 6-foot-2 senior forward Owen Leib, the coach's son, is seven-and-seven when it comes to points and rebounds per game.

Logan Moss, a 6-foot-4 center, is contributing in the lane for Coach Leib (five p.p.g., five r.p.g.)

Flora has a couple of players who come off the bench for minutes; 5-foot-10 senior Drew Hout, 6-foot junior Nick Schafer and 5-foot-10 Ty Warren.

The host Vandalia Vandals are not without chances in this tournament.

Head coach Brian Buscher has his team sitting at 5-4 on the season heading into the event, although they have dropped their last three after having put together a five-game winning streak.

Nathan Casey, a 6-foot-3 senior, is one of the leaders on the club.

Five-foot-eleven senior Garett NcNary and 5-foot-9 junior Blake Morrison are contributors along with 6-foot-2 senior Ethan Ferguson, 5-foot-11 senior Scott Shulman, along with 5-foot-7 Bryce Dunn.

Vandalia, after a season-opening defeat to Altamont, have wins over Litchfield, South Central, Gillespie, Carlyle and Ramsey.

But there are also disappointing losses to St. Elmo-Brownstown and Mulberry Grove in back-to-back games at the St. Elmo Holiday Tournament.

They followed that up with a close loss to Greenville, 49-45, on Friday, December 22.

The Pana Panthers are another of the teams in this tournament that look to be a factor.

In the long history of this event, the Panthers have always been in the hunt and they were second place finishers in the last one in 2016.

Coach Adam Metzger, a former player at his alma mater, leads the Panthers into the event with a 3-5 record against some good teams, including one of the entrants in this tournament.

The wins are against South Central Conference rivals Roxana, Carlinville and Staunton.

But the losses are also to some tough ones, Nokomis, Central A&M, Shelbyville, Hillsboro, and 3A Mattoon, a 90-55 loss from last Friday night.

Pana has some kids that can score with Jacob Beeson, a 5-foot-11 senior, who is leading the way with 12.7 points per game.

Jared Beyers, a 5-foot-11 junior, is adding 11.1 a night for the Panthers.

Jack Armstrong, a 6-foot-1 junior, is also putting up offensive numbers (9.1 p.p.g.) for Coach Metzger.

Sophomore 6-foot-2 Jonah Lauff (9.7 p.p.g.) and 6-foot-4 sophomore Brevin Blackwell (6.9 p.p.g.) pitch in points.

Beeson and Beyers are each averaging around three assists a game.

Bryce Edmiston, a 5-foot-7 guard, and 6-foot-2 forward Drake Spracklen are sophomores who have played some important minutes so far.

Coach Jamie VanScyoc at South Central brings his club into the VHT at 4-5 on the season.

His top scorer is 5-foot-10 senior guard Trent Geiler, who is throwing down 15.6 points a contest for the Cougars.

Junior Logan Lotz, a 5-foot-8 guard, is right at 10 points a game.

Six-foot-two sophomore Hunter Brandt is averaging 8.4 p.p.g., while Ryan McCown, a 5-foot-10 senior, is at 8.5 p.p.g. McCown is also at 5.8 rebounds a game as is Geiler.

Five-foot-ten Ryan Matheny tosses in 7.1 points a game while 5-foot-10 sophomore Ean Fox is at 4.5 p.p.g.

South Central produced three wins in the opening week at the Mulberry Grove Thanksgiving Tournament (Patoka, Sandoval, Mt. Olive) and they have one other win over Christ Our Rock Lutheran.

The losses are to Mulberry Grove, St. Elmo-Brownstown, Vandalia, Altamont and Odin.

Father McGivney has already surpassed last season's win total as the Griffins are 4-9 heading into this tournament.

Head coach Rich Beyers is all too familiar with the surroundings at Vandalia High School, having played in this event as a prep back at Shelbyville when he helped lead the Rams to the 1996 Class A state title.

After going 2-26 in the inaugural varsity season in 2016-17, Father McGivney, which is located in Glen Carbon, Illinois, Coach Beyers has his program moving forward.

Senior Logan Shumate, a 6-foot-5 forward, paces Father McGivney with 15.0 p.p.g., and along with 6-foot-5 senior Alex Loeffler, with 11.3 p.p.g., are putting up good offensive numbers.

Sophomore Kellen Weir and senior Dan Jones are both guards who are right at six-points a game for Coach Beyers.

The Griffins wins have come against Ramsey and Patoka, at the Mulberry Grove Thanksgiving Tournament, Griggsville-Perry and Brussels.

They have defeats at the hands of Mt. Olive, St. Elmo-Brownstown, Patoka, Marissa-Coulterville, Barry Western, Greenfield, Trenton-Wesclin and East Alton-Wood River.

The two teams that will fill out the remaining spots are Ramsey and the Vandalia JV squad.

Due to a scheduling issue, one of the teams expected to be in the event couldn't be there so the junior Vandals will fill the spot.

The Ramsey Rams are 4-7 on the season with wins over Sandoval, Decatur Christian, Patoka and Cowden-Herrick-Beecher City, a 52-49 win on December 1.

But one of the losses was a 66-36 loss to CH-BC in the rematch at the St. Elmo Holiday Tournament.

The other defeats have come at the hands of Father McGivney, Mt. Olive, St. Elmo-Brownstown, Martinsville, Elverado and Vandalia.