66th annual event starts Saturday
Host Indians, defending champs Red Hill, lead balanced field
North Clay, Crab Orchard look strong
WAYNE CITY – The phrase “wide open” is often used in an assessment of a upcoming tournament and high school basketball is no different.

If you put that moniker on the 66th annual Conrad Allen Wayne City Holiday Tournament, you wouldn't be wrong.

The field is set and the pairings are laid out in what looks to be a very good week of competitive games, culminating with a championship day on Saturday, December 21.

Split into two pools of four, the eight combatants look to be the most balanced field in recent memory.

The top teams by won-loss record are in the same pool and will actually meet each other on the first night.

The host Wayne City Indians (6-1) have just a single defeat, a 75-69 decision to Christopher at the Christopher Thanksgiving Tournament on November 30.

The wins have come against Thompsonville, Norris City-Omaha-Enfield, Christ Our Rock Lutheran, Grayville and, most recently, a 54-41 win over Wayne County rival Cisne on December 10.

Coach Jim Corona leads the Indians and he has weapons a plenty.

The guards are solid with Travis Dickey, who's a team leader and a 6-foot-1 senior.

He is a varsity veteran.

Taj McKinney, a sophomore guard, started as a freshman at WC.

Kaiden Taylor came back home to Wayne City the past summer after starting for rival Webber Township last winter.

He is a 6-foot-5 senior forward.

Coach Corona also has Marcus Durham, Jack Giacomo and Darren Duwez, all of whom are seniors who handle important duties.

Crab Orchard will head to the tournament with a 9-1 mark after picking up a Friday night conference win over Galatia.

Coach Jon Brown and his program have been a long time member of this tournament and they have a couple of championships (2009, 2011) to show for their run here.

This is a senior led Trojans' club with Hunter Throgmorton, Tony Lakotich, and Grady Powell with a lot of experience in varsity games.

Kegan Peek and Quentin Meyers are juniors for the Trojans, who have just a single blemish on the won-loss mark, a 58-50 defeat on December 3 to Norris City-Omaha-Enfield.

Crab Orchard ran the table in claiming their own Turkey Tournament title with wins over Elverado, Egyptian, Pope County, Joppa-Maple Grove and Dongola.

They have also taken care of fellow WCHT team Gallatin County, Pope County for a second time, and the host Warriors at the Patoka Shootout last Saturday.

Gallatin County is another part of Pool A in the event as the Hawks and new head coach Craig Utterback.

Losing four starters from a season ago, this team has struggled early on.

Dawson Hish, a 6-foot-1 senior, is the lone starter back and he is carrying a lot of the scoring load for the Hawks so far.

They come into the event 1-5 with just a win over Grayville to open the season.

The five straight losses have come to Carmi-White County, Egyptian, Eldorado, Crab Orchard and Norris City-Omaha-Enfield.

Webber Township enters the tournament with a 3-5 mark coming off of a win over Thompsonville on Friday night.

The Trojans' triumphs have come against Thompsonville (twice) and Agape Christian.

They have lost to Christopher, Elverado, Zeigler-Royalton, Waltonville and Odin.

Senior's Dalton Adcock, Peyton Hill, and Levi Wilson are the vets while Seth Hamerski is a sophomore guard who is part of the mix along with freshman Eli Marlow.

Pool B has defending champion Red Hill returning with a younger team than the veterans who took home the title in 2018.

The Salukis are just 3-5 on the young season, with victories over Cisne, Edwards County and Hutsonville-Palestine.

The losses all came from large schools; Lawrenceville, Fairfield, Salem and Olney Richland twice, including a loss on Friday night to the Tigers.

Five-foot-eleven junior Camren Ray, 6-foot-4 junior Drake Allen, 6-foot-2 sophomore Anthony Jerrell and 6-foot-7 senior Nathan Wirth are the top ones for the Salukis heading into the event as a real threat to defend the title.

The ABV “sleeper team” to watch for are the North Clay Cardinals, who come in after battling some good teams on the way to a 3-3 mark.

Coach Josh Zink and his club opened the campaign with three consecutive losses to ABV and state-ranked 1A clubs.

Woodlawn, Effingham St. Anthony and Casey-Westfield all defeated the Cardinals before Coach Zink and his team got wins over Mulberry Grove and St. Elmo-Brownstown.

They picked up a big road win over Newton Friday night and are on a three-game win streak.

Six-foot-one senior Luke Fleener, 6-foot Tyson Jones and 5-foot-10 junior Ethan Bible are stalwarts on a club that could do some serious damage this week and they could end up hauling home the "Big Trophy."

The Cardinals, and the Salukis, have faced difficult schedules so far which have them both prepared.

Cisne is also in Pool B and head coach Kevin Bowen brings his team into the tournament with a 2-5 mark, with a win over Arthur Christian at the Neoga Shootout and a road win at Oblong.

The defeats have come against Wayne City, Red Hill, Edwards County, and Dieterich.

Six-foot-four junior Connor Brach is one of the Runnin' Lions top players.

Brendan Potter, a 6-foot junior, along with 5-foot-4 junior Jace Hatcher are also contributors.

Grayville enters the tournament with a 1-3 mark with a victory over Sandoval as their lone win.

They have losses against Wayne City, Gallatin County and Edwards County.

Six-foot-five junior Brayden Hatcher, along with 5-foot-10 seniors Cole Neeley and Kenneth Funkhouser, are the Bison top players for Coach Torin Lee.