GREATER EGYPTIAN CONFERENCE
NCOE looks like the winner
Carrier Mills, Thompsonville look to be the top challengers
Projected Order Of Finish
1. NORRIS CITY-OMAHA-ENFIELD, 2. CARRIER MILLS, 3. THOMPSONVILLE,
4. CRAB ORCHARD, 5. GALLATIN COUNTY, 6. HARDIN COUNTY, 7. GALATIA, 8. POPE COUNTY.
BY JACK BULLOCK
Last season's run by Gallatin County which ended up in an overtime loss to Nokomis at the 1A Carbondale Supersectional was the longest run for an GEC team since Andy Palmer led Pope County to the 1996 Class A Supersectional.
The Hawks run was outstanding in that they represented this area so well throughout the year.
Andrew Drone, the Hawks leading scorer and rebounder at 7-foot tall, was named ABV 1A “Player of the Year” as his numbers were mind-boggling.
He is now getting playing time at Division I Rice University. Head coach Robert “Radar” Patton earned ABV 1A “Coach of the Year.”
But Gallatin County will be missing nearly every key component from that near-Peoria run.
This season, the team to keep an eye on is Norris City-Omaha-Enfield. Coach Bryon Graven has a lot of experience coming back from a successful season.
Carrier Mills and head coach Mark Motsinger always are in the GEC title picture and he will have some kids back ready to go in November.
Thompsonville has a new head coach and some tall kids in the front court.
Hardin County head coach Rodney Lane gets a lot of out his kids and they should be very respectable.
Pope County head coach Jim Simmons lost six seniors to graduation and must rebuild while Galatia head coach Kendell Hankins has four starters returning from a season where they learned things the hard way.
Crab Orchard lost their top player last season to injury but he is back to help lead the Trojans.
ABV believes this is the season that NCOE takes the big prize in this balanced league.
1. NORRIS CITY-OMAHA-ENFIELD
Head coach Bryon Graven used his first season at the school to get used to the area after playing his high school basketball in Auburn, Illinois, where he helped lead his team to Peoria in 2003.
Having just two graduated seniors to replace (Seth Halfacre and Dylan Martin) look for this coach to get this team headed toward a 20-win season an a potential conference championship.
Three seniors are ready to suit up as the Fighting Cardinals head to the Grayville Thanksgiving Tournament as one of the favorites.
Six-foot-three senior forward Dakota Wheeler is back. Wheeler is the top returning scorer having averaged 10.4 points a game. He was second on the team in rebounding with 6.2 r.p.g.
Cole Tucker, a 5-foot-9 senior guard (9.8 p.p.g.) also returns. He was second on the team with 1.9 assists per outing.
The third senior returning is 6-foot-2 Jacob Taylor (3.1 p.p.g.) for Coach Graven.
Three seniors who can put up numbers helps out everyone else wearing Red and White.
But the NCOE roster has some other kids with varsity tested minutes.
Two of them are juniors with 6-foot guard Blake Karnes (9.3 p.p.g.) and 6-foot-2 forward Kyle Sell (2.7 p.p.g.) coming off good seasons.
Two sophomores who logged hardy minutes on the varsity last season as freshmen are 6-foot guard Chase Sutton (5.5 p.p.g.) and 6-foot-4 Jacob Delp (2.1 p.p.g.) who grew three inches from last season.
Some of the highlights from last season included a nice postseason run which ended with a loss to Gallatin County in the regional final.
They finished second to Cisne at the Grayville Thanksgiving Tournament and third in the GEC Tournament.
The Fighting Cardinals finished 17-11 overall in Coach Graven's first season at the helm.
“We are fortunate to have a good core of players back from last season. We are hoping we can build off of last season, both the positives and the negatives, to be a better team this year,” said Coach Graven. “We should be quicker and physically stronger than we were last year, but we will someone to step up and fill roles that were left vacant by the graduation of Martin and Halfacre. We are going to work hard on the floor and in the weight room to be the best basketball team we can be, focusing on defensive and transition on offense to win ball games.”
OUTLOOK – This team has a chance to make this season a special one. They have a lot of experience and skill. They also have a hard working coach who has won games as a player and a coach. Coaches' kids (His father coached him at Auburn) tend to figure out at a young age how to win and how to teach winning. Not only does this squad have a chance at winning this league, they should also be a major factor in all of their tournaments, including the Eldorado Holiday Tournament. Size, scoring ability, rebounding, defending; these are all things that will need improvement on. The bottom line is that the Fighting Cardinals are the GEC team that the rest will be chasing.
2. CARRIER MILLS
Coach Motsinger reached the 600-win milestone last season, having coached both high school boy's basketball and college women's hoops.
This mentor will have to replace three pretty good seniors from last season, including 6-foot-3 forward Carmeron Taborn. Taborn and 5-foot-7 senior guard Josh Bailey each averaged right at 11 p.p.g. for the 14-12 Wildcats. Taborn averaged a double-double with 10.1 rebounds a game.
Carrier Mills dug themselves a hole the first part of the year, starting 0-6 before rebounding for a nice run to finish second in the GEC.
Coach Motsinger has a senior and four juniors who played a lot last season.
Senior Dalton Summers is a 5-foot-6 senior guard averaged 8.7 points a game last season.
But the top two returning scorers from last season are juniors; 5-foot-9 guard Slayden Figg and 6-foot guard Darrin Betz.
Figg topped the team with 12.2 points a night while Betz added 10.3 p.p.g.
Junior's Gabriel Motsinger, a 6-foot-2 forward, and 6-foot-1 forward Loren Whiting both played important minutes last season as well.
Carrier Mills also has three other juniors in the mix; 5-foot-5 guard Anthony Kalodner, 5-foot-9 Jordan Mitchell and 6-foot-1 Jonah Crowder.
“We will be young and small, our enrollment is down at Carrier Mills. Our senior class is very small,” said Coach Motsinger, who is 603-241 in his 29-years as a head coach. “Opening at Vienna will be trial by fire, our season will depend on it being a learning experience or something that makes us drop our head.”
OUTLOOK – Recovering from that tough start helped shape what will happen this season as many of the kids returning were part of the second half turn around. This team isn't very big and will be guard oriented. That being said, look for the Wildcats to be in the chase of what appears to be a much more evenly matched GEC this year.
3. THOMPSONVILLE
The Tigers have a new head coach as former assistant Mike Henson steps up to take over for Brandon Chaplain who stepped down after last season.
The first order of business for this new coach is to find someone to replace graduated senior guard Brady Householder, who was the team's top scorer from last year as this 5-foot-9 shooting guard helped lead the Tigers to an 18-8 mark overall.
Three returning starters are all in the frontcourt for Thompsonville.
Six-foot-seven senior forward Ryan Darnell is back for the Tigers.
Quentin Hensen is a 6-foot-6 senior while Lance Darnell rounds out the paint patrol.
This makes them one of the taller frontcourts in the 1A Deep South.
Kiefer Payne is a 5-foot-8 senior who will also see some court time.
Tyler Parkhill and Tate Kerley are also back. Parkhill is a 5-foot-11 senior while Kerley is 5-foot-9.
There were three sophomores on the team last season that are now juniors.
Six-foot Jarett Murphy and 6-foot-2 freshman Timmy Henson round out the roster.
“Our conference in my opinion is wide open. It is hard to rank because you have any team can beat anyone on any given night. It is going to be a great season for our conference,” said Coach Henson. “We have senior leadership. I plan to lean on our seniors to get the job done. Our younger kids have improved and I am looking forward to a great season.”
OUTLOOK – Inexperience in the backcourt is one of the factors that will work against the Tigers. But as the season goes forward, look for the guards to get better. The schedule starts off with the Christopher Thanksgiving Tournament which will be three games that will test the young Tigers. They should be in the race for this league title.
4. CRAB ORCHARD
The Trojans dropped to just 6-23 overall last season, a campaign in which their top player got hurt and missed most of the season.
Caleb Perry broke his leg in the early part of the season but he is back for a senior year. He was averaging 21.4 points a game when he got hurt.
But Coach Jon Brown's club muddled through the winter and now the kids that played a lot should be ready to go in 2013-14.
Only one senior (Ty Bailey) is missing from 2012-13.
So the good news is that the ones who worked hard all summer get to play games again this winter.
Coach Brown will have some shooters on the squad, that is a given every season.
Perry is a 5-foot-11 senior guard/forward who could, with an exception senior season, reach 1,000-points.
Five-foot-nine senior guard Josh Emery also ended up on the disabled list last season with a knee injury.
Emery averaged right at seven points a contest as a junior.
Gunner Galloway, a 6-foot-2 junior forward, took on a lot of the scoring leadership last season with the injuries. Galloway averaged 14.2 per game as a sophomore.
Five-foot-ten senior forward Tyler Deaton also had a pretty good run as a junior (7.9 p.p.g.) while Lance Hutson, according to Coach Brown, has improved a lot since his freshman year as a point-guard.
“Our team will be small, but we will play hard and shoot the ball,” said Coach Brown, a former ABV “Coach of the Year.” “Without a true center everyone will have to assume extra responsibility in rebounding the basketball.”
OUTLOOK – All of Coach Brown's teams have been fun to watch over the years. They will shoot a lot of shots and get up and down the floor. After a 6-2 beginning of the season, this depleted team struggled late. Look for marked improvement this season for the Trojans.
5. GALLATIN COUNTY
You want to talk about a nice run by a small school, the ride that the Hawks went on the past three seasons was very special.
The senior group that left last season won three straight regionals and won the school's first sectional title.
The defeat at SIU Arena last season was heartbreaking but when the dust settled and the good folks of Gallatin County realized how good of a season that they had, they can now relish in the fact that they set a lot of school records that will likely stand for some time.
Andrew Drone has left the building, taking nearly every offensive and defensive record with him. Points, rebounds and blocked shots are his. Andrew scored 2,459-points, a school record, and hauled in 712-rebounds. He isn't the only one missing from last season as five other seniors bid farewell.
Patrick Lowe, Wes McGuire, Daine Hish, Anthony Storto and Josh Belford also have graduate.
Those six young men combined for over 4,000 career points.
Five-foot-eleven senior Mitchell Ramsey came off the bench last season and he is the only returning player with any sort of varsity experience.
Three other seniors; 6-foot Zack McGuire, 6-foot Jared Jackson and 5-foot-7 Austin Russell, should have some playing time this year.
Marcus Wargel, a 6-foot senior and 6-foot-4 junior Chandler Scates should see some time as will promising 5-foot-10 freshman Seth Ramsey.
“We will be a very inexperienced team,” said Coach Patton. “We'll have trouble scoring early in the year. But this is a great group of kids that work hard and have great attitudes and will be competitive by seasons end.”
OUTLOOK – There isn't much doubt that the 27-4 mark from last season will be safe for the recordbooks for at least one more year. However this group has some promise despite being inexperienced. By season's end, look for the Hawks to be very competitive.
6. HARDIN COUNTY
The Cougars came back to the pack last season after a 2011-12 season that saw some firsts for the program.
They won their first ever Eldorado Holiday Tournament trophy with a consolation championship win and finished with 19-wins.
Last season, with mostly youngsters testing the varsity waters, the Cougars ended up 6-21.
The good news is that most of that team is back with just a lone senior (Dalton Vaughn) missing from that club that lost to NCOE in the regional.
Head coach Rodney Lane has gotten a lot out of this program since he took over three seasons ago.
After a down season, look for rapid improvement.
The Cougars could score last season as they put up some good numbers as a whole.
B.J. Austin returns after leading the team with 14.3 points a game as a sophomore.
Austin is now a 6-foot-1 junior guard who has gotten better and stronger over the summer, according to Coach Lane.
Six-foot-two senior Jeremy Hicks is another of the kids that Coach Lane saw improvement in. Hicks scored at a 9.5 p.p.g. clip and should improve those numbers.
Logan Conn is a 5-foot-10 junior. Conn should be able to provide additional offense from the perimeter. He averaged 6.6 points a night as a sophomore.
Coach Lane is very high on 5-foot-11 junior Tanner Dutton. He didn't play a lot last season but his work ethic over the summer has moved him up the chart for playing time.
“He is the most improved player on the squad,” said Coach Lane.
Skyler Smith, a 5-foot-10 senior guard, didn't play as a sophomore or junior but is back in the fold.
He should also provide some additional scoring.
“Two sophomores; John Rose and Taze Paskon, will get some playing time. The rest are all freshman. Austin Marler a 6-foot-2 freshman has worked extremely hard and look for him to be called on early. Tyler Winters has put the time in this summer and could be right there fighting for a lot of varsity time. Austin Seavers, Kenny Barnes, Cameron Shaw and Craig Hudson round out a solid group of freshmen that should all bid for varsity action,” said Coach Lane.
This mentor won't hesitate to use any of them in varsity games, especially when they play five games during the Crab Orchard Thanksgiving Tournament.
“Coming off of a six-win season, that will give this group a lot of motivation,” said Coach Lane, who played at Hardin County as a prep. “As sophomores and one junior, a year ago we gained a lot of experience and were a lot better by the end of the year. This is a great group of kids on and off of the floor. I can't say enough about their attitude; their respect and the way they represent this school and this community. With two seniors and only three juniors we will look for the underclassmen to step up and come in and make a difference.”
OUTLOOK – ABV projects several more wins than last season because of the experience they gained last season. A wide-open Crab Orchard Tournament to open up the season could produce three or four wins. This group scored a lot last season but turnovers and defense are areas were there needs to be improvement. Look for this quality coach to keep the kids moving forward. The Cougars should be fun to watch.
8. POPE COUNTY
The Pirates graduated nearly every point from 2012-13, a season that finished at 18-10.
Six seniors left the program and Coach Jim Simmons must now rebuild with untested players.
Four seniors and a junior are the only ones left from the squad that won the Crab Orchard Thanksgiving Tournament (tied for the title at 4-1) and then won the Dongola Holiday Tournament. The lost to Gallatin County in the regional semifinals last season.
Five-foot-ten Xaiver Bramlett, 5-foot-10 Colt Vickery, 5-foot-10 Lane Jurgens and 5-foot-11 JD Ward are all seniors while 6-foot-3 junior center Douglass Ferguson round out the returning Pirates.
“Players have to play as a team to overcome our youth,” said Coach Simmons. “Each player must think team not self.”
OUTLOOK – The Pirates should be a hard working crew but the success will have to come in the early tournaments. Ferguson is the only size on the roster. They might climb up to double-digit wins.