VIDEO & ARCHIVES: 80th Annual NTC Tournament


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All 14 games of the NTC Tournament were live-streamed via our You Tube Channel.

Eighty years, how time flies by. The National Trail Conference Boys Basketball Tournament turns 80 this year and 10 teams will be vying for the championship beginning Monday in the week-long event at Altamont High School. CLICK HERE for a printable tournament bracket.

Just for perspective, when the founders started the NTC Tournament 80 years ago, the cost of gas was 10 cents. A house was $530 while cost for a car was $650. Babe Ruth hit his 714th and final career home run. The United States was still suffering through the depression and Franklin Roosevelt was president. This was the year Mickey Mouse first appeared in color and the Monopoly game was invented. Folks could attend a new college venue, the Orange Bowl. One of the big songs of the day? Shirley Temple's On The Good Ship Lollipop and Elvis Presley was born.

We recently had Altamont and area historian Kurt Becker on The Morning Show discussing the history of the tournament. Audio from that interview is below.

Since that time 80 years ago, the noise of the cheers and the sound of basketballs have continued as strong as ever and this year's contingent is expected to give as good a show as in years' past.

Dieterich drew the No. 1 seed as the Moving' Maroons are having an outstanding season with a perfect 20-0 record overall and 6-0 in the NTC. Drawing No. 2 was Effingham St. Anthony followed by Altamont, Cowden-Herrick, St. Elmo/Brownstown, South Central, Stewardson-Strasburg, Beecher City, Windsor and Neoga.

Last year's champion was Altamont as the Indians downed St. Anthony 49-38 in the title game. Third place went to Dieterich over Neoga 58-41 and the consolation championship was claimed by St. Elmo/Brownstown with a 63-37 win over Beecher City.

Following is a rundown on each team:


Dieterich looks to be strong with just one loss to graduation. The squad won a regional and picked up its first sectional title ever before losing in the super-sectional at SIU. The Maroons lost to Altamont in overtime to play for third place.

Coach Jeff Staser talked about his squad and what the NTC Tournament means.

"It's a very special tournament. If you don't bring your team in every night ready to go, somebody will knock you off. I think we run the floor well and we

shoot the ball really well. We play as a team and have three or four guys in double figures. Everybody contributes from a scoring perspective so we're hard to guard.

"Devin Aherin, a 6-foot-6 senior and Travis Niemerg, a 6-foot-6 junior, start in post and they're both very quick. They cover a lot of ground. Offensively, Devin averages around 10 points and Travis eight. Lance Niemerg, a 6-foot-0 junior, runs the three spot for us. Pound-for-pound he is the best rebounder. He's averaging a little bit over eight boards a game.

"Nick Feldhake, a 6-foot-1 junior, is a shooting guard and runs the show for us. Alex Bohnhoff, a 6-foot-0 senior, is averaging 17 points a game for us and gives us senior leadership. Our bench includes Marshall Mellendorf, who spells the big guys, and Clayton Campton and Cody Gephart who spell the guards."


St. Anthony drew the No. 2 seed for Coach Cody Rincker who played in the NTC Tournament for Stew-Stras during his high school career.

"We have several different stating lineups this season. But, recently we have started Connor Green who has been battling back from an injury that occurred the first week of the season. He started off the year strong with a 21 point performance and is looking to find a groove here in the middle of the season that will carry out the rest of the season. Kyle Hartke started off the year from the bench and has been shooting the ball and handling the ball better as of late. I look for him to continue his aggressive play and good decision-making throughout the tournament.

"Andrew Gardewine has been our most consistent scorer and player. He can give us a spark either offensively or defensively with his athleticism. He leads us in scoring with around 11 points a game. Derek Rios has very good size and strength. He is our leading rebounder and defensive anchor in the middle. Zach Gardeiwine is a senior leader and captain. He does a lot of the little things for us that makes us a quality ball club.

"Nick Grunloh, James Kabbes, Jeff Niebrugge and Chandler Martelli are instrumental in our success with their ability to come and give us a huge lift and not drop off. That is a big key for our team.

"We have been improving throughout the year. We have lost a few close ones that have been frustrating and with a different bounce here and there our record could be a little more impressive. But, we have learned from our mistakes and are working hard to improve and that is all I can ask of them. I think if we take it one game at a time and give our best effort at accomplishing what we can that day, then we will give ourselves a chance to compete in every ball game.

"You can't sleep on any team when it comes tournament time, but I definitely think Altamont and Dieterich are the top teams. They each have some very talented players and quality coaches. If we get the opportunity we will be excited for the challenge."


Altamont is the No. 3 seed. Coach John Niebrugge has been guiding the Indians in the right direction. Coach Niebrugge had a 48-13 record in his first two years at the helm and has the Indians at 13-5 this season.

Niebrugge commented on his players.

"Ryan Armstrong, a sophomore, averages 19.4 points a game, 3.6 rebounds 3.8 assists and 2.9 steals. We go as Ryan goes right now. He can score obviously, but he also runs our offense and defense. He's shooting 46% from threes, but has a great midrange jump shot. And when he gets fouled, he's shooting 74% from the line. The sky is limit right now for Ryan.

"Klaiton Wolff, a junior, is averaging 11.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.2 steals. Klaiton has made a smooth transition from a smallish post player to a wing. He can use his big frame to finish inside still. In 18 games, he has taken 13 charges and has 41 deflections. He is willing to give up his body for the sake of the team. He just has very good court awareness, especially defensively.

"Justin Goeckner is our main defensive stopper and usually guards the best player on the other team. He does the little things for us and provides some senior leadership.

"Junior Adam Mayhaus averages 14.4 points and 5.3 rebounds. Adam has stepped up and been a very consistent scorer for us. At 6-foot-3, he can take the opposing post outside and shoot the three at 34%, but then if you guard him too close, he is able to put the ball on the floor and finish as he is a very good athlete.

"At 6-foot-5 with long arms and a freshman, Brandon Runge found himself in the starting lineup in the St. Elmo Holiday Tournament and he has responded nicely. He is still growing into his body, but he hasn't backed down from the likes of the other varsity posts. He protects our rim with our defense.

"As of now, we are still playing like a team with minimum varsity experience. We have yet to put a full 32 minutes of basketball together yet. When that time comes, we will be tough. We play really well for stretches, but then come out flat at times. That's what happens with young players most of the time. Eventually though, that excuse has to go away and I believe it will. Hopefully it begins with the NTC tournament.

"At the beginning of the year, we expected to play in the Saturday night game in the tournament. That is always our goal. We have to go through South Central for the fourth time this year, which is never easy. Next, St. Anthony and hopefully Dieterich, which we've lost to both already. St. Anthony will be tough as Coach Rincker makes the boys play extremely tough. Dieterich, at 20-0 coming in, is obviously the team to beat. With their length and shooting ability, they are a tough matchup. And who knows, St. Elmo/Brownstown and Cowden-Herrick have enough talent to surprise a team.

"As always, it should be a great week of basketball in, in my opinion, the best basketball gym in small town Illinois."


The Hornets are 11-5 on the season and 5-1 in the NTC. A good turn-around from last season's 6-21 record. Coach Marc Bain's crew lost just one senior and return some good talent.

"Colton is averaging 19 points per game. Konner Blackerby averages 12.5 points per game, Dylan Barnes 6.8 rebounds per game, Tray Pasley 9 points, 5 rebounds per game.

"Our defense and free throw shooting our two of our biggest strengths. We are playing well right now and any of the top six seeds in the tournament are very good on any given night."

Colton Burrus is back for the Hornets after leading them last season with a 16 point average. He now brings back that senior leadership and leads the team with 19 points a contest. Also a senior, Dylan Barnes, who leads the Hornets in rebounds with 6.8 per game. Another senior is Carson Lorton, 6-foot-5.

Juniors include Colton Sphar, who starts at guard and Trey Pasley, who is a starting forward. Pasley averages nine points and five rebounds a contest.

Sophomore Konner Blackerby has stepped forward and is averaging 12.5 points a game.


Last season was the first time St. Elmo and Brownstown co-oped in boys basketball and they finished with a 15-13 overall record. Coach Greg Feezel reached his 100th career victory at the school.

The Eagles lost two players, Levi Maxey and Jacob Behrends, who scored a total of 845 points between the pair last season. But three starters are back.

Senior Cole Smithson, a 6-foot-3 forward, juniors Malachai Maxey, Brock Oberlink and Kyle Hardimon and sophomore Landon Feezel are the starting lineup for St. Elmo//Brownstown. Maxey averages 12.7 points a game while Feezel is at 11.3 points and 9.1 rebounds. Hardimon is averaging 8.8 points a contest and 6.1 rebounds. Smithson is the top defender on the squad.

"We hope to at least hold our seed (5) or better it in this tournament," said Coach Greg Feezel. "Dieterich is the favorite, undefeated and ranked second in the state . . . enough said!"

The Eagles come into the meet with a 4-2 NTC mark and a 6-12 overall record.


Coach Rick Simmons and his squad went through a rough year last season, winning only three games and going without a victory in the NTC. This time around, they have improved to 6-11 overall and stand at 1-3 in the conference.

"At present we are still inconsistent. We need to cut down on turnovers and eliminate trying to force passes into areas where openings do not exist. We are capable of playing with most anyone in the tournament on a given night, but we have to prove that on the court

"Dieterich, St. Anthony and Altamont all pose tremendous threats to win the tournament.  

"Evan Langley is our leading scorer averaging 13 points a game and also is our leading rebounder averaging 7.6. Brett Harmeier averages around 10 points a game and Drew Hill around 8.7 points. Noah Powless averages around 5.5 points and about five rebounds.

"Jace Wilkins handles the point and is our floor general. He has done a great job of getting us into our offenses and distributing the ball. Chase Riley, Gavin Ratermann and Dylen Peters have done an excellent job off the bench. Each has provided us with essential efforts that have allowed us to sub freely and give everyone adequate amounts of rest. Each continues to battle for starting time which keeps our practices competitive."


Two starters came back from a Stew-Stras team that finished 3-6 in the NTC and 10-15 overall last season. Coach Shane Smith's squad currently has a 5-12 overall record.

"Our scoring fluctuates. Mark Jones, a senior, is generally in double figures and any one of Josh Overbeck, Ted Kessler and Aaron Blythe score in double figures but usually not on the same night.

"Our defense and rebounding are generally pretty good. We generally have one horrendous quarter of scoring that has put us behind the eight-ball."

Jones, a senior, averages 11.1 points a contest to lead the Comets. Blythe averages 7.4 points and lead in rebounding with 6.5 a contest. Kessler is at 7.1 points and 5.4 rebounds. Overbeck averages 6.5 a game.

"We are hoping to put it all together during the tourney. We have been right in our last eight games, but not finished well, leaving us 3-5 in the last eight. Between teams number 4 through 10, it is wide open on who will be moving on to play on Saturday."


Coach Jason Eirhart's squad hasn't picked up a National Trail Conference win yet this season with an 0-4 mark and the Eagles stand at 2-12 overall. But, anything can happen if a team gets hot at the NTC Tournament.

"If we can get some some guys to step up and score and we can take care of the ball, we could have a good NTC tournament. We are still learning what it takes to win and play together as a team. I feel we have the talent to be better than what our 2-12 record would indicate. I am really looking forward to the tournament and the opportunity to get better."

The starting unit changes from game to game but Beecher City's leader is Jackson Bales, a senior point guard and junior Austin Rexroad, who leads the team in scoring.

"We usually go 9-10 deep. Jackson is a really good defender that can get to the basket. Junior Austin Rexroad is my leading scorer and one of my top rebounders. He usually plays one of the forward positions. Junior Daniel Harder is my 6-foot-5 center that can give us some much needed offense on the inside. He can rebound the ball pretty well.

"Junior Austin Stefanski is a solid player that doesn't make very many mistakes. He is a much better scorer than what he has shown so far this year. Battles hard inside. Senior Austin Shelton works very hard and defends pretty well. Senior Brady Randall has a lot of great skills that make the team better. Passes and rebounds well. He can score a little if he makes up his mind to do so.

"Juniors Westen Giles and Jake Wills are both guards that can really give us a spark with their offense or defense. Lance Arnold is a junior who is a really good defender. Cody Grove is a sophomore who can shoot the three and handle the ball for us. Senior Brendan Kemme has been coming on of late. An athletic kid that can get after you on the defensive end. I think we are pretty decent defensively as a team."

Coach Eirhart's picks for the NTC finals.
"Dieterich to me is the obvious favorite. You always have to keep an eye on Altamont and St. Anthony."


The Blue Devils are struggling this season, having picked up only one victory. Coach Silas Pogue's team is 0-3 in the conference and 1-12 overall. Next year, the Blue Devils will co-op with Stewardson-Strasburg.

"As of late, we have been able to play pretty well in each of the first halves that we have played in. Our second half play has not been as successful as we would like it to be. But I definitely like that our kids are staying positive and know that we have some shooters that just have to get hot at the same time, on the same night, and then things will begin to roll for us.

"As for our top players, we place quite a bit of pressure on Tristan Warner, Nic Hutchinson and Mitch Haddock to average about 30-32 minutes each game. To go along with those three are Noah Boyer and Dalton Armes who contribute a lot in terms of physical play and helping us with the rebounding battle each game.

"Right now Tristan is averaging around 18 points per game, as well as four assists and pulling down three to four rebounds per game. Nick is also averaging close to five assists and pulling down four to five rebounds per game. Mitch contributes each night by including seven to eight points per game and pulling down two to three rebounds as well.

"A realistic goal for us in this tournament is to win a game during the tourney. I feel that we have the potential to compete with teams, it is just a matter of whether we can finish a game out for all four quarters.

"I look at Dieterich as the heavy favorite with St. Anthony and Altamont having extremely talented groups as well. I believe Cowden-Herrick has shown immense improvement from the year before, they are not a group to be taken lightly during this fun-filled basketball tournament."


Coach Bob Lockhart's team has fallen on hard times. The Indians lost 19 straight games this season before finally picking up a victory during this past week.

The Indians defeated South Central 47-37 Tuesday. The last victory was a 53-48 win in regional play over Hutsonville-Palestine last season.

Leading the Indians is Luke Baker who tallied a season high 19 points against the Cougars Tuesday. Corey Kersey also hit double digits in that victory with 10 points.

Lockhart, along with his team, has had a rough year, missing the last several weeks due to hernia surgery. But Lockhart is back and set to take his Neoga squad into the NTC Tournament.