Bulldogs Set For Run at Class 1A State Basketball Title


Published on March 9 2017 10:38 am
Last Updated on March 10 2017 6:42 am
Written by Millie Lange

It's been a long time but Effingham St. Anthony fans don't care because that's in the past and they're looking forward to the present when the Bulldogs take on Chicago Hope Academy at the Class 1A State Boys Basketball Tournament Friday.

The last time the Bulldogs were in the Final Four was in 1978 and they finished fourth. The Bulldogs are back in the Final Four and win or lose, they'll be playing again Saturday.

The opponent is Chicago Hope Academy with a 28-3 record at 11 a.m. Friday at Carver Arena in Peoria.

St. Anthony comes into the meeting with a 28-5 record and Coach Cody Rincker is looking for an exciting game.

"We've gotten quite a bit of film on them and looked at their statistics," said Rincker. "They're fairly similiar to us. They have good shooters and good speed. They play pressure defense and they bring it the whole court.  I expect an exciting game. We're going to have to take care of the basketball and take care of the little details."

The Bulldogs are on a five-game winning streak that started at the North Clay Regional with a 64-24 win over Odin. St. Anthony then defeated Grayville 64-45 for the regional title. They moved on to the Nokomis Sectional where they beat Altamont 53-44 and Patoka 66-57. Then it was the Carbondale (SIU) Super-Sectional where they had a tough game, trailing Woodlawn by 13 before coming back for the 52-50 win.

Coach Rincker talked about his five starters and the other valuable members of the squad.

"Drew Gibson is our lone senior," said Rincker. "He's been our leader by example, emotionally and vocally. He understands his role to put pressure on the other team. He's done a great job with that. He also made sure during the season the guys were holding up their end in practice, encouraging them along the way and taking advantage of the opportunities they had.

"Cade Walsh is our point guard. Another guy who has led by example. He is the voice to keep us in our right offensive and defensive plays. He's done a good job of that and he's come up with big plays at the right moment.

"Adam Levitt has up and down scoring nights but gives consistent effort guarding the other team. He's had to step up his game defensively and risen to the occasion each time. He's stepped up in scoring at big moments. Unfortunately he got hurt at super-sectional and is nursing a bum ankle but he'll give us his best.

"Alex Deters is the guy who we give the tough assignment every night and he's never batted an eye. He has stepped up to the challenge. He's been a big shooter for us and our secondary ballhandler. Great toughness and grit when his back's up against the wall.

"Alex Beesley has recently shown his energy on the offensive and defensive glass. He's a great help-side defender. Knows all the plays and helps us execute down the stretch. He had big free throws in post-season and knocked them down.

"Jack Nuxoll is our sixth starter and he's never batted an eye coming in off the bench. He has a great attitude and he'll do whatever is necessary to help the team. He's been a huge lift off the bench.

"Brandon Runge recently returned to action from an injured foot. He brings us great heart, energy and toughness under the hoop. He's had determination to get back from injury and been a big boost down the stretch.

"Luke Ludwig, a sophomore, comes off the bench. He never knows how many minutes he'll see, but he's always ready. He's had to step into crucial situations.

"Wyatt Lawrence is in the same kind of boat as Luke. Never sure when he'll be called upon but when his number is called, he's been ready. He's been the voice on the bench for us, encouraging guys and being there for them.

"Rounding out our roster is Bryson Wall, Quinton Milleville, Ben Strullmyer and Jaccob Dust. Those four guys have seen limited action at times, but they have been so crucial in practice, pushing the guys to be better and be on their A game. I can't say enough about their attitudes. That's what's made us a team. They've never wavered and continue every day to bring that effort."

The Bulldogs have been led by Gibson, a 6-foot-3 senior, with a 21.2 scoring average, 140 rebounds and 60 assists. Deters, a 6-foot-2 junior, is averaging 8.5 points, has 96 rebounds and 84 assists while Nuxoll, a 6-foot-2 junior, is at 8.4 points, 106 rebounds and 61 assists. Also averaging in the eight point range is Levitt, a 6-foot-2 junior, with 8.1. He has 157 rebounds and 40 assists. Walsh, a 5-foot-11 junior, is averaging 5.8 points, has 60 rebounds and leads in the assist department with 185. Beesley, a 6-foot-5 junior, averages 6.1 points per game along with 146 rebounds and 28 assists.

The Bulldogs opened with two wins in their own Turkey Tournament before losing to Effingham 73-66. They then went on a 19 game winning streak before dropping two straight games to Breese Mater Dei and Teutopolis. The other two losses came to Mattoon and Casey-Westfield.

Rincker graduated from Stewardson-Strasburg High School in 2006, went on to play basketball at Lincoln Land Community College two years before walking on at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville to finish out his last two seasons playing there. Rincker took over the reins of the St. Anthony program four years ago and has an 89-38 record. He teaches fifth grade at St. Anthony.

"Overall some of our strengths are our athleticism, length and ability to anticipate the next play especially on defense," said Rincker. "We do a good job of getting after the basketball no matter what defensive scheme we're using. We need to make sure we finish on rebounds.

"Offensively we need to get out of the open court and turn defense into offense. Our strength in post-season play has been getting to the free throw line and taking advantage of the freebies. We need to do a better job of managing time and the score. We just need to be a little more patient and allow the offense to open up. We seem to get a little too antsy.

"I think if we continue to play hard, play smart and play together, we'll be okay. These kids have great heart and great energy."

Chicago Hope is on an 18-game winning streak. The Eagles are being led by Jordan Doss, a 6-foot-6 senior, with an 18.5  average, 115 rebounds and 71 assists. Also in double figures are Javion May, a 6-foot-1 junior, with 13.6 per game, 141 rebounds and 124 assists and Javari McClendon, a 6-foot-2 junior, with 11.8 points, 214 rebounds and 80 assists. Ajani Parker, a 6-foot-7 senior, is averaging 9.8 points a game.

This is the first state tournament appearance ever for Chicago Hope Academy.

If the Bulldogs win Friday, they will face either Okawville (31-3) or Newark (28-4) at 12:45 p.m. Saturday. If they lose, the Bulldogs will play for third place at 11 a.m. It would be a nice birthday present for Coach Rincker as he will be celebrating his birthday Saturday.

"We appreciate of all the support we've received," said Rincker. "We're excited for the opportunity to compete at Peoria and give ourselves a chance to be one of the best teams at state."

The Bulldogs will be welcomed home Sunday. The players and cheerleaders will ride through town with an escort from the police at 2 p.m. There will be a reception at the Enlow Center at 3 p.m. Fans are asked to stand along the parade route with the best place to stand on both sides by the junior high school and St. Anthony Church.