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BRIDGEPORT – It was quiet walking past the St. Elmo Eagles as they waited to leave Red Hill High School last Wednesday.
Near the door of a gym that had long since emptied, St. Elmo players stood with straight faces and little to say as they wrestled with defeat in the first round of the sectional tournament for the second straight season.
It was a tough moment after a 58-39 loss to Woodlawn last Wednesday – especially for the team’s large senior class – but looking back at the past year and a half, the players ought to be proud of their accomplishments.
Since February 2011, the Eagles posted a 31-11 record, with none of those losses coming to bad teams (see information below).
In the past two seasons, St. Elmo has gone 13-16 and 22-8 for a total two-year record of 35-24.
During the 2011-12 season, each of the eight opponents that defeated St. Elmo advanced at least to a regional championship game and six of them were Class 2A schools.
“Who slipped up on us?” said coach Greg Feezel. “Nobody.
“These kids were prepared every night,” he said. “We would not allow ourselves to be slipped up on."
In doing so, the Eagles picked up a number of accolades throughout the season:
•Champions of the Altamont Regional.
•Champions of Egyptian-Illini Conference.
•Champions of St. Elmo Holiday Tournament.
•Senior Blake Pruett was named SEHT MVP.
•Fifth place at Vandalia Holiday Tournament.
•Fourth place at National Trail Conference Tourney.
•Three players averaged more than 10 points per game.
•Had best scoring output among teams in the county, with 58.97 points per game.
•Outscored opponents by an average of 13 points (58.97-45.97).
•Became the first Eagles team to win 20 games since the 2006-07 season.
•Became the first Eagles team to win back-to-back regional titles since the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons.
The senior class of Pruett, Ben Sperry, Jake Mansker, Blaine Scholes, Patrick Schaal, Willie Magnus and Jacob Denton had a lot to do with those accomplishments, with each taking on part of the leadership duties and playing in at least 13 games.
Pruett was the leading scorer from the group, with 11.43 points per game, and Sperry scored 10.27 and was a rebounding force throughout the year.
“They worked their tails off all the time,” Feezel said. “That’s why (the sectional loss) is so frustrating to all of them.”
St. Elmo lost just 11 games dating back to February 2011, but none of those losses came to bad teams. Below shows each of the Eagles’ 11 losses, and how far the opponent went in the postseason.
2010-11 losses (after February)
Feb. 11 – vs. Altamont, 52-42
•The Class 1A Indians and Eagles have always had a tense rivalry, so it’s a toss-up every time the teams play, and St. Elmo later beat Altamont in the regional tournament.
Feb. 14 – at Teutopolis, 74-38
•The Class 2A Shoes would lose at super-sectionals.
March 2 – vs. Woodlawn at sectionals, 61-38
•The Class 1A Cardinals placed third in the state.
Dec. 9 – at St. Anthony, 53-49
•The Class 2A Bulldogs lost in the regional championship game.
Dec. 26 – vs. Vandalia at Vandalia Holiday Tournament, 48-43
•The Class 2A Vandals lost in the regional championship game.
Dec. 27 – vs. Pana at VHT, 60-44
•The Class 2A Panthers lost in the sectional championship game.
Jan. 26 – vs. Teutopolis at the NTC Tournament, 66-49
•The Shoes lost at super-sectionals
Jan. 28 – vs. St. Anthony at the NTC Tournament, 49-47
•See Dec. 9 entry
Jan. 31 – vs. Teutopolis, 58-41
•See Jan. 26 entry
Feb. 11 – vs. Madison at Illini Showcase, 64-29
•The Class 1A Trojans lost in the first round of the sectional tournament
Feb. 29 – vs. Woodlawn at sectionals, 58-39
•The Cardinals are in this season’s Class 1A Final Four