ST. ELMO – With a victory in the St. Elmo Holiday Tournament, the Eagles notched another big win for their program.
And that’s been happening quite a bit over the past three seasons.
Coming into this season after winning back-to-back regional championships, the Eagles were thought to be in somewhat of a rebuilding year.
But with seniors Connor Beasley and Garrett Bartels, and junior Levi Maxey leading the way, St. Elmo hasn’t missed a step.
“I live and die St. Elmo basketball, and these kids are letting me re-live the glory days,” said coach Greg Feezel, who was part of the 1988 Eagles team that made the state tournament. “All I ask is that they play hard, and if they do that, win or lose, I’m happy.”
The 69-63 win against Altamont on Saturday gave the Eagles their second straight SEHT championship, ending the four-year reign of the Indians.
Picking it up
St. Elmo’s 69 points in the title game were easily the most the team has scored this season.
But that had less to do with how the Eagles played than it did with how Altamont played.
Under the guidance of first-year coach John Niebrugge, the Indians have picked up a frantic style of play that has seen them post as many as 85 points this season.
St. Elmo had not played in a game with that high of intensity prior to Saturday, and going in, Feezel knew that the game would be a significant one, no matter the outcome.
“Before the game, I told coach (Ryan) Beccue, ‘Win or lose, we will grow and be winners from this game, just because the intensity level will be higher than it has been all year,’” Feezel said. “We needed to learn that.”
That’s because the Eagles next play in the Vandalia Holiday Tournament, and they will play Flora, Pana and Greenville, all teams that are willing to play at a fast pace.
South Central coach Rick Simmons praised senior Rudy Hablewitz following the Cougars’ win in the third-place game of the SEHT.
“He has to do so much,” Simmons said. “He is the primary ball handler, one of the primary scorers, he has to penetrate, he has to make passes and keep us in a flow.”
Hablewitz had a strong all-around game against Beecher City in the third-place game, scoring eight points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists.
He averaged 10 points per game in the SEHT, and Simmons said that if he didn’t have to do so many other things, his scoring average would probably be even higher.
“He would make a great No. 2 guard,” Simmons said. “But he has accepted this challenge, and has done really well.”
Brownstown’s appearance in the fifth-place game marks the final time that the Bombers will appear in the SEHT.
St. Elmo and Brownstown will co-op in boys basketball at St. Elmo starting next season.
“This tournament is always great,” said Bombers coach Vince Rohr. “It’s sad that this is the last time that ‘Brownstown’ will be in the tournament, but I think in the future, having us together will make us that much better.”
The Bombers went 1-2 in the tournament to finish sixth.
They lost to Beecher City in the opening round, beat Mulberry Grove in the consolation semifinals and lost to Cowden-Herrick in the fifth-place game.