If the Lebanon Greyhounds stay injury free, continue to improve as the season goes on and get a few breaks along the way, coach Chad Cruthis is hopeful his team could have a long postseason ride in early February.
“My feeling is that this is a basketball team which is good enough to get to the state tournament. But you have to play the games, and I really think there are maybe five Class 1A teams in this area competing for that spot,” Cruthis said. “But you also have to be realistic about it. If there are five teams, then there are four who aren’t going to get there.
“If you work hard every day and get better as the season goes on, then that’s all you can do. At the end of the season, you roll the dice and take your chances. I don’t think a lot of people realize that on some nights the best team doesn’t always win. You’re dealing with 15-17 year old kids. They’re going to have off nights sometimes.”
The off nights have been few and far between during the past two years at Lebanon. After winning 23 games two years ago, Lebanon went 25-4, won a Cahokia Conference title and a Class 1A regional title in the 2015-16 season, before falling to eventual state champion Hardin-Calhoun in a sectional semifinal.
With Casey Berberich, Madison Schoenfeld and two sets of sisters—juniors Kendra and Krista Bass and sophomores Abigail and Emily Reinneck—all returning, the experience of this Greyhounds team should be a real asset.
Lebanon is off and running. After bouncing Columbia 49-33 to win the Columbia Tip-Off Classic last week, the Greyhounds defeated rival New Athens 54-26 in their home and Cahokia Conference opener on Monday.
Getting strong play from Kendra Bass and Schoenfeld in a win over Greenville in the Columbia Tip-Off semifinal, Lebanon jumped out to a 10-0 lead over Columbia and never looked back on its way to winning the title.
“People who saw the box score of the game might have thought it was a rout from the beginning. We got off to a good start, and Columbia had a first quarter where the shots just didn’t drop,” Crushis said. “I bet they had four or five shots roll around the rim and come out.
“But it was a good way to start the season. Madison (Schoenfeld) had a big game against Greenville in the semifinal, and we had a good team effort in the final. It’s kind of nice when you have five or six players who on any given night can lead you in scoring. We have that this year.”
Emily Reinneck led the Greyhounds attack with 17 points, while Kendra Bass added 16.
Cruthis is doing his part to make the Greyhounds even better this season. The veteran coach has upgraded Lebanon’s schedule, which will include Mater Dei and Central, along with a second straight trip to the Carrollton Tournament, where Hardin-Calhoun and West Central will also play.
The Greyhounds also will play Okawville and (Centralia) Christ Our Rock.
“If we lose a couple of more games to good teams and play them close, I think that does more for us down the road then playing teams and winning by 30 and 40 points.” Cruthis said. “We want to win the (Cahokia) conference, and we want to win 20 games. But we want to be at our best when the tournament starts in February.”
Mater Dei wins Alton Tip-Off Classic
Only a week into the 2016-17 season, the Mater Dei Knights have handed one of the state’s elite programs its first loss.
Kelsey Gerdes scored 16 points, and Kierra Winkeler added 13 for the Knights, who held highly-touted Grace Baalman in check, as Mater Dei defeated defending Class 1A state champion Hardin-Calhoun 45-31 in the title game of the Alton Tip-Off Classic.
Mater Dei (3-0), which also defeated Springfield Lanphier and Jerseyville, also got 10 points from Shannon Lampe in title contest.
Hardin Calhoun, which defeated Moweaqua Central A&M 60-56 in the Class 1A state title game in February, was led by Baalman’s 13 points. The 6-foot-2 Baalman is headed to the University of Kentucky on a softball scholarship.
▪ The Belleville West Maroons improved to 3-0 and moved a step away from the title of the O’Fallon Tip-Off Classic on Monday with a 73-55 win over Hazelwood Central. Sophomores Chamya Darough and B’Aunce Carter combined for 45 points to pace the Maroons, who can wrap up the championship on Wednesday with a win over McCluer North. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.
▪ Play in the Salem Thanksgiving Tournament concludes Saturday at Salem High School. Civic Memorial, led by senior Allie Troeckler, is the lone undefeated team in the tournament. Teutopolis, Belleville East, Highland and Salem are each 2-1.
▪ The Nashville Thanksgiving Tournament concludes Saturday with eight games, beginning at 9 a.m. at Nasvhille High School. The final round of pool play kicks off at 9 a.m. Four bracket games will follow with the title game set for 8 p.m.