Rangers – Redbrids face off tonight

By Steve Dunford 

The girls between the two rivals took the floor last night and it was a dandy.  It was an overtime win by West Frankfort with a buzzer beater being waved off at the end of regulation.  This contest has the potential to be another barn burner.

The Benton Rangers (6-1)(0-1) and the West Frankfort Redbirds (0-5)(0-1) will face off tonight at Max Morris Gym in West Frankfort.

If you would ask people from West Frankfort what is the nicest gym in Southern Illinois they would say Max Morris. If you would ask people from Benton, they would say Rich Herrin. I love the 1950’s era bowl gyms., which I feel Duff-Kingston is the grand daddy of them all. This photo is from the Peoria Journal star a few years ago, in which they featured the top gyms south of them. All three made the list.

The Rangers picked up a nice road win at Carmi on Tuesday night, a place the Rangers have historically struggled.   It has been a week since the Redbirds have taken the floor.  They were blown out by the Harrisburg Bulldogs in their SIRR Ohio opener, a team that can make a deep run in the post season in class 2A.

West Frankfort Coach Kevin Toney had to say this about the Rangers, “This group of kids is seeking name contribution in a historic program.  Last year they was able to watch a very fine team being celebrated by the community.   They want to chart their own reputation.  They are intense, hard working and most of all good kids.  They are very well coached as well.”

Benton Coach Ron Winemiller shared some thoughts about West Frankfort tonight. He said, “The Redbirds are very big and physical. Their size and strength will cause use lots of issues. (Kyle) Hammers has developed into a very good point guard that does a very good job of running their team. (CJ) Johnson is a very good scorer that does a good job of scoring and is a very tough match up for us. (Lucas) Wolfe and (Bradlee) Croslin can score if we aren’t with them. (Keagan) Thrash is a good in out kid as well.”

The five that I look for Coach Winemiller has went with all season can step out and hit the three.  Gehrig Wynn, Parker Williams, Cade Thomas, and Hamilton Page played a lot of minutes, and all four started at one time or the other through out the year on the Sweet 16 team in Class 3A last year.

Sophomore Carson Lewis stepped in that fifth starting slot for the Rangers and played well.   All five can stroke the three.  If the Rangers are hot behind the arc, it can be a long night for the Redbirds.

C.J. Johnson’s grandpa will be calling his name a lot tonight.  If Jim is making his signature “foul is called” on Thrash and Croslin, this would be an advantage to the Rangers.

There are two that can get hot from behind the arc for West Frankfort in Lucas Wolfe and Kyle Hammers.

Both coaches have played a lot of kids early.  I would not be a bit surprised if you would see 6′ 6″ Junior Braxton Lutz log a lot of minutes for the Rangers tonight, to counteract the Redbird tall trees in the post.

I know the contests at Rich Herrin Gym were a little ugly in favor of the Rangers the last couple of years, but the ones at Max Morris were pretty tight.

I might be wrong but West Frankfort played them to 10 points last year at home, and they about sprang a major upset on the Rangers on the “Saturday night after Thanksgiving game,” two years ago.

Personally I am glad they did away with that game.  That is like North Carolina and Duke playing in their season opener.

It is Benton and West Frankfort, enough said.  Sesser-Valier and Christopher are playing tonight as well.  Thompsonville and Z-R are off tonight.  This would be two opportunities to come out and see some great HS basketball tonight.

Keep in mind that Friday is one of the busiest nights for Candy Cane Lane.  The carriage rides start as well this weekend.  This will make parking less available, and those from Benton might consider taking Poplar or St. Louis street.





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