Thompsonville on a hot streak

By Steve Dunford 

THOMPSONVILLE –  When I was thinking about what to title this, I was thinking of Cletus reading the paper in a movie that I have seen once or twice, Hoosiers.  Cletus is laying in bed ill leading the paper saying that Hickory is on a hot streak.

The Thompsonville Tigers will enter tonight’s match-up in the GEC Tournament against Gallatin County with a 12-7 record, winning eight of their last nine.

There were high expectations in the southeastern corner of Franklin County this season.  Most pundits, as well as myself, had them picked second in the Greater Egyptian Conference behind Gallatin County.  Even though it is loosely seeded, they drew a three seed in the Christopher Thanksgiving Tournament.

The season got off to a rough start.  The Tigers were   1-3 start after getting by New Athens at Chirstopher, then falling to Webber Township,  Wayne City, and Pope County in double digit losses.   Then the turn around slowly began.

Pete Gordon is in his fourth year as the head coach of the Tigers.  The long Alton assistant coach to Benton native Ron Smith, and a former West Frankfort Redbird in High school under David Lee. was 0-26 in his first season.  They improved to 9-17 his second season, but lost 6′ 7″ post player Jesse Darnell to graduation.   The Tigers slipped to 7-19 in his third year.  They had everyone back, and so did everyone else on their schedule.

Over the last two years, The Tigers have played with several of the top teams in the conference as well as in some non-conference games.  They just could not get over the hump.

Reed Raubach with Meridian HS Athletic Director Mitch Haskins after Raubach received Player of the Game in a 60-35 win over Agape Christian from Marion.

They lost two seniors last year in Cory Wilce and Jared Payne who were foundations in the rebuilding process.  Returning was 6′ 7″ junior center Anthony Darge,  6′ 2″ sophomore guard Corbin Fitch;  6′ 5″ hybrid guard/forward Reed Raubach, 5′ 10″pointguard Tyson Kessler (who in my opinion will be the best 1A point guard in Southern Illinois next season.)  All four are in the starting lineup and have spent time in the starting lineup since they were freshman. Peyton Roberts a 5′ 10″ junior is the fifth starter.  He has been in the lineup since the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament.

For a school with an enrollment of 110, Pete Gordon has been known to go ten deep at times this year.  The first two off the bench are the only seniors in the program.  Zack Krikman, a 5′ 11: senior, is a classic sixth man who can play all five spots on the floor.  Jake Dixon a 6′ 5″ senior is either a backup to Darge, or if Coach Gordon chooses to go “big” he is in there. Six foot freshman guard Grady Furlow, 6′ 4″ sophomore Bryson Chullen, and 6′ 0″ Tre (and he can shoot it) Bybee, has played some significant minutes.

The hot streak started in the Sesser Valier Holiday Tournament.  They were facing the Waltonville Spartans in a game the Tigers were the heavy favorites in.  In a game just putting it bluntly, they played awful and escaped with a 51-49 win.  They go on to win the consolation bracket with wins over Odin and Marissa-Coulterville.

When the Calendar tuned to 2018, the only blemish on their record is a loss at Hardin County.   Two of their wins were long time and recent conference rivals Galatia and Crab Orchard.   They beat Crab Orchard by the score of 68-47 last Thursday.  Monday, they beat Pope County 48-40, a team that has snake bit T’ville for Decades.

In the win streak each starter has at least one 20 point game.  Center Anthony Darge has taken his game to a new level in the post.  He has always been a great defender and shot blocker.  Teams can not lay back in a zone either.  The four other starters can take it to the hole and shoot the three.

This is what Tiger coach Pete Gordon had to say about the winning streak.  “We are continuing to get better each time we play. We as a team have really focused in on becoming better defensively and getting stops and limiting teams to one shot per possession. Anthony (Darge) has really become a force and is commanding the basketball more and more. I’m extremely proud of how unselfish our players are and looking for him and getting him the ball.” 

Thompsonville will be playing for the right to advance to the championship game of the GEC tournament tonight if the beat Gallatin County.  The conference has been owned by Gallatin County and Crab Orchard over the last decade.

Most programs in the conference put more emphasis on cutting down the nets in late January at SIC than winning a regular season title.   Here is what Coach Gordon said about tonight’s match-up with the Hawks.   “Gallatin County is the number one seed for a reason. They are extremely good. Coach Miller does a wonderful job. They defend you and make you uncomfortable in every facet of the game. We will have to play our best game of the year to keep it close. We will have to use our size to our advantage.”

I will be there to tell you about tonight’s action in the morning.










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