Rockets outlast Rangers at BIT


The Okawville Rockets continue to open eyes this week, during the Benton Invitational Tournament. The success of the Rockets may come as a surprise to some.  But the fact that they were led by potential All-State candidate Jeremy Weeke should not catch anyone by surprise. Weeke turned in a double-double Friday night leading his team to a convincing 49-37 win over the host Benton Rangers.

Still, Ron Winemiller’s Rangers battled back at one point in the second half to be down by just a half dozen. However, Weeke gave them little chance to get closer. He scored 20 points in the game and pulled down 23 rebounds for a dominating performance at both ends of Rich Herrin Gymnasium.

Okawville took the home crowd out of the game early. after one quarter the Rockets led 15-4. Of the 15 points scored, Weeke had 7 of them, and 8 rebounds. That set the tone individually, and for the game, in Okawville’s favor. Benton trailed 30-18 at half. The Rangers made up a half dozen of theose points in the third quarter. However, the Rockets caught a second wind to cruise to the victory.

Benton was led in scoring by Nathaniel Higgins and 13 points, Sheeks and Ward added 10 apiece.

The BIT continues with both an afternoon and evening session in today’s final day of action.

Rangers score home victory


Four tight quarters of basketball was decided late as the Benton Rangers held off the Eldorado Eagles, Tuesday night. The non-conference game went the way of Rangers 74-71 at Duff-Kingston Gym.

Benton held a slight 31-27 lead at the half. They matched points with the Eagles through out the third and fourt quarters, barely besting the home team.

It took all of the game high 24 points from Cole Forby and the 15 from Nathaniel Higginson for the Rangers to score the close win.

Benton is now 6-10 for the year, and Eldorado 8-10 for the season.

Rangers lose at home to Massac County

In essence saying “do the math,” Benton Ranger coach Ron Winemiller pointed out something following Benton’s 66-46 loss at home to Massac County Friday night.
Winemiller said, “We played three good quarters of basketball. But as we all know, the game is four quarters long.”
What the Ranger head coach was referring to was a huge first quarter deficit that his club could not make up. After one quarter, Massac County did what every visiting team sets as a goal: survive and thrive the opening of the game in front of their opponent’s home crowd. At the end of the first quarter, the Patriots led 28-6.
For the next three periods, the Rangers played almost even basketball with Massac, even outscoring them in the second frame, 12-11. However, giving up 39 first-half points proved to be too much to overcome. Winemiller pointed to a problem for his club being confidence. “We needed to see the ball go into the hole more often.”
The Rangers, pressured by the Joe Hosmon-coached  signature defensive intensity, felt pressure from the opening tip. Another signature Patriot calling card is their ability to shoot behind the arc. Massac hit six 3-pointers while Benton could only manage three ( Higgins 2 and Head 1).
Massac was led in scoring by emerging star Daz Nickerson with 13 points. The Patriot offense featured balanced scoring with four players in double figures.
Game high-scoring honors went to Nathaniel Higginson with 17 points. Other Ranger output included: Sheeks 9, Forby 8, Head 3, Ward 3, and Hughes 2.
The Rangers fell to 5-9 for the season and to .500 in the conference splitting four league games.
Up next for Benton is undefeated Harrisburg at 15-0 for the season. The Bulldogs are looking for a sweep of Franklin County as they knocked off West Frankfort Friday night.

Fundraising dinner, girls basketball celebration Thursday at CJHS


The 14-4 West Frankfort 8th grade girls basketball team will be celebrated with a ceremony Thursday before their home game against rival Benton. The games start at 5:30 p.m. at the Central Junior High School gymnasium.

Before the game, there will be a Fazoli’s spaghetti dinner in the school cafeteria.

The meal will be served from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and includes pasta with meat sauce, a small salad, a drink and two breadsticks. The cost is $7 for adults and $5 for children.

Take-out meals will also be available.

New heavy equipment dealership coming to Benton/West City

Blue Ridge Tractor will sell and service Dressta North America construction equipment.


Blue Ridge Tractor has bought seven acres of property from the Benton West City Economic Development Corporation to build a dealership that will sell and service Dressta North American construction equipment.

Retiring EDC Director Steve Woodfin, new Director Dave Cooper and Board Chairman John Huffman announced the deal this week.

Blue Ridge Tractor is the new Dressta dealer fro the southern half of Illinois and western Kentucky.

The seven acres bought by the dealership are part of a 34-acre tract of land owned by the EDC. EDC officials say the tract will give Blue Ridge Tractor interstate visibility, and hopefully will be the start of other commercial and retail development along I-57 and the airport.

Blue Ridge Tractor will build a storefront to display new machines, as well as provide machinery sales, parts sales and light service work at the site.

Benton Mayor Gary Kraft called news of the new business “very encouraging.”

“It is a great opportunity for more growth and development,” said West City Mayor Charles Cockrum. “Glad to see it happen.”

Blue Ridge Tractor General Manager Alex Gibbs said the company is eager to begin construction at the site.


Benton Police arrest three


Benton Police made three arrests on New Year’s Day in two separate incidents.

Valerie L. Ortner, age 37, of Whittington was arrested Jan. 1 on an active Franklin County warrant for failure to appear.

In an unrelated incident, Joy L. Young, 30, of Benton and William M. Barger, 32, of Benton were charged with unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia following a Jan. 1 traffic stop.

Benton Police arrest two in separate incidents


On Dec. 28, Benton Police were called to a domestic disturbance in the 300 block of McFall Street. Charles Payton, 19, of Benton was charged with domestic battery.

On Dec. 29, Benton Police arrested Nicolle A. Poteete, 27, of Benton. She is charged with unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia, driving under the influence, driving while license suspended, illegal transportation of alcohol, and driving an uninsured vehicle.

Benton City Council decides not to decide: No liquor license for Benton Bowl


Benton city commissioners let their silence speak for them Thursday night when it came time to decide whether or not to grant the Benton Bowl a license to sell beer and wine. No commissioner chose to make the motion to bring the issue up for a vote, so it died.

Benton Bowl owners say the death of the issue will mean the death of their business.

The council’s final regular meeting of the year was the third meeting at which the liquor license had been discussed. Benton Bowl co-owner Mike Fitzpatrick asked the council to consider the license last month, saying that the bowling alley’s business was down, and the owners would like to sell beer from a cooler at the snack bar. Fitzpatrick further noted that his real reason for wanting the license was to get video gambling machines. State law requires that businesses have a liquor license before they apply for the machines.

At a council meeting earlier this month, Benton Mayor Gary Kraft presented the commissioners with some information gathered on other bowling alleys in the area. Other area bowling alleys do serve beer, Kraft said, and have not reported problems with their liquor licenses.

At Thursday’s meeting, Kraft, who is also the city’s Liquor Commissioner, brought the issue back before the council. He asked for a motion that would create a new liquor license for the Benton Bowl. After some discussion, he proposed that the license be restricted to beer sales between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Fitzpatrick attended the meeting, as did Benton Bowl co-owner Dennis Odle.

Odle told commissioners that the goal of the liquor license is to attract a bar league and get more patrons in the door, and that the bowling alley may not ever get video gambling machines. This perceived change in the reason behind the need for the liquor license prompted some questions from commissioners.

Odle said he and Fitzpatrick and their wives bought the bowling alley 16 years ago.

“Our business is down 50 percent in 16 years,” Fitzpatrick told commissioners.

“We’re down to grasping at straws,” Odle added. “If we don’t get something in there, we’re gonna have to shut down.”

Kraft told commissioners the fact that other area bowling alleys had liquor licenses was a deciding factor for him.

“I think if it’s regulated, I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot,” he said. “If all the rest were dry, it would be a different story.”

Commissioner Ron Baumgarte then told the Benton Bowl’s owners that he wanted to congratulate them for running a business that his family had enjoyed, and that he understood how tough times were.

“I understand business being down 50 percent,” Baumgarte said. “I run a small business myself, and mine is off 60 percent.”

But, Baumgarte said, he would be voting no on the liquor license. “I want you to know it has nothing to do with you guys, it’s what’s inside of me.”

A vote would first require a motion and second from commissioners, though, and when Kraft called for that, the commissioners sat silent, and no motion ever came.

Fitzpatrick and Odle walked out of the meeting, with Odle telling commissioners the lack of action would kill the business.

“After May, don’t bother coming to the bowling alley,” Odle said. “It won’t be there.”

In other action, the Benton City Council:

  • Discussed changes to the city’s health insurance deductible. Finance Commissioner Dennis Miller told the council that the city’s health insurance policy is up for renewal on Feb. 1, and Blue Cross Blue Shield is increasing the premium by more than 31 percent, from $537,000 to $595,000, to keep the same coverage. Miller said the premium increase is largely due to claims over the past year. Increasing the deductible on the policy from $1,500 to $2,500 per year and changing the provider to Health Alliance would keep the premium closer to what it is currently. Commissioners agreed to think about the changes and take up the issue at their next meeting.
  • Discussed the renewal of agreement for the City of Benton to do street sweeping for the City of West City. The agreement runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 annually. Street Commissioner Don Wyant told the council that increases in diesel fuel and payroll costs necessitate an increase in the amount Benton charges West City for this service, from $83.26 per hour to $92.14 per hour. That cost breaks down to $56.25 per hour to run the street sweeper, and $35.89 per hour for the operator’s wages and insurance. Commissioners approved the agreement’s renewal with the rate increase, contingent on West City also approving the agreement.
  • City Attorney Mike Malkovich told commissioners that the city had received six notices of foreclosure in the past two weeks, more than he had received in that time period before. “I just mention it so that you know that the foreclosures are still pretty prevalent,” Malkovich said.

Holiday hoops action kicks off this morning as region digs out from Christmas blizzard


A blizzard may have delayed holiday week basketball in Southern Illinois this year, but it couldn’t stop it. Many of the regions’ girls’ and boys’ basketball tournaments that traditionally start on the day after Christmas will begin today, Dec. 27. Here’s a look at each Franklin County team’s schedule for the first day of games:


The Rangers are playing in Pool C at the Duster Thomas Hoops Classic at Pinckneyville Community High School. They face Jerseyville at 10:30 a.m. Friday in Thomas Gym, and Teutopolis at 8:30 p.m. Friday in the Auxiliary Gym. Games on Saturday will depend on where they place in the pool Friday.


The Bearcats play Vienna today (Thursday) at 1:30 p.m. in the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament. Play will continue Friday, Saturday and Monday.


Sesser-Valier plays New Athens at 8 p.m. today in the holiday tournament they are hosting at Sesser-Valier High School. Play continues Friday, Saturday and Monday.


The Redbirds will play in the Eldorado Holiday Tournament, which runs Friday, Saturday and Monday. They face Fairfield at 10:30 a.m. on Friday.


The Z-R boys play Waltonville today (Thursday) at 10:30 a.m. in the Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament. Play will continue Friday, Saturday and Monday.


Benton’s girls are playing in the tournament they host, the Benton Rangerette Christmas Classic 2012. The Rangerettes play Anna-Jonesboro at 11 a.m. today, Trico at 12:30 p.m. Friday and Goreville at 7 p.m. Saturday.




Benton students collect items for food pantry


The Benton High School Fellowship of Christian Students/Fellowship of Christian Athletes club recently collected food items for the Benton Ministerial Alliance food pantry.

The students had read that the food pantry was running low this fall and wanted to do something to help. It was completely their idea.

Items were donated by Benton High School students and faculty in their classrooms at the school.

In addition, items were collected at the gate at the home football playoff game against Robinson this year. Ultimately, several hundred items were collected and donated.

Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News