County tourney celebrates 100th edition
By Eric Becker
The Write Team
CARLINVILLE (Jan. 25, 2018) – Pardon me for forgetting this was coming so quickly, but I was so dang busy with cold weather and other various things that I neglected to recognize this was the 100th edition of the Macoupin County basketball tournament.
It was the 39th on the girls side, but through the years a number of now defunct schools have competed and won the tournament multiple times.
For the boys, it all started back in 1919 at the end of World War I. Benld was the tournament’s first championship team that year. Mt. Olive would win tournament titles in six of the next eight years, with Brighton and Chesterfield breaking up the run of titles by the Wildcats.
Chesterfield three-peated from 1929-31, then Gillespie won its first title in 1932.
The Miners have won the most championships with 22, the last coming in 2016. They won an unprecedented four straight titles in the mid-1950s, 1953-56 to be exact, which has yet to be equaled.
Staunton has won 15 titles, the last coming in 2012. Southwestern with 14 titles and Mt. Olive with 12 titles have also won double figure titles.
Carlinville has won nine times, the last coming in 2005. The Cavies first title came back in 1957, ending Gillespie’s four-year run.
Virden and Girard won a combined seven before forming North Mac.
Of the 13 boys schools who have competed in the county, only Palmyra Northwestern has not won it all. Northwestern now co-ops with Greenfield and hasn’t participated in quite some time.
On the girls side, Southwestern has had the most success with 17 titles, winning five in a row from 2003 to 2007 and four straight from 1989 to 1992.
Carlinville has captured eight titles and Gillespie, with four straight titles in the mid-1990s, has won seven titles.
Last year’s girls’ championship team, Mt. Olive, no longer has a team and co-ops with Staunton.
Carlinville, under coach Lou Stievers, won the first two county titles and three of the first four. Bunker Hill won two early titles under coach Bill Hanks.
There have been numerous players and coaches that have been a part of this historic tournament. It’s not the oldest county tournament in Illinois – that one is the McLean County tournament in Bloomington.
But for the shear joy of getting up to root for your particular school any given year, with county bragging rights on the line, I’d say that the Macoupin County tournament has done well.
The 2018 edition went well, and seedings didn’t mean a darn thing. On the girls side, fourth-seeded Southwestern won the tournament for a record 17th time, 11 under coach Steve Wooley.
The Birds used fundamental defense to shut down both Carlinville and Gillespie.
North Mac defended its home turf by winning the boys tournament for the fourth time since the merger back in 2010-11. The Panthers are always a tough out in this tournament, playing in a very tough conference. This year, they beat top-seeded Southwestern to win the championship.
Carlinville had a solid showing in the boys tournament by winning its opener, sending Southwestern to overtime before losing then losing by a point to Staunton for third place.
Carlinville’s girls stumbled against Southwestern, though it is tough to beat a team three straight times as the Piasa Birds proved. They rolled past Bunker Hill to finish third.
Congrats to all the area athletes who placed on the all-tournament team for the 100th edition of the county tournament. Continued success throughout the remainder of the regular season and into postseason play next month.