The last time Wayne Harre walked the sidelines of a basketball court was two years ago, finishing up his 15th year as head coach of the Nashville girls team. After two years out of the game, the Hall of Fame coach is back, but this time coaching the Nashville boys.
“The first thing I thought about was I was taking over a program that had been run by Hall of Fame coaches and I hope we can live up to those expectations,” Harre said.
Harre retired at the end of the 2014-15 season with a career record of 412-77 and was enshrined in the Southern Illinois High School Coaches Hall of Fame at ceremonies held at Rent One Park on August 29.
The last two years he spent his time taking care of his farm and all the Nashville sports teams as athletic director. He takes over a team coached by Brad Weathers for the last eight seasons. Weathers led the Hornets to four regional titles and second place at state in 2014 while posting a 180-72 record.
Harre’s Hornettes won 15 regional titles, eight sectional and super-sectional titles while finishing in the top four four times, including winning the state title in 2013 with a team that finished 33-2.
“I’m going to run the same system Don Hawkins, Darin Lee and Brad ran for 30 years,” Harre said. “I have the same philosophy of playing good defense, taking quality shots and making sure we play hard.”
Last year Nashville (20-13) won its second straight 2A regional title and fourth in the last five years before losing to Alton Marquette, 55-48, in the sectional finals. However, Harre has his work cut out for him having to replace five seniors, including four starters. The only returning starter is senior guard/forward Bryson Bultman.
“We don’t have a whole lot of experience coming back, so we’ll have to learn on the go,” Harre said. “We start the season at the Mascoutah Tournament and open up with Waterloo, so we’ll have our hands full next Tuesday.”
Nashville was the only area 2A team to advance to the sectional finals.
Pinckneyville (29-3) is coming off its third straight regional title and its best record since the 2004 team finished 32-3 and fourth at state. However, the Panthers were eliminated in the sectional semifinals by Nashville, 43-40, on a basket and a free throw with 0.4 seconds left by Brandon Schnitker, who just signed with SIU for cross country.
“We went undefeated in the conference, won 29 games and set a record for regular season wins with 27,” Pinckneyville coach Bob Waggoner said. “The team really jelled and played very good team basketball without a real dominant scorer or rebounder. We had a lot of depth and they played to their potential.”
The Panthers are one of the most successful boys basketball programs in the state having advanced to the Final Four 13 times, winning three state titles, 19 sectional titles and 55 regional titles, including 30 regional titles over the last 42 years under Dick Corn and Waggoner.
Waggoner took over 10 years ago and has won six regional titles and has swept the River-to-River Mississippi Division the last two seasons.
“We have a lot of returning players and depth, so a lot of kids will be competing for playing time,” Waggoner said. “I think our depth will be the best since our 2008 team with eight seniors, two juniors and six sophomores. We’re a little stronger and more athletic.”
Eldorado (28-4) won its first regional title since 2004 and 17th overall with its best record since the 2007 team finished 29-2. However, the Eagles were also eliminated in the sectional semifinals, 49-44, by Robinson.
“We came into the season thinking we could probably win 20 games, compete to win our conference and maybe a regional, but 28 games we kind of overachieved,” said Coach Josh Bradley. “We thought we might be better this year than last, but last year’s team just took off. We won the Vienna tournament, our tournament for the first time since 2007, the Black Diamond for the first time since 2007 and the third most wins in our school history. It wasn’t a season of firsts, but it was a season of long times.”
Bradley only lost three seniors, including starting forward Ethan Partridge and his sixth-man Max Kasiar, but returns five seniors in two-year starters point guard Kale Oglesby, guard John Meredith, small forward Braden Attebury and center Jacob Traxler, plus the seventh-man wing guard Ray May.
“We’ve got five guys coming back with a lot of experience, so expectations are pretty high,” Bradley said. “May has moved into the starting lineup, so we will start five seniors, but t will take some time to figure out who our next two guys are. All in all I think this team might be better at the end of the year than what last year’s team was.”
Du Quoin (15-15), Edwards County (20-7) and Harrisburg (11-17) advanced to the regional finals, but Du Quoin lost to Pinckneyville, 63-52, Harrisburg to Eldorado, 57-41, and the eventual No. 2 team in the state Mount Carmel eliminated Edwards County, 78-51.