The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association has named their annual Organization of the Year recipients for the 2023 year. Since 2018, the IBCA has recognized long standing organizations that have served the basketball community through the tireless efforts of their volunteers and individual workers. The three: The Winchester Invitational Tournament, the Cahokia Conference, and the Tri-County Conference will be honored at the 51st annual Hall of Fame Banquet on Saturday, May 6, 2023, at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University.
For 100 years, this West Central Illinois community has hosted one of the finest small school boys’ tournaments in the state. Winchester High School has hosted the tournament every year since 1923, with more than 100 volunteers helping each year to make the tournament a success and a point of pride for the community of 1,500. The community was such a big part of the tournament in the beginning that local families would let visiting players stay in their homes while the tournament was being held. The tournament features some of the best teams in West Central Illinois shown by the fact that 25 teams have participated in the tournament and gone on to reach the Sweet Sixteen in the same year. Many standout players have taken the floor during the tournament including Rushville’s Larry Ball, who played on Miami’s undefeated Super Bowl Championship Team in 1972, and Griggsville’s Lew Hitch, who played in the 1951 NCAA Championship game with Kansas State. Lew also played for the Minneapolis Lakers NBA Championship teams in 1952 and 1953. Many stories and history surround the tournament that has lasted for more than nine decades.
The Tournament is held each January and this year, the IBCA will make its presentation on championship day on Saturday, January 14. Congratulations to the Winchester Invitational Tournament – the oldest and longest running invitational basketball tournament in the state!
The Cahokia Conference, formed in 1928, consists of 18 schools in southwestern Illinois located in the counties of St. Clair, Randolph, Monroe, and Clinton. Today, the conference consists of three divisions; the Mississippi for large schools, the Illinois for medium, and the Kaskaskia for the smaller schools. Current members, Dupo, Freeburg, Marissa, and New Athens, made up part of the original 1928 line-up with Lebanon joining in 1929. In 2006, the conference added Valmeyer and Steeleville which prompted the conference to split into two divisions. Expanding to 18 teams for the 2022-23 season compelled the need for three divisions.
Since 1980, the Cahokia Conference can boast 9 basketball state championships – 5 girls and 4 boys titles. The conference was and is still considered hugely competitive and has provided extremely talented players, coaches, and teams. Congratulations to the Cahokia Conference and all teams – past and present – for this great honor!
The Tri-County Conference and Tri-County Conference Basketball Tournament began in 1927 with 8 members. Original members Henry, Hopkins (Granville), Lostant, Magnolia, Putnam, McNabb Swaney, Tonica and Varna are now part of several consolidated school systems which continue membership in the conference. Many different schools have been members of the Tri-County Conference. All told, over 26 schools have been members of this “Little School” Conference.
The Tri-County Conference Basketball Tournament debuted in 1927 with Lostant the champions of the first two tournaments. 17 different schools have won the title with Toluca leading the way with 16 championships.
The girls’ tournament began in 1976 and although not played continuously through the years, can be counted as one of the earliest girls basketball tournaments of any kind in the state. Current member Putnam County was the first champion. The Tri-County Conference is considered one of the oldest conferences in the state still in operation and hosts one of just a few conference tournaments still being played.
Congratulations to all schools, teams, players, coaches, and fans associated with the TCC over the past 95 years! The IBCA will make a presentation during the 96th annual tourney on January 27.