A look ahead: SEC boys basketball

Conference up for grabs in 2019, Burlington joins the party

Union file photo

Keegan Kohorst is the leading scorer among returners for Mt. Pleasant.
Union file photo Keegan Kohorst is the leading scorer among returners for Mt. Pleasant.

In 2018-19, the Fairfield Trojans ran the Southeast Conference, snapped the streak of three-straight SEC titles for Mt. Pleasant. The Panthers went 24-0 over a three-year stretch from 2015-2018, but Fairfield took over the top spot with an undefeated championship of their own, going 8-0 to grab the crown.

With the entire Fairfield starting lineup graduating last spring, there is no clear favorite in the SEC this season. The Trojans are a mystery, the rest of the teams return a handful of players from last season, and an up-and-coming Burlington team now joins the frey.

Much like Mt. Pleasant’s nearly all-new squad last season, defending champion Fairfield comes in as a huge question mark. The Trojans lost their top five scorers and will rely on a lot of players who only saw a few varsity minutes last season.

The leading returner for the Trojans is Drew Martin, who scored 4.3 points per game last season. Landon Kooiker scored 3.5 points per game, and Carter Ferrel scored 1.1.

The Trojans are coming off a substate final appearance. Fairfield was knocked out by eventual state champion Oskaloosa, 58-37. That was one of just four total losses on the year.

Mt. Pleasant took second last season, going 4-4 in conference play. The Panthers had won five of their last six games before getting knocked out 51-30 by Fairfield in the district final.

The Panthers lost three of their starting five to graduation, including Sam Beatty, who led the conference with 14.9 points per game last season.

Mt. Pleasant returns one player who averaged double digits last year. Keegan Kohorst is coming off a season where he scored 10.4 points per game, and also led the team with 41 assists. Their other returning starter is Jaxon Hoyle, who scored 5.5 points per game, and sixth-man Brody Bender, who scored 3.4 points per game and pulled down a team-leading 100 rebounds.

Washington tied with Ft. Madison for third place in the conference, and the Demons might be the most dangerous team in the Union coverage area. The Demons were also knocked out of the postseason by Oskaloosa, falling in the district final, but they’ll return the bulk of their talent from last year.

Washington brings back four of their top five scorers from last season. The Demons lost leading scorer Cade Hennigan, who led the squad in points (10.7 PPG), steals (39) and blocks (13) while co-leading the team with 96 rebounds, but they’ve got four returners who scored over 7 points per game.

Trevor Quigley is the leading returner, scoring 9.6 points per game last year. Luke Turner put up 8.9 points per game and a team-leading 74 assists. Trashaun Willis scored 8.8 points per game last year and pulled down 96 rebounds, and Ethan Hunt scored 7.5 points per game.

Ft. Madison and Keokuk will both be right up there with the Union area teams. Ft. Madison senior Jayden Fedler will be the leading returner in the conference after scoring 14.5 points per game last season, although the Bloodhounds do lose Logan Rashid, who put up 13.5 points per game.

Keokuk, a team that went 2-6 in the SEC last season, graduated big man Alex Wolter, but they bring back four starters, including leading scorer Anthony Potratz. The junior scored 13 points per game last year, and also led the team with 37 steals.

That leaves Burlington. The Grayhounds won just six games last season, but they had a good year against SEC competition. Burlington beat Keokuk at home 56-43 in the season opener and knocked off Ft. Madison, 67-61 on the road. Burlington’s worst outing against an SEC foe was a blowout loss at Mt. Pleasant. The Panthers beat Burlington 64-44 in Mt. Pleasant midway through the season.

The SEC boys basketball slate gets underway in early December. In the conference’s first full day on Friday, Dec. 6, Fairfield hosts Washington, Ft. Madison hosts Mt. Pleasant, and Keokuk hosts Burlington.