It took overtime against its fiercest rival to knock the Du Quoin boys basketball team out of the playoffs, but in the final analysis the six seniors, five juniors and four sophomores played themselves proud - producing the best record in five years and the second best in 11 years.
"Our goal this year was to come out and be .500 or better and we achieved that goal," said Du Quoin coach Jason James. "I'm very proud of the boys for that. I think the kids are excited about basketball again after having some success this year. It's great to see the kids having a good time cheering for each other."
The Indians were knocked out of the playoffs Feb. 23 before a raucous crowd of hometown and archrival fans at Anders Gymnasium in the regional semifinals. They lost to the archest of rivals, Pinckneyville, and it took overtime to do so giving the fans all they wanted and more - much more.
Du Quoin finished with a 15-15 record tying the 2016-17 team for the best record since the 2010-11 team went 23-7.
"We started the season with a championship at our own tournament which was a great way to start the year," James said.
The Indians were playing their best when it counted the most, finishing the regular season by winning six of its last nine games. The three losses came on the road by nine points to Pinckneyville; by 10 points to Carterville; and by 10 points to Nashville - all three powerhouse teams.
"I thought the effort the boys gave the entire season was some of the best around," James said. "We played a lot of kids this year, and had several different kids step up and have big games. We have a lot coming back next year.
"It was a fun year season and we are already looking forward to next year," he added.
In a .500 season you would expect the statistics to be about even. The Indians averaged 62.0 points a game while allowing an average of 60.8.
However, a deeper dive shows the difference was the Indians winning its 15 games by an average of 71.6 to 55.2 for a 16.4 margin and losing its 15 games by 66.4 to 52.5 for a 13.9 margin.
"Our seniors were a great group," James said. "They will be missed all the way around. Caden Hutchens was one of the best shooters around. Traijon Smith was known for his phenomenal defense and Jaden Smith for his ball handling and calmness on the floor. Maurice Washington was our big presence underneath the basket."
Hutchens finishes his career leading the team with a 15.2 scoring average and in 3-point shooting with 83 baskets. He also led the team at the free throw percentage at .737 percentage (28-fo-38).
Hutchens had six games scoring over 20 points with a season-high of 32 and eight 3-pointers against Trico (1/24). He was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Route 13 Christmas Classic.
Washington had a banner senior season finishing with 12.3 scoring average and a team best 170 baskets in the post. Washington best game was 28 points against West Frankfort at the Tip-Off Classic and finished with three games over 20 points.
Guard Traijon Smith averaged 10.9 points a game to give Coach James three double-digit scorers. The senior was almost as good at the line as Hutchens with a .712 free throw percentage; leading the team in free throw attempts with 104 and free throws made with 74.
Smith had two games over 20 points with his best being 23 points against Eldorado at the Johnston City Arrowhead Classic where he was named to the All-Tournament Team..
The third senior guard Jaden Smith was the second leading 3-point shooter with 32 and the fourth leading scorer at 5.5 points a game. Smith had five games scoring over 10 points with his season-high being 15 at the Johnston City Arrowhead Classic where he was named to the All-Tournament Team.
Junior Nishan Woody averaged 4.3 points a game with 12 from beyond the arc. Junior Eli Maynor was third on the team in 3-point goals with 26 finishing with a 3.6 scoring average. Senior Ethan Hill averaged two points a game and was good at the line making 9-of-15.
Other contributors were junior Gage Green (2.9 points per game), who was also a good perimeter shooter with 16 three-pointers, junior Seth Howerton (2.1 ppg.), junior Kameron Hugya (2.0 ppg.) with four 3-pointers and sophomore Henry Harsy (1.9 ppg.), who was a good free throw shooter making 11-of 16, and senior Hayden Sizemore (0.7 ppg.) with three from beyond the arc.
"Ethan was our guy under the basket doing the dirty work," James said. "Hayden was our energizer giving us that extra boost on the floor."
The other players who got playing time were sophomores PJ Winters (16 points) and Trelin Smith (14 points); and juniors Owen Cornett (2 points), Malik Jones (1 point) and Jakob Eaton.
A big loss was the seventh senior Nick Brown, who retired after six games because of an injury with a 7.3 scoring average, including eight 3-pointers.