After a two-year hiatus, Herrin High School returns to the Eldorado Holiday Tournament and this year, they are making their presence known.
With Mike Mooneyham taking over for long time coach Irv Lukens, the Tigers are off to a 4-2 start and on Wednesday were tabbed the No. 1 see for the 52nd annual tournament that starts December 26 at Duff-Kingston Gymnasium.
Herrin, who opened the season at the Pyramid Plus Tournament at Carterville earned wins over the host Lions, as well as, Meridian, Mt. Vernon and Collinsville. The two losses came against Marion and last Friday night"s last second loss to Benton at home.
Mooneyham said the credit for the No. 1 seed goes to his Tigers that return four starters from last year"s team that lost to Harrisburg in the IHSA Class 3A Regional.
"It"s a compliment to our kids, number one," he said. "We have played a tough schedule and we"ve lost two games, but we played Marion tight and had a chance to win that game and this past weekend, we played Benton and really I thought we should have won the game and in the last minute we gave it away. I think we"re deserving of (the no. 1 seed) and our team is starting to come around and giving us what we want."
The opportunity for the Tigers to come back to the EHT was one that Mooneyham was not going to pass up. The opportunity to play in the environment that the tournament produces is one he feels his kids need to experience.
"I didn"t realize this was the 52nd annual tournament and it"s a long running, fantastic tournament. You can go to any game, they"re almost all sold out and the tournaments we had been playing in, the crowds were not like that and I wanted to give my kids the opportunity to play in front of a lot of people and that"s what makes the EHT so exciting."
Herrin is one of two other teams that will be fresh faces to this year"s EHT lineup. Along with the Tigers, Edwards County and Vienna will make their debut the day after Christmas.
Fairfield (7-2) grabbed the No. 2 seed in the tournament and will be followed by Eldorado (7-1), at No. 3, Harrisburg (3-2) at No. 4, Carmi-White County (6-1) at No. 5, Edwards County (7-0) at No. 6, Massac County (0-2) at No. 7 and Anna-Jonesboro (4-3) rounds out the top eight seeds.
Other teams in action over the course of three days will be: Carrier Mills-Stonefort (3-6), Gallatin County (6-2), Hamilton County (2-5), Hardin County (2-5), Norris City-Omaha-Enfield (2-6), Union County, Ky. (2-2), Vienna (7-1), West Frankfort (1-3).
Michael Dann covers prep and college sports for the Harrisburg Daily Register and Eldorado Daily Journal. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.