Mt. Pulaski chasing history in red-hot season

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Mt. Pulaski's 1976 Class A state championship banner hangs in the Toppers' gym. Mt. Pulaski's 1976 Class A state championship banner hangs in the Toppers' gym.

MT. PULASKI -- The great Ed Butkovich led Mt. Pulaski to its one and only state basketball championship in 1975-76, a magical season in which the Toppers went 29-2 behind hallowed names like Jeff Clements, David Thompson, Jeff Anderson and Dave Welch.

Since then, the program has earned just two trips to State, both under Butkovich (1976-77 and 1983-84), and just one regional championship since 1998-99. Translation: it's been a while since the Toppers have recaptured that glory.

But that all could change this year.

"This town's been talking about that banner for so long," senior guard Seth Huff said. "It'd be nice to come in here and get another one."

Translation: It's time for a new banner.

Head coach Ryan Deibert's squad have as good a chance to do that as they've had in decades. The Toppers are 17-5 and 7-0 in the Tomahawk Conference. They're loaded with firepower ranging from nimble 6-foot-8 SIU track signee Peyton Taylor to senior guard Geezus Oliver, who is averaging more than 15 points per game, to the steady leadership of senior guard Seth Huff.

No matter what happens in the final three games of the regular season, the Toppers are guaranteed to have their first season of single-digit losses since 2007-08 (17-9) and have a strong chance of finishing with 20+ wins for the first time since 2003-04 (23-6). They're deep, skilled and ready to make a deep run.

Mt. Pulaski's official enrollment is 167 students, barely half of the 1A enrollment threshold -- but don't tell the Toppers that they're underdogs. Their mission is clear: bring another banner to Ed Butkovich Gymnasium.

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