A program that had posted just one winning season in the previous 18 years put everything together during the 1998-99 campaign when the Salem Lady Wildcats basketball team broke the school record for wins en route to the program’s deepest advancement in postseason play.

Salem’s road to a 28-3 record began when the Lady Wildcats won the Mascoutah Round Robin Tournament with victories over Greenville 62-40, Breese Central 46-41 and Mascoutah 49-42. Renee Brubaker scored 33 points during the three games and was named tournament most valuable player, while Megan Grizzle was also named to the all-tournament squad.

Salem added victories over Highland, Lawrenceville, Red Hill, Flora and Mt. Carmel before it suffered its first blemish at Mt. Vernon 64-50.

The Lady Wildcats finished second at the 16-team Charleston Tournament with wins over Hume-Shiloh 85-37, Paris 69-35 and Olney 59-38 before falling to Teutopolis 47-35 in the championship game. Brubaker was named to her second all-tournament team of the season after she scored 56 points in the four games and was joined on the squad by teammate Shawnda ‘Bear’ Hunt.

Salem’s path to a perfect North Egypt Conference test got its toughest test when the Lady Wildcats rallied to nip visiting Carmi 58-53 in overtime. Grizzle tied the game in the closing moments of regulation with a field goal and then put Salem ahead for good with two free throws in the extra session.

Twelve points by Brubaker led the Lady Wildcats to a 44-35 victory over Centralia, their first win over the Annies in 18 years.

Salem clinched the NEC championship with a 48-33 victory at Olney on the same day Grizzle scored her 1,000th career point. The Lady Wildcats finished off a perfect 14-0 NEC season with a 63-54 win at Carmi thanks to a season-high 24 points by Audrey Husk and 17 more by Danette Jones, who made her first varsity start.

Brubaker tied the school record for three-pointers in a game with seven and scored a career high 29 points when Salem celebrated Senior Night with an 85-50 win over Carbondale.

Coach Janet Holst’s squad won the program’s first regional championship on their home floor when they dismantled St. Jacob Triad 74-31 in the semifinal round and Chatham Glenwood 78-51 behind a career-high 28 points by Chandra Hensley. The regional championship game victory was the squad’s 25th of the season and broke the school record of 24 for most wins in a season set by the 1978-79 team.

The Lady Wildcats added the program’s first sectional title to their resume when they downed Mattoon 64-46 in the semifinals at Taylorville behind 17 points by Husk. They defeated Collinsville 59-47 in the championship game behind 15 points by Husk and Brubaker.

Fate had the Lady Wildcats back at home for the super-sectional where they toppled a heavily favored East St. Louis squad before a full house 72-65. Hunt upstaged the Flyers two Division I guards by scoring a career-high 28 points including ten free throws in the final two minutes to secure the win.

The Lady Wildcats raced out to a 9-0 lead in its Class AA state quarterfinal game against Glenbard West, but Salem’s dream season ended when the Lady Hilltoppers rallied and won 47-45 on All-Stater Kristi Faulkner’s shot at the buzzer.

All five Salem starters earned All-NEC honors along with reserve Danette Jones. Grizzle was named the league’s Honorary Captain, while Brubaker and Hunt made the First Team. Husk was named to the Second Team, while Hensley and Jones received Honorable Mention. Holst was also recognized named NEC Coach of the Year.

Brubaker was named to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Class AA All-State Third Team. Brubaker and Grizzle received Honorable Mention on the Champaign News Gazette All-State Team.