jeff thayerAlthough his record has since been broken, 1995 Salem Community High School graduate Jeff Thayer left the Wildcats basketball program as it’s all-time career scoring leader. Thayer entered what turned out to be his final game needing 18 points to pass Jim Gaule’s previous school mark of 1,052 points. Late in Salem’s Class AA regional championship game loss to the Centralia Orphans Thayer delivered and finished with a new career standard of 1,057. Thayer’s 23 points in that game marked the 31st consecutive contest he scored in double digits.


The 1943-44 Salem Wildcats basketball team ranks as one of the most successful in the program’s history.

Coach Kenny Farrar guided the squad to a 25-10 record, a share of the North Egypt Conference championship with Flora, a regional championship and advancement to the sectional championship game.

This particular group of Wildcats often had to come from behind to earn their success.

Salem had to win its final three games to get a piece of the NEC crown, which included a 37-33 win at Lawrenceville in the final conference game.

redHenry “Red” Hinkley attended Salem High School and graduated in the spring of 1940. He was an outstanding athlete that competed in football, basketball, and track. He was very fast and made a fine running back during his time for the Wildcats.

In 1941, Henry enrolled in school at Southern Illinois National University (SIND) which is now known as SIU. He was an honor student, a sophomore repre5entative to the student council and a three sport letterman in football, basketball, and track.

don_jonesIn the early 1970’s no other athlete displayed more ability to excel in three sports than Don Jones. Don played football, basketball and baseball for SCHS and was a large contributor to the success of all three teams.

As a quarterback on the football team, Don was a 1st Team North Egypt Conference quarterback. His head coach, Gary Brandt, stated “Don does a fine job of running the club and I have not seen any other quarterback as good as Don this season.” He was also named the “Player of the game” vs. Mt. Carmel on October 15, 1971.

The 1971-72 Basketball team, Coached by Lee Emery in his third year, achieved success in many ways. Their 17-9 record was one of the best in several years. Led by senior guards Don Jones and Dick Kagy, the Wildcats worked a ball control offense that also relied heavily on the inside game. Jim Sager, Greg Malan and Jack Sechrest provided much of the inside game. Jim Sager, Greg Malan and Jack Sechrest provided much of the inside scoring and rebounding while sophomore Ron Eller was a defensive player that helped with rebounding and inside scoring.

Salem was an early contender for the North Egypt Conference race battling Olney all season for conference title. Early wins against Mt. Carmel (58-50), Lawrenceville (70-62) and 1971 NEC Champions Fairfield (55-51) set the tone for a good season and the Centralia Holiday Tournament. A forth place finish in the tournament was Salem’s only trophy in their history in this tournament. Salem eventually finished second in the NEC but wins against Centralia, the first in fifteen years, and winning the 21st Salem Invitational Tournament, were definitely bright spots of the season.

The championship win over Olney by a score of 70-59 in the Invitational was the highlight of the season. Jack Sechrest led the way in scoring with 22 points while Greg Malan had 18 points and Don Jones had 13 points. The tournament championship was the first since 1966. Coach Emery said that “this was a fun team to coach that enjoyed a lot of success.”

steve_hillWhile Steve Hill excelled in both football and basketball at Salem Community High School, it was golf that paved his way into not only a collegiate career but a professional career as well.

A 1969 graduate of SCHS, Hill was known as a fierce rebounder on the basketball court despite his lack of size inside. That ability led to special mention on the all-state team in the 1968-69 season.

In football Hill capped off a solid high school career in 1968 when he was named to the All-South Team as a split end.

Hill was medalist during several meets as a Wildcat golfer. His biggest moment came during his junior season in 1968 when he finished second at the regional and qualified for the state meet as an individual. During state competition Hill finished 30th out of 144 golfers.

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