NORMAL – In the world of high school basketball, going into an opponent’s gym can be a challenge for the team coming in. But on Feb. 20, Normal Community West’s girls’ team were still the visitors, but the opponents were New Lenox, Ill.-based Lincoln-Way West High School, ranked 4th in the State. Despite being seeded fourth prior to the start of the contest, the Wildcats fought hard only to fall to the Warriors, 70-54, as roughly 2,200 fans crowded into NCHS’ main gym for the contest.

While senior guard Olivia Demosthenes scored the game’s opening points for Normal West (21-8), putting her team up, 2-0, the Warriors countered quickly with three unanswered baskets – one from sophomore forward Brianna Woolridge followed by two from senior guard Taylor Gugliuzza, putting that team up quickly, 6-2, with 5:58 left in the quarter. Sophomore guard Megan Williams hit West’s next basket, reducing their opponent’s lead to 6-4 with 4:35 remaining. Williams, having been fouled by Warriors senior guard Sydney Swanberg added a pair of free throws to trim the Warriors’ lead to two, 8-6, with 3:58 left in the quarter.

Taylor Gugliuzza’s next basket in the quarter put the Warriors up, 10-8, but was followed by back-to-back countering baskets for West by Demosthenes which pushed West in front, 12-10, with 1:06 remaining. Woolridge tied the game at 12-all for Lincoln-Way West and Normal West quickly responded thanks to a bucket from senior forward Rosh Webb, putting the Wildcats in front, 14-12, going into the second quarter.

The second quarter began with an exchange of treys from freshman Warriors guard Ava Gugliuzza and West’s Webb, but the Warriors pulled out to a 24-16 advantage halfway through the quarter. But as the quarter continued, the Wildcats held off the Warriors by just one going into halftime, 28-27.

But as the third quarter began, Lincoln-Way West (28-3) went on a 7-0 run which featured a basket and free throw, and another basket from Woolridge, and a basket from Taylor Gugliuzza, pushing the Warriors up, 34-28, and prompting Normal West head coach Corey Ostling to call time at the 5:47 mark. Following the timeout, senior forward Rosh Webb hit a deuce at the 5:41 mark reducing the Warriors lead to four, 34-30. Swanberg countered with a trey putting the Warriors in front, 37-30 with 4:36 remaining in the quarter.

Another Swanberg three would push the Warriors up by seven, 40-33, with 4:36 remaining in the quarter, and would extend it 44-35 before a pair of Demosthenes free throws reduced Lincoln-Way West’s lead to seven, 44-37, with 1:52 left in the quarter. Woolridge’s next basket came as she was fouled by Normal West, but she missed the shot for the third point, but the Warriors still owned a nine point lead, 46-37, until Woolridge hit a quarter-closing trey, reducing the Warriors lead going into the fourth quarter to 46-40.

For the second straight quarter, Swanberg would hit a trey to lengthen the Warriors lead, 49-40, as the fourth quarter began. That prompted Ostling to call time to help the Wildcats regroup. Coming out of the timeout, Warriors junior guard Tara Gugliuzza, having been fouled by West’s Megan Williams, missed her free throws, but Williams’ teammate, Demosthenes, having been fouled, sank one of a pair of free throws, cutting the Warriors’ lead to eight, 49-41, with 5:41 remaining in the contest. A Tara Gugliuzza basket put the Warriors up by 10, 51-41 and a pair of free throws by Ava Gugliuzza pushed the Warriors up, 53-41. Demosthenes’ next basket reduced that lead to 10, 53-43, before two foul calls against Normal West and one against the Warriors led to a battle of free throws, resulting in Taylor Gugliuzza and Swanberg going a combined 3-of-4 for the Warriors, and Demosthenes going 2-for-2, with the Warriors leading 56-45.

Demosthenes’ next basket at 3:24 in the quarter reduced the Warriors’ lead, 56-47 but Taylor Gugliuzza hit a deuce and was fouled leading to a three-point play, putting the Warriors up, 59-47. A trey by Demosthenes followed by two free throws by the 5 foot-5 senior helped West reduce the Warriors’ lead to seven, 59-52, before West players fouled all three Gugliuzzas in order. The end result of that was Tara Gugliuzza, Ava Gugliuzza, and Taylor Gugliuzza, in order being fouled and going a combined 3-for-6 and the Warriors owning a 62-52 lead, prompting Normal West to call time with 1:24 left in the contest.

Coming out of the time out, having been fouled by West sophomore guard Carlie Boitnott, Tara Gugliuzza hit two free throws with 1:04 left followed by a basket from Taylor Gugliuzza, putting the Warriors up, 66-54, with 40.1 seconds remaining and prompting the Wildcats to call time, but when the game resumed, Taylor Gugliuzza closed out the contest by adding four more points resulting in the final score.

Taylor Gugliuzza and Woolridge led the Warriors’ scoring with 26 points and 24 points respectfully. Demosthenes was Normal West’s top scorer with 15 points, followed in double figures by Williams with 13, and 10 apiece from Rosh Webb and Miya Webb.

Lincoln-Way West head coach Ryan White admitted West forced his team to switch defenses from zone to man-to-man, which, he admitted, his team normally does not do. “West was beating us with zone, so we had to switch it up a little bit. We’re usually not a great man team, but I thought we did a pretty good job of handling it. At the half, we were only down by one, and I felt if we were to bear down defensively, we would be in great shape.”

White said even though his team was victorious, he and his girls were aware each game at this point gets a little harder and that Normal West “put a scare into us.”

“The fact that Normal West held us to 27 points and didn’t allow us to score any threes in the first half says they did a great job,” he said, adding his team took the approach of not forcing plays into happening helped them in the second half.

Despite being eliminated from making it to State, Ostling said afterward, “I was proud of what our girls did tonight. I just thought our girls kept competing the whole way through and we played Normal West basketball. We didn’t get caught up into what they do. We paid more attention on what we do.

“From the get-go, the girls said they were going to be fearless in this game, and they did that,” Ostling said. “They didn’t bat an eye and they were laser focused on the game plan, and I’m proud of them.”

Looking back on the season overall, Ostling, wrapping up his fifth season as head coach, said the team has nothing to be discouraged about, adding he thought it was one of the best seasons the school has ever had. He reminded the team has made it into the regionals for the last three years.

BLOOMINGTON – If area high school basketball fans were looking for a little post-Thanksgiving excitement during the annual Boys Intercity Basketball Tournament, they found it quickly if they attended Normal West High School’s showdown against Bloomington Central Catholic on Friday, Nov. 29 as the Wildcats clawed their way through triple overtime before dropping an 84-75 decision to the Saints before 750 enthusiastic fans.

West senior forwards Evan Hutson and Max Ziebarth opened the fourth quarter with a deuce each to help pull the Wildcats within two of BCC, 50-48, prompting Saints head coach Jason Welch to call time with 6:58 in the fourth quarter. Following the time out, the teams would see the score seesaw again, to a Wildcats 52-50 lead with 5:19 left, prompting West first season head coach Ed Hafermann to call time.

Coming out of that time out, a trey by Ellison put the Saints up, 53-52, but was countered by a deuce for West from Ziebarth, putting West up, 54-53, at the 4:25 mark. Back-to-back fouls committed by West junior forward Corey Walker’s foul put Davis on the line where he made two shots each time, giving BCC a 57-54 lead with 1:46 left. A deuce from West senior forward Cole Hernandez helped trim the lead to one, 57-56, prompting BCC to call time with nine seconds left.

But Davis was fouled shortly after coming out of the time out and made two free throws, putting the Saints up, 59-56, and prompting West to call time. The two sides would call another timeout each in the waning seconds before play would resume and McGinnis would find an opening and hit a trey to tie the game, 59-all, as the final buzzer sounded, forcing overtime.

A Seesaw 1st Overtime: BCC junior forward Sam Tallen opened the first overtime by fouling West’s Ziebarth who hit a pair of free throws, putting the Wildcats up, 61-59 with 3:47 left. But a trey from Davis just seconds later gave the Saints a one-point lead, 62-61. Hutson countered with a trey putting West ahead by two, 64-62. With three minutes left, Saints junior guard Andrew Hinderer’s trey put BCC up by one, 65-64, followed by two free throws by Hinderer being fouled and hitting two free throws with 3:40 left, giving the Saints a 67-64 lead. West called time with 26.2 seconds left and the Wildcats tried keeping their distance from the Saints waiting for the right shot with junior guard Colton Cassady the last man with the ball and hitting a three with 2.2 seconds left.

West was quick to call time and coming out of that timeout, BCC couldn’t maneuver to the basket forcing double OT.

BCC’s Ellison’s Trey Ends 2nd Overtime: West was quick to jump out to a 71-67 advantage to start double overtime thanks to a deuce from Ziebarth and a pair of free throws from Ziebarth, having been fouled by Tallen at the 1:08 mark in the second overtime. That prompted West to call time. Following the timeout, BCC’s Davis fouled Ziebarth, who sank both free throws, giving the Wildcats a 73-67 lead.

But a trey by Davis with 20.4 seconds cut West’s lead to three, 73-70. That was followed by West’s McGinnis going to the line having been fouled by Saints junior guard Casey Crowley. But McGinnis missing both free shots. BCC tied the game at 73-all on a buzzer-beating trey from junior guard Jayden Ellison, forcing triple OT.

Tallen, Davis, Ellison Baskets Push Saints In Front: The first two minutes and 10 seconds of the third overtime was a defensive effort for both teams with no scoring, but Tallen managed a deuce at that point, putting BCC up, 75-73. Cassady countered with a deuce for West with two minutes remaining to tie the game, 75-all. But that didn’t hold long courtesy of a Davis trey with 1:53 left, putting BCC up, 78-75. Tallen fouled West’s Ziebarth, but the 6 foot-4 sophomore couldn’t convert the two needed free throws. Another BCC trey from Ellison pushed the Saints’ lead to six, 81-75, with 1:05 left. BCC earned another point, going ahead 82-75, when Crowley hit 1-of-2 free throws after being fouled by McGinnis. BCC called time with 52.5 seconds remaining. Following the timeout, Davis added two more free throws, having been fouled by West’s McGinnis, resulting in the final score.

Scoring Leading Up To The Overtimes: A pair of threes from senior guard Cole Davis and junior guard J. T. Welch helped push Central Catholic (1-2 following this game) past Normal West, 14-11 to close out the first quarter. During that quarter, Wildcats fans saw their team jump to a fast 4-0 start with back-to-back deuces by junior forward Corey Walker and a trey from senior forward Evan Hutson.

Ziebarth’s basket at 3:49 in the second quarter helped Normal West (1-1 following this game) tie the game in the second quarter, 17-17, before Ellison’s bucket put BCC in front, 19-17. The game would be tied one more time, 19-all, and a Hutson deuce would put West up by one, 22-21 at the 3:21 mark, before a trey by Tallen would give the Saints a 24-22 lead that would be the start of a chase for West to keep pace with their opponents.

BCC would own a 34-26 lead at the half and 50-44 advantage highlighted by a pair of third quarter threes each for West from senior guard Alec McGinnis and for BCC from senior guard Cole Davis.

West’s Ziebarth, BCC’s Davis Were Lead Scorers: Davis and Ellison led all scorers in the contest as well as led BCC’s charge, with 31 points and 20, respectfully. Tallen was the only other Saints player to reach double-figures, with 13. Ziebarth led Normal West’s scoring with 21 points. He was followed in double-digits by 16 from Walker, Hutson’s 12, and McGinnis’ 11.

“West is skilled and they’re big,” stated BCC head coach Welch. “We never felt comfortable, and certainly, I don’t think West felt comfortable. The reality is it was two good basketball teams going at it in November and there really isn’t a winner or a loser because both teams got better.”

Welch credited his players with not letting West catching up to them deflate their momentum during the contest.

“That was a battle and we have talked about resiliency with our team this year,” explained Hafermann. “We were down 12 at one point in the third quarter and talked to the boys about not panicking. We talked about battling back.”

“Both teams were playing with no fear,” Hafermann added. “They were just out there competing. What more can you ask of 16-, 17-year-old kids in front of a very large crowd in a really intense environment?” He noted McGinnis’ trey, which came as the buzzer sounded the end of regulation, was “a really tough three” and that the 5 foot-10 senior never came out of the contest.

“I know people will talk about Alec’s missing those two free throws toward the end of the second overtime, but I want that kid on my team every single time,” Hafermann said. “You love to win but you want to learn from your losses.

NORMAL – As what turned out to be the final seconds of Normal Community West High School ticked away, fans might not have been able to see it in his face, but senior quarterback Carson Camp’s posture – in a catcher’s pose, his head bowed – seem to say it all for his team. As those seconds and the Wildcats’ season slipped away, junior wide receiver Zach Jurich walked over and patted his field general on the shoulder.

New Lenox, Ill.-based Providence Catholic High School scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to outpace and eliminate Normal West, defeating the Wildcats, 19-14, in the Illinois High School Association Class 6A first round contest, held at Wildcat Field.

A crowd of roughly 700 fans braved mostly cloudy and windy conditions to cheer the Wildcats on hoping their team would be able to use the home victory to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

After a scoreless first quarter, Wildcat defenders did manage to pin Providence Catholic deep in their own territory forcing them to punt and provide the Wildcats their own 43 to begin a drive. Normal West, led by Camp, took time to drive down field concluding the drive when Camp connected with senior wide receiver Cole Hernandez on a 7 yard touchdown pass at the 10:13 mark in the quarter. Senior kicker Adam Conrad followed up with a successful extra point to put the Wildcats up, 7-0.

Providence Catholic (7-3) countered later in the quarter when junior quarterback Kevin Conway connected with senior wide receiver Lucas Porto for what would be the first of three scoring plays between the two on the day, this first one good for a 32 yard touchdown with 1:07 left until halftime, followed by junior kicker Lucca Kessler’s extra point. That tied the game going into the half at 7-7.

During the third quarter, the Wildcats would have three possessions ending in punts, the Celtics two before scoring revved up in the fourth quarter. Conway would find Porto on his way to the end zone when they connected for a second score, from 35 yards out, at 11:53 in the fourth quarter, putting the Celtics up, 13-7 following Kessler’s missed extra point.

With around 11 minutes to go in the contest and the Wildcats at their own 35 on fourth down, they punted. But Providence Catholic junior defensive back Dakota Straight mishandled his reception of it, seeing the ball hit the ground. In the scramble to get it, Wildcats senior defensive back Gavin Tellor came up with the ball at the Celtics’ 37 yard line. Loud cheers could be heard from Wildcats fans as a result.

One play later, Camp connected with junior wide receiver LeTre Billups who dodged defenders for a touchdown. Millmore’s extra point led to loud cheers from fans as his successful kick put Normal West in front, 14-13, with 10:41 remaining.

The ensuing kickoff for Normal West (7-3) and the Celtics’ return put the visitors on their own 24 for their next drive. They advanced to Normal West’s 40, but were flagged for holding which pushed the Celtics back to midfield. From there, the Celtics were able to get to West’s 11 when Conway took matters into his own hands. As Normal West defenders grasped at and hit him, he ran toward the goal line getting across for a touchdown with 7:27 remaining. The Celtics opted to try for 2 points, sending Porto to accomplish the task, but West defenders prevented it, leading to the final score.

In the huddle in the end zone afterward, head coach Nate Fincham could be heard telling the boys “you did the season the right way.”

“Ultimately, they’re a good football team,” Fincham said afterward about the Celtics. “They’re physical up front and they made some adjustments. But I couldn’t say enough about how proud I am of our guys for everything they did. They battled. They gave this team everything they wanted and I’m proud of everything they did.”

Despite not advancing, Fincham said there is still plenty for his team to be proud of, including claiming a share of this season’s Big 12 Conference title. These players “were part of my first group of players last year to the quarterfinals and in no way shape or form do I think they are a 1-and-done type team.

“They brought a conference championship to us this year and I couldn’t be more proud of the group,” the second-season head coach added. “When it’s all said and done, you’ve got some record setters in this class.“ Those players he singled out were Camp, Hernandez, and offensive lineman Skyler Hufeld.

“Normal West is a very good team and they were very well coached,” said Providence Catholic head coach Mark Coglianese. “We’re such a run-heavy team and we don’t throw all that much that maybe, we caught them by surprise.

“We were fortunate to score late in the first half,” Coglianese added, admitting he didn’t want to see his team behind at halftime. “We were scrambling at times. Normal West throws a lot of formations at you. They give you a lot to prepare for.”

By Steve Robinson | October 27, 2019 - 10:42 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Urbana head coach Ordell Walker fully admitted after his team’s contest he knows he has a young team that lacks veteran leadership and needs room to grow and improve. The Tigers’ youth and need to grow were on full display at Wildcat Field when they visited Normal West Oct. 25. The Wildcats took full advantage of the Tigers’ predicament, defeating the visitors, 63-0, before roughly 850 fans. The victory helped the Wildcats close out the regular season with a 7-2 regular season mark, including 7-1 count against Big 12 Conference opponents.

Urbana (1-8 overall, 1-7 Big 12) received the ball first but was forced to punt on fourth down giving Normal West the ball for the first time at the Tigers’ 48 yard line. One play later, senior quarterback Carson Camp raced through the Tigers’ defense for the Wildcats first touchdown followed by a successful 2-point conversion play which featured senior running back Cole Hernandez passing to passing to junior tight end Corey Walker to put the Wildcats up, 8-0 at the 10:24 mark.

Normal West got the ball back when Urbana’s next possession ended in a punt. The Wildcats were able to score again on a 3 yard dash by senior running back Aimry Schieler, capping 3 play 48 yard drive followed by senior kicker Adam Conrad’s extra point, increasing the home team’s lead, 15-0.

After Normal West’s ensuing kickoff, Urbana began their drive at their own 20 but West senior tight end Zach Marcotte picked off the pass from Tigers senior quarterback Elijah Rodgers and dashed into the end zone for a 32 yd. interception touchdown followed by Conrad’s extra point, increasing the Wildcats’ lead, 22-0, with 6:44 left in the quarter.

Urbana was deep in their own territory when they gave Normal West another scoring opportunity toward the end of the quarter. Punting with their ball at their own 5 proved costly as the Wildcats began a drive at Urbana’s 19. Camp would pass to sophomore Max Ziebarth who scored the last touchdown of the quarter followed by Conrad’s next point after. That would give Normal West a 29-0 lead going into the second quarter.

Urbana’s next possession began at their own 40 until an Urbana fumble led to a scramble for the ball and was picked up by junior defensive back Scott Tippy who ran the ball into the end zone for a 5 yard touchdown at the 11:41 mark in the second quarter. Conrad’s extra point increased West’s lead to 36-0. Urbana’s ensuing possession also ended in a fumble turned touchdown for West as junior linebacker DeAris McQuirter converted Urbana’s mistake into a 22 yard return for a touchdown followed by Conrad’s extra point. That increased West’s lead to 43-0 with 11:10 until halftime.

The Wildcats ensuing kickoff would give the Tigers the ball at their own 39, but three plays later, another fumble, this time by Wildcats senior defensive lineman Anarius Walton, would help give West good field position, starting at Urbana’s 38. Seven plays later, Camp would connect on a 5 yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Corey Walker for a touchdown followed by another Conrad extra point. That gave Normal West a 50-0 lead going into halftime.

Once the second half began, game officials employed IHSA’s “Mercy Rule,” – as a result of the 40-point plus difference in the game score, using a continuously running clock, stopping it for only timeouts taken by a team or because of an injury. The running clock began as the third quarter opened.

Normal West received the ball to start the second half and began at their own 37. Six plays later, junior running back LaTre Billups marched into the end zone from 14 yards out for another score, followed by Conrad missing the extra point, leading to West holding a 56-0 lead.

A turnover on downs ended Urbana’s next possession, giving West the ball at the Tigers’ 15. Three plays later, senior running back Chauncey Jones dashed into the end zone for what would be the final points of the contest followed by Conrad’s extra point.

“Our kids did everything we asked of them tonight,” stated Wildcats head coach Nate Fincham. “They played hard. They played within our scheme. They did everything we expected them to do and they were respectful about it.”

He added that his players demonstrated a mindset the coaching staff has been encouraging of “start strong and play fast.” He admitted his players have been in this kind of game at times where they didn’t observe that request.

Urbana’s Walker began his postgame comments by congratulating Fincham and his players on their season. “Normal came out and did what they were supposed to do. We made a lot of mistakes which they capitalized on, and it was a great victory for them. Statistically, we continue to move the ball even though the scoreboard doesn’t show that.”

He said his team is “decimated with injuries, but who we have out there play extremely hard. We were severely outmatched today.” He said a number of players on the field for this game were junior varsity still learning the team’s strategies.

By Steve Robinson | September 14, 2019 - 10:58 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Everybody attending a big high school homecoming game wants to see a big victory. It’s many respects, just anticipated and expected by fans of the home team. And Although Normal Community West High School went scoreless in the first quarter of their Big 12 Conference game against Danville Friday, Wildcats defenders held their guests scoreless the rest of the way while they marched to a 29-7 victory.

The Wildcats received the kickoff to start the game but punted to the Vikings after punting having gotten as far as the Vikings’ 40 before Danville defenders pressured them. Danville (1-2 Big 12 and overall) started their opening drive just inside Wildcats territory at West’s 49 yard line. The Vikings chewed up the clock as much as they did yardage, scoring when sophomore quarterback Eric Turner, Jr. dashed into the end zone for the score followed by junior kicker Edgar Segura’s successful extra point. That gave Danville a 7-0 lead with 3:16 left in the opening quarter, a lead they carried into the second quarter.

Each team would have two possessions in the second quarter before Normal West (2-1 Big 12 and overall) would find enough traction allowing them to get past Danville defenders. Senior quarterback Carson Camp would connect on an 11 yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Cole Hernandez at the 2:27 mark of the second quarter for the Wildcats’ first score of the game. Freshman kicker Owen Senn’s extra point tied the contest at 7-7.

Danville started their ensuing possession at their own 35 but the Vikings punted on their fourth play of the drive having lost five yards. Segura’s punt put the Wildcats at their own 35 to start their next possession. But a 48 yard completed pass from Camp to junior wide receiver Cole Hernandez put the Wildcats on the Danville 17. Two plays later, junior running back LaTre Billups rushed past defenders for a 5 yard score followed by a successful 2-Point conversion pass between Camp and Hernandez, increasing the Wildcats’ lead, 15-7, going into halftime.

Danville would have two unsuccessful drives and West one before West would add to its lead at 4:40 in the third quarter. Camp would connect with Billups a second time on an 18 yard touchdown play, Billups dashing down the far sideline into the end zone for the score. That resulted in West increasing the lead, 23-7, thanks to a 2-Point conversion play which followed as Hernandez connected with sophomore wide receiver Max Ziebarth.

Both sides would get a possession each before Danville would get the ball again, starting at their own 16, the result of a Vikings interception. West had a drive which started at their own 28 and was progressing until Ward picked off a Camp pass, giving the Vikings the ball at their own 16. But that drive was stopped when Normal West junior defensive back Davonte Crawford picked off Turner’s pass and got the Wildcats starting a new drive from their own 30. From there, the Wildcats chewed up both yardage and time on the way to their next score. That came when Camp connected with Hernandez for a second time on the night, this time from 12 yards out, putting Normal West up, 29-7, with 2:37 left in the contest, followed by a failed extra point try by Senn resulting in the final score.

“It took us a while to get us going and eventually, we got going at the end of the half, and that’s what I wanted to see,” said second-year Wildcats head coach Nate Fincham. He labeled his team’s response the rest of the way to the slow start as being positive.

“At the beginning of the game, we came out a little flat and Danville came out ready to play and we had to kind of catch our breath and wake up and play,” Fincham said, theorizing as to why his team was scoreless in the first quarter.”

Danville head coach Marcus Forrest said his team played the way he said his likes to play. “We played physical, we played aggressive, we played at the tempo we wanted to play. We were moving the ball and controlling it.”

But he added miscues started to help the Vikings’ desire to keep that style of play continuing led to his team unraveling in the later quarters. “Normal West has a quarterback who is a tough kid and we knew that. But we also knew defensively when we could get to him, good things happened for us. When our defense was passive, bad things happened for us.”