By Steve Robinson | June 2, 2019 - 10:15 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – Normal Community West High School and Edwardsville looked to be evenly matched and still trying to size one another up, each side managing to score two runs in the opening inning to tie the contest to determine the Class 4A Sectional Champion at the contest played at Jack Horenberger Field on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus Saturday.

But a five-run second inning and three more in the fourth inning by the Tigers was what it took to close out Normal West’s season as the Tigers beat the Wildcats, 12-8. The loss helped close out Normal West’s season at 30-7.

A single by senior pitcher Austin Collinson started the top of the first inning, followed by a put-out on junior center fielder Will Kafer. Junior catcher Cole Hernandez was walked, and a double by senior right fielder Brandon Roth emptied the bases, putting West up, 2-0.

Collinson seemed unsettled against the first two batters for Edwardsville (34-5), walking leadoff hitter and sophomore center fielder Hayden Moore and second batter Blake Burris before forcing a put-out on third batter Drake Westcott. But with two on, a double by senior left fielder Joe Copeland scored Moore and Burris, tying the game at 2-2 before setting down the next two batters, senior shortstop Josh Ohl and senior third baseman Max Ringering to end the inning.

Normal West batters C. J. Lewis, Sean Shook, and Alec McGinnis went down in order to open the second inning, Edwardsville added to their lead in the bottom of that inning, starting with a double by junior first baseman Logan Cromer, who doubled scoring senior catcher Dalton Wallace who opened the Tigers’ half of the inning with a double. Cromer’s run batted in gave Edwardsville a 3-2 lead. A walk of Moore followed, and a single by Burris loaded the bases for junior first baseman Drake Westcott who blasted a grand slam home run over the right center field wall for a grand slam, pushing the Tigers in front, 7-2.

Collinson led off the top of the third with a double, was followed by center fielder Will Kafer striking out, and scored on a double by junior catcher Cole Hernandez, making the score, 7-3. Hernandez advanced to third from courtesy of an Edwardsville fielding error and crossed the plate during an out made on first baseman Evan Hutson, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 7-4.

Edwardsville went scoreless in the bottom of the third inning and Normal West fans saw their team open the fourth on a walk to Lewis followed by single by Shook. With two on, McGinnis hit a sacrifice fly to advance the runners to second and third, and a single by Collison allowed the pair to score, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 7-6.

Moore opened the bottom of the fourth inning with a single for Edwardsville and was followed by a put-out at first on Burris. With one gone, Westcott and Copeland each singled loading the bases. Shortstop Josh Ohl emptied the bases with a single, putting the Tigers up, 10-6.

Roth opened Normal West top half of the fifth inning by being hit by a pitch and advancing to first. After junior first baseman Evan Hutson struck out, senior designated hitter Brennan Diedrich walked and Lewis struck out for the team’s second out. Roth and Diedrich scored on a two-run double from Shook, cutting Edwardsville’s advantage to 10-8.

Edwardsville (34-5) failed to score in the bottom of the fifth as did Normal West in the top of the sixth. But after Burris singled in the bottom of the sixth, Westcott smacked his second home run of the day over the right field fence to push Edwardsville up, 12-8.

Diedrich led off Normal West bottom of the seventh inning hitting to second base for a put-out at first. With one gone, senior catcher Whitton Rice singled. But the Wildcats’ next batter, Shook hit the ball to Edwardsville shortstop Ohl who turned a double play to end the game and the Wildcats’ season.

Senior pitcher Grant Schaefer took the win for Edwardsville while Collinson took the loss.

Edwardsville head coach Tim Funkhouser was complimentary of Westcott’s two-homer performance on the day. “He’s got that real special ability to square up balls,” he explained. On facing Normal West, he added, “We knew there was a reason why they have won 30 games this year, and that came out very evident on film, so we knew their lineup was going to be really tough to pitch to. We also knew they had team speed throughout the lineup. Normal West played great quality defense in the two games we’ve seen. They’re a fundamentally sound team, so we knew they wouldn’t give us much at all.”

“Both teams kept punching,” explained Normal West head coach Chris Hawkins. “It was a heavyweight bout for a while.” He credited Collinson’s staying power throughout the game, exhibited by hit three hits in the contest. “He’s a warrior,” Hawkins said of his 5 foot-11, 170 pound senior.

Hawkins summed up the season by saying, “These guys did what they were asked. “We lost four games in March, one in April, and one in May. You know, we lost three games in March, one game in April, and one in May. We have been in the Sweet 16 game three straight years. We just have to keep grinding and get better. We’re right there. We’re knocking on the door.” His team this year had 10 juniors, Hawkins said, adding he hopes they find their way to the door to the playoffs again next year. The previous Sweet 16 losses were twice to Edwardsville and once to O’Fallon.

By Steve Robinson | May 26, 2019 - 10:13 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, Pekin HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – It can easily be said Normal Community West High School baseball fans are used to getting to playoffs en route to trying to make it to State. But when 4th seed Pekin put five runs on the board to go in front of the 2nd seed Wildcats at Saturday’s Sectional title contest, while the fans may have been nervous about it, Wildcats head coach Chris Hawkins wasn’t.

“We really weren’t frightened by this because we’ve won 29 games and been down before,” Hawkins said afterward. And the Wildcats had to come back from behind again in order to beat Pekin Community High School, 8-5, to take the Illinois High School Association Class 4A Regional Title at Wildcat Field May 25.

But while Normal West rallied to win, they won’t see Unit 5 rival Normal Community High School for the Sectional title. Top seed NCHS lost to 3rd seed Moline in the other Regional contest Saturday, 5-3. That put Normal West facing Moline in a Sectional Semifinal at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Jack Horenberger Field on May 29.

After leadoff batters went down in order for Pekin (15-9), Normal West pitcher Will Collinson led off the bottom of the first with a base hit, followed by an error that put center fielder Will Kafer on second and allowed Collinson to score, giving Normal West a 1-0 lead. Designated hitter Brandon Roth was hit by starting pitcher Brandon Antonio to put Wildcat men on first and first and second. Roth rounded the bases for a 2-0 lead due to Pekin errors as Wildcats Cody Hardt and C. J. Lewis hit into the outfield for outs.

Pekin scored three in the top half of the 4th inning on a single by leadoff man Cole Russell and walks of shortstop Max Jones and Nathan Righi and single by left fielder Chase Roepenack, putting the Dragons in front, 3-2. A solo blast over the center field wall by Wildcats first baseman Evan Hutson to start the bottom half of that same inning tied the game at 3-3. West shortstop Alec McGinnis singled, advanced to second on a hit by catcher Brennan Dietrich and stole third before scoring to put the Wildcats up, 4-3.

Pekin added two more runs in the top of the 5th inning courtesy of a Righi single which scored Isaac Chapman and a double by first baseman Evan Pogioli which scored Russell, putting Pekin up, 5-4, as Normal West enter the bottom of the fifth. Kafer and Roth led off the Wildcats’ half of the fifth being walked before a single by Hardt scored Kafer, tying the game at 5-all, and a Hutson hit scored Roth, giving the Wildcats a 6-5 lead. With one out, singles by Hutson and McGinnis allowed Roth and Hardt to cross the plate for the final runs of the game.

The contest was riddled with errors committed by both sides, but the Dragons’ 5 mistakes outpaced the two committed by the Wildcats. Collinson was the winning pitcher while

Being down “really didn’t frighten us because we’ve been down before,” Normal West’s Hawkins said afterward. He added that having not lost a game since March, he didn’t have to worry about players’ morale on the bench when they were down to the Dragons. “I simply told them, ‘we’ve lost the first half of the game, so, let’s go win the second half.’”

“What we saw from Normal West today was the same team we have always seen when we play them,” Pekin head coach Larry Davis said, elaborating he didn’t see anything different in how the Wildcats played against his team this time. “His pitcher stayed with it and fought through some adversity.

“It was an ugly game with five errors and only four hits,” Davis added. “If you had told me we had four hits and five errors, I’d say we got our head kicked in, but we didn’t.”

By Steve Robinson | February 16, 2019 - 10:47 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – From the opening tip, Normal Community High School’s girls’ basketball team appeared to be ready to race toward winning the Illinois High School Association Class 4A Bloomington High School Regional Title. The Lady Iron managed to do just that, outpacing Normal Community West, 58-39, to advance to the Sectional semifinal Monday night against Rock Island. That game, ironically, will be played at Normal West. Also, with this victory, NCHS managed to win the season over the Wildcats by a 3 wins-to-1 tally.

As a result of the win, NCHS advances to Sectionals which will be played at Normal Community West High School where they will face Rick Island High School. The Rocks got to the Sectional semi with a win 63-55 win over Moline.

Junior guard Maya Wong scored the first points of the game for NCHS (23-9 after this game) to begin the scoring and was followed by a deuce by West junior guard Olivia Demosthenes to tie the game at 2-all. Senior forward Cassi Kraft’s basket, followed by a trey by Wong pushed the Lady Iron up, 7-2, prompting Normal West head coach Corey Ostling to call timeout.

Two free throws by a fouled senior forward Ayanna Gibbs cut that margin, 7-4 before NCHS scored on back-to-back deuces by senior forward Abby Feit and sophomore forward Mallory Oloffson for an 11-4 advantage. One free throw by Wildcats freshman guard Averie Hernandez reduced that lead to 11-5 before another set of back-to-back baskets for the Lady Iron by Wong and Feit extended NCHS’ lead to 10, 15-5, with 50.8 seconds to go in the quarter. That deficit prompted another Wildcats timeout. Following that, fouled Wildcats senior forward Tresoir Newson sank 1-of-2 free throws and was followed by another bucket by Wong, helping increase NCHS’ lead, 17-6, going into the second quarter.

Sophomore guard Madison Feeney opened the second quarter with a trey and was followed by back-to-back unanswered deuces from junior guard Kylee Schneringer to push the Lady Iron up, 24-6, with 5:29 remaining the period. At this point, Normal West took another timeout to regroup, and managed to cut the lead to 24-8 on a basket by Demosthenes with 4:18 on the clock.

But from there, NCHS launched into a 6-0 run, with Schneringer hitting a deuce between two baskets by Feit, putting the Lady Iron up, 30-8, prompting another Normal West timeout with 2:57 until halftime. Back-to-back deuces by Gibbs and Demosthenes reduced NCHS’ lead, 30-12, before a free throw by NCHS’ Feit and a deuce for West by Feeney led to the Lady Iron owning a 31-14 halftime lead.

Wong opened the third quarter with a three-point play for NCHS, having scored and been fouled by West’s Newson, and sinking the free throw, giving the Lady Iron a 20-point advantage, 34-14 with 7:15 left in the quarter. Newson scored next cutting that lead to 34-16, but a trey by Schneringer followed by a Newson deuce gave NCHS a 37-18 lead, and prompted a timeout for West at the six minute mark in the quarter.

Two free throws by a fouled Craft put NCHS up 39-18 before the Wildcats tacked three straight unanswered buckets on the board from Newson, Gibbs, and Demosthenes, pulling Normal West (19-11) within 15, 39-24, causing the Lady Iron to take a time out with 3:11 left in the quarter. Following the time out, Normal West got one more basket from Gibbs at 2:03 to pull within 13, 39-26 before NCHS would close out the quarter on a 5-0 run with a basket by Oloffson and a three-point play from Schneringer which included a free throw. That gave NCHS a 44-26 edge going into the fourth quarter.

Newson opened the fourth quarter with a deuce to reduce NCHS’ lead to 44-28 with 7:47 left in the contest, but back-to-back scores, an Oloffson deuce and a trey by Feeney pushed the Lady Iron up, 49-28 at the 6:37 mark. A trey by West senior forward Jess Jacobs cut that lead to 49-31 with 6:32 left. But having been fouled by Jacobs in the next possession, Feit hit two free throws putting NCHS up by 20, 51-31, prompting the Wildcats to call time. A three-point play by Kraft and a deuce by freshman guard Karleigh Creasey put NCHS up 56-31, followed by a Lady Iron time out.

West’s Demosthenes and NCHS’ Feit swapped deuces leading to a 58-33 lead for the Lady Iron with 2:17 remaining, but the Wildcats closed out the scoring with Bozarth hitting a deuce at 1:48, a trey from Jacobs at 1:09, and a free throw from Demosthenes.

Schneringer and Feit led all scorers each pocketing 14 points. They were followed in double-figures for the Lady Iron by 12 from Wong. Demosthenes and Newson led West’s scorers, each scoring 11 points.

After the presentation of the regional championship plaque, Lady Iron players gathered with family members and posed for pictures with the plaque. NCHS senior shooting guard Katie Broad could be seen on the hardwood of Robert Frank Sports Complex on BHS’ campus receiving congratulatory hugs from family and friends who attended the contest. She said she was excited to have been part of the win and that when the team works together toward a win, “that’s when we seem to do our best.”

“I’m very excited about our going to Sectionals,” Oloffson said. She added when Normal West began a steady scoring pace in the second half, her team “just tried to stay relaxed the whole time and just play our game. I think we did a really good job of it.”

“We’re excited to come away with a win,” stated NCHS head coach Marcus Mann. “We’re definitely excited to come away with a win and to do it against a crosstown rival as good as Normal West is.”

Although NCHS owned a large lead at the half, Mann said he knew the Wildcats would be resilient and come back from the deficit they had been handed by his team at half. “We just knew we’d be weathering that storm and that it would be coming at some point.”

“We wanted to compete,” explained Normal West’s Ostling afterward. “I told them at the half we couldn’t get all the points we needed all in one shot. We just did it little bit by little bit, doing things correctly, and then maybe, the ball starts falling in for us and we start a turnaround. The ball bounced around and went in a couple times for NCHS, and bounced around and didn’t go in for us. Sometimes, that’s how it goes.”

He added his team showed a lot of perseverance this season and times could have decided to fold, and yet didn’t. “They just kept battling and I’m proud of my girls,” Ostling concluded.

By Steve Robinson | February 12, 2019 - 10:34 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – Didn’t we all start to think this was a distinct possibility?: That although the two Normal-based Unit 5 School District high schools have already seen their girls’ basketball teams play three times this season, with Normal Community High School holding a 2 games-to-1 edge, that the two sides could face each other one more time before the season was out with advancing to Sectionals on the line?

No doubt while that was in the back of our minds, none of us could predict how those two local teams would do in their individual Illinois High School Association Class 4A regional semifinal matchups held at Bloomington High School Tuesday night.

Second seed NCHS discarded 7th seed Danville to open the evening, 76-42. Fans of 3rd seed Normal Community West watched their favorite team outpace 5th seed Bradley-Bourbonnais, 47-35. As a result, the two local teams will meet for a fourth time this season. That showdown will take place at BHS Thursday night starting with a 7p.m. tipoff.

Normal West 47, Bradley-Bourbonnais 35: Normal West started hot right from the opening tip, jumping out to a 6-0 lead on a trio of deuces – two to start the game from junior guard Olivia Demosthenes and one from senior forward Tresoir Newson. That lead was extended to 10-5 on baskets by senior forward Anna Gibbs and Demosthenes, and became 13-7 on another Demosthenes deuce and a free throw from junior guard Jess Leftwich. But Bradley-Bourbonnais closed out the quarter with a deuce from junior forward Gaetana Davis, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to four, 13-9, entering the second quarter.

But the Wildcats opened next quarter on a 6-0 run thanks to baskets by Newson and senior guard Jess Jacobs, putting Normal West up, 17-9, prompting Boilermakers head coach Evan Tingley to call time with four minutes until the half. After the timeout, West continued the scoring strike in the form of two free throws from junior forward Rosh Webb, to increase her team’s lead to 10, 19-9, with 2:04 left. A layup by Davis cut West’s lead going into the half, 19-11.

West managed to double their score, 22-11, to open the third quarter thanks to a trey from senior guard Whitney Bozarth. Boilermakers senior guard Zoie Langlois countered with a jumper setting off an exchange between the two teams that pulled Bradley-Bourbonnais within six, 26-20 prompting the out-of-town team to call time with 3:52 left in the quarter. Following the timeout, a trey from Demosthenes followed by a Gibbs free throw pushed Normal West in front, 30-22, on the way to a 36-24 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Boilermakers would pull within eight twice more in the last quarter – 39-31 and 43-35 – before a trio of fouls would send three Normal West players to the free throw line for a combined 4-for-5 to finish achieving the victory.

Demosthenes was the lone Wildcats player in double-figures on the night with 14 points. Freshman guard Addison Lombardi and Langlois each pocketed 13 points for the Boilermakers on the night.

“That’s a very good team,” said Normal West head coach Corey Ostling in complimenting Bradley-Bourbonnais. He then pivoted to how his team performed, stating, “My team executed the scouting report better than they have all season long. They knew which player was going to do what, and it’s one thing to know what to do and another to do it, especially in a regional.”

“We had a slow second half, and we missed some layups, and in a 10-point game, layups really make a difference,” Tingley admitted afterward. “I thought we guarded well enough when we held them to 19 points in the half. Unfortunately, we only scored 11. Defensively, we battled all night. Offensively, we got some pretty good shots in the second half that didn’t fall for us.”

NCHS 76, Danville 42: NCHS went on a pair of scoring spurts in the first quarter – a 9-0 run an 8-0 run – which featured two treys from junior guard Maya Wong in the first quarter which helped push the Lady Iron to a 17-4 lead with 2:37 in the period. Only sophomore guard Erin Houpt’s trey at the 2:12 mark followed by baskets by senior forward Makala Gray and senior center Naomi Woods would push the Lady Vikings into double-digits, trailing 24-11, to start the second quarter.

A second quarter trey from Houpt for Danville, and a trey each from sophomore guard Madison Feeney and senior guard Katie Broad, topped off by two free throws by junior guard Jess Leftwich and two unanswered buckets by junior guard Kylee Schneringer sent the teams into the locker rooms at halftime with NCHS holding a commanding 45-19 lead.

Third quarter baskets for Danville spurred by an initial basket by Houpt helped close the gap slightly, 50-23, before the Lady Iron, on the strength of buckets by sophomore forward Mallory Oloffson, Schneringer, Wong, and senior forward Abby Feit bombarded the Lady Vikings defenders, extending their lead to 64-25 with 3:50 left in the quarter. After that timeout, deuces by Gray, freshman guard Nau’tika Conway, and freshman guard Tharija Rose helped close out the quarter although NCHS entered the fourth quarter owning a 66-34 lead.

Feit led all players in scoring with 21 points. She was followed in double-figures for NCHS by Wong with 14, Oloffson with 11, and 10 from Schneringer. Haupt was the only Danville player to achieve double-figures with 17 points.

“We had a pretty good night..can’t complain,” stated NCHS head coach Marcus Mann. “They’re a tough team. They’re a little young and inexperienced, but they were going to bring everything that they have and we’re lucky to come away with the win that we got.

“We’ve got a young team and we’re still learning how to compete,” admitted Lady Vikings head coach Demetric Hightower. “In going up against Normal, we knew we’d up against a team that’s going to play hard. In the second half, we wanted to drive more. But in the second half, we drove a lot more to the basket. Normal wanted us to take shots they wanted us to take in the first half. The second half, we drove to the basket and we looked like a different team.”

By Steve Robinson | November 11, 2018 - 8:26 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

OAK LAWN – The quest for a first football championship in school history for Normal Community West High School came to an end Saturday at Korhonen Field here but the Wildcats did make their hosts in the Illinois High School Association Class 6A contest, Oak Lawn Richards High School, work for the victory.

Using a stingy defense and employing the running talents of senior wide receiver Armani Forrest to get past defenders, the Wildcats proved formidable during their road contest. Forrest’s return after being sidelined for a month due to an ankle injury appeared to be an encouraging sign to roughly dozens of Wildcats’ fans as they watched him race past defenders at key moments in the contest.

But for as well as this season had gone for the Wildcats, they couldn’t overcome the Bulldogs’ defense in the final quarter to achieve another victory, dropping a 22-17 decision before roughly 3,000 fans, finishing the season at 11-1.

Ranked second in the state in the Class, Oak Lawn Richards (12-0) scored first in the first quarter on a 1 yard run from junior running back Leshon Williams for the only score in the period, putting Oak Lawn Richards (12-0) in front first, 6-0, followed by a missed extra point by junior kicker Sabastian Lasak. A 35-yard field goal by Lasak early in second quarter advanced that lead, 9-0.

Sixth ranked Normal West pulled within two, 9-7, on a 35 yard pass from senior quarterback Carson Camp to Forrest with 6:06 left until halftime followed by an extra point by senior kicker Parker Theobald. The two sides would show defensive might to their opponents throughout the third quarter keeping the score in tact going into the fourth quarter.

But Bulldogs senior quarterback Sebastian Castro’s 3 yard run into the end zone with 7:32 left in the contest silenced the Wildcats faithful, who, up to that moment, had been cheering throughout. Lasak’s extra point followed pushing Oak Lawn Richards forward, 16-7.

West’s next drive was highlighted by Camp passes to senior wide receiver Davion McQuirter of 16 and 5 yards, aiding in getting the Wildcats to the Bulldogs’ 13 yard line where Oak Lawn Richards defenders forced the Wildcats to kick a field goal, successfully done by Theobald from 30 yards out. That helped Normal West trim Richards’ lead to 16-10 with 1:43 left.

West opted for an onside kick, but Richards recovered it at West’s 48 yard line. Two plays later, a 45 yard run by University of Iowa recruit Castro with 1:24 left pushed the Bulldogs in front, 22-10, following a failed 2-point attempt.

Camp and Forrest connected a second time from 14 yards out with 22.9 seconds left, followed by Theobald’s extra point, cutting Richards’ lead to five, 22-17. West tried another onside kick, which Richards players recovered allowing them to let time expire.

First season Wildcats head coach Nate Fincham said afterward his team “showed determination” all year, continuing to do that to the end of this contest. “Our team was like this all year. When they were down, they just never gave up. They showed that tonight. They pushed the limits of Oak Lawn tonight.”

Following a final postgame huddle with all his players, Fincham met with the 25 seniors on his roster. Of those players, he said, “That senior group is obviously a special group for me and the way they supported me in my first year here this year means a lot.

“Our guys believed from the beginning 100 percent they were in this game and from the very first play, they knew they could compete with Oak Lawn,” Fincham said. “That’s a pretty good football team here, and I think we are too, and I think we showed that tonight.”

Fincham said he knew from looking at Oak Lawn Richards team tape “running the ball would be extremely difficult, but I knew they were weak in the defensive backfield and I knew we could take advantage of that and we did that.”

“We don’t take anybody lightly and we knew Normal West could play,” stated Oak Lawn Richards head coach Tony Sheehan. “Camp is very good and we knew he’d do a good job. Their coach is obviously in his first year and he has their program going in the right direction. Normal’s kids played hard and they played hard the whole game.

“Being in a quarterfinal means there are no bad teams left,” Sheehan said in complimenting Normal West’s program. “Because of that, we knew we had to play to the last whistle. Armani Forrest was a difference maker tonight and we knew he would be. That was the only thing we wondered about but we figured he would play.”