NORMAL – Normal Community West High School had but seconds to try to send their fans home happy Friday night at Wildcat Field. Trailing Bloomington 14-7 in the last couple of minutes of the Big 12 Conference contest, the Wildcats had the football but had not crossed midfield as they sought a big play in hopes of beating the Purple Raiders.

Then, with 19.9 seconds remaining in the contest, senior quarterback Kolton Lindsay connected with junior wide receiver Matthew Marsaglia for a 57 yard touchdown followed by a successful point after try by junior kicker Owen Senn which gave the Wildcats a wild 14-10 win over the Purple Raiders.

To the fans, it was another successful play. For Marsaglia, it came across like a moment of déjà vu because he had done something similar under similar circumstances. The 5 foot-8, 150 pounder told reporters he experienced a near-exact situation playing his freshmen year. Of the play he knew he needed to catch against the Purple Raiders, he said, “I just knew I had to catch this. I knew if I didn’t catch this, it’s going to be so embarrassing.”

But having caught it and scored, there was no embarrassment as Marsaglia put his team in front for the win helping Normal West keep a perfect 3-0 Big 12 Conference record. Normal West is 3-1 overall on the season.

Normal West scored early in the contest on their first series in the first quarter, as Lindsay connected with senior wide receiver Jamarcus Webb on a 9 yard touchdown pass at 8:35 in the first quarter followed by Senn’s extra point, putting Normal West up, 7-0. Both defenses managed to keep their opponents from scoring for the remainder of the half, and each side went scoreless in the third quarter.

Freshman kicker Taylor Anderson helped Bloomington High (2-2 Big 12 and overall) narrow West’s lead, 7-3, with a 24 yard field goal with 7:59 left in the fourth quarter, capping their longest drive of the night consisting of 16 plays going 95 yards for the score.

Normal West wound up punting to conclude the ensuing set of downs, and with the ball back in their possession, BHS went to work from their own 49. Twelve plays later, junior quarterback Marcus Griffin used a keeper play to score with 52 seconds left in the contest, followed by Senn’s extra point to allow BHS to take a 10-7 lead. From there, fans saw Normal West quickly work against the clock while holding back Purple Raiders defenders en route to the victory.

“This was another big game for us to keep learning and get ourselves ready for the postseason,” Normal West head coach Nate Fincham explained. “Bloomington was more physical than us. That’s what it comes down to. They dictated the tempo to us and that’s where our mistakes happened.” He said his team needed to maintain a physical presence and learn to not let up on opponents.

He added his players need to “learn to finish drives, finish blocks, and finish tackles, and we didn’t have that problem the first two weeks. We’ve done a pretty good job of making the plays necessary previously but we did not do the job today.”

“We did what they thought they would do,” BHS head coach Scott Godfrey said in assessing the Wildcats team his team saw. “The play at the end of the game was the difference.”

By Steve Robinson | May 25, 2021 - 3:31 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite, U-High

NORMAL – University High School senior shortstop Abby Knight blasted two home runs to help her team beat Normal Community West Monday, 5-3, at Champion Fields.

The lead off batting senior shortstop’s first turn at the plate ended in a home run over the center field fence giving the Pioneers (15-5) a quick 1-0 lead.

Two innings later, in the top of the third, with two outs and nobody on base, Knight belted a 2-ball 2-strike pitch from Wildcats pitcher Rylee McConigle over the center field fence a second time, giving the Pioneers a 2-0 lead.

In the top of the sixth inning, with one out, Knight walked and advanced to second on a sacrifice by pitcher Jen Kuhn, and scored on an error by West shortstop Landes Benedict, upping the Pioneers’ lead to 3-0.

With one out in the top of the seventh inning, Pioneers center fielder Brooke Cordray singled and was followed by designated player Evellyn Kline’s single and Knight being walked. Winning senior pitcher Kuhn followed and was walked scoring Cordray, increasing U-High’s lead, 4-0. The Pioneers last point came with Kline crossing the plate.

Normal West freshman third baseman Emily McCandless led off her team’s bottom half of the seventh with a walk followed by right fielder Gracie White striking out for West’s first out. Benedict followed and benefitted from a Pioneers two-base error. Sophomore Emily Kobel followed with a three-run shot that left the yard over the left field fence resulting in the eventual final score. The loss dropped the Wildcats record following this game to

West sophomore center fielder Katie Poehlman hit a double after that, followed by a single from Post being walked. But with two on, West first baseman Claire Post hit the ball in the direction of U-High sophomore third baseman Lauryn Blemler who fired the ball to sophomore first baseman Adi Rumler for the final out of the contest.

Kuhn’s win for the Pioneers increased her record to 10-2 while the loss went to McConigle whose record dropped to 12-3. Normal West’s record dropped to 20-5.

Of the two home runs she hit toward U-High’s victory, Knight said, “I take batting practice and I just try to make contact and it goes out like it did today.” She said Pioneers head coach Al Tolliver had stressed trying to make contact when there were two strikes in the count. “I look for lower pitches,” she added regarding what she tries looking for when at the plate.

“It’s always nice when Abby starts a game with a home run,” U-High head coach Al Toliver said. “It’s nice to get those early leads but we knew it would be a battle at the end and it was.”

“We kind of need to get our bats going a little earlier,” said Normal West head coach April Schermann. At times, she added, “We had runners in scoring position and we didn’t come up with that big hit.

Mother Of Normal West Player Honored: Schermann said her team is honored to be able to play for Melissa Fasig, mother of Wildcats player Kenzie Fasig. Melissa is currently battling breast cancer. All the monies the team has raised is helping bring awareness to people and raise money to help with the Fasig’s medical costs. “That’s really important to us,” Schermann added.

NORMAL – One thing football coaches have to make sure players understand is they must be prepared for anything during a game. It’s a lesson that fits for life, too. Normal Community High School senior wide receiver Jackson Wiggins showed rival Normal Community West High School he has taken note of that lesson, and made use of it Friday night. It was opening night of a COVID-19 delayed season for both teams. Wiggins scored two touchdowns against the Wildcats, giving the Ironmen a 14-0 annual “Chili Bowl” victory in a game played at Hancock Stadium on Illinois State University’s campus. The win gave the Ironmen a 1-0 start on the season.

A fumble by Normal West quickly ended the Wildcats’ second possession at their own 21 yard line. Two plays later, NCHS senior quarterback Chase Mackey connected with Wiggins for the first Ironmen touchdown with 7:09 left in the first quarter followed by sophomore kicker Ryan Millmore’s extra point. That gave NCHS a fast 7-0 lead.

Normal West (0-1) fumbled the ball deep in their own territory but fumbled where West junior defensive back Camden Maas recovered it and was downed at the Wildcats’ 9 yard line at 3:54 in the opening quarter. Three plays later, Mackey scored for the second time on the night catching an 8-yard pass from Mackey, followed by another Millmore extra point, resulting in the final score.

Where the Ironmen used Mackey all evening under center, Normal West rotated a trio of quarterbacks – seniors Leslie Fisher and Levi Hess, and junior Kolton Lindsay, to anchor the Wildcats’ offense throughout the contest.

Until Friday’s game, Wiggins said, he had only scored one touchdown in any game he had been in up to then. He was quick to distribute credit to both Chase and Wildcats Offensive Coordinator Chris Messina. Messina is also the team’s quarterback coach.

Normal Community High head coach Jason Drengwitz said he saw “a real good defensive effort by a young defense with some great senior leadership in the back end.” He added special teams “played a huge part” in the contest. “We know we have some room to improve, but when we need to make some plays, we made plays,” Drengwitz said. “We didn’t turn the ball over. We took care of it. When we needed to punt, we punted and let the defense take care of it.” It was a three-phase game, Drengwitz added, referring to the trio of parts of the team that work together – offense, defense, and special teams.

Since Normal West (0-1) rotated three quarterbacks, Drengwitz said that made it “somewhat hard to prepare for.” But he said his staff had an idea who the Wildcats would put behind center.

“It was a tough game,” said Normal West head coach Nate Fincham. “Give credit to Normal. They came out and played physical. They didn’t make mistakes. We looked like we hadn’t played a game in 18 months. We came out and had some mistakes and you can’t do that against a team like Normal.”

Fincham said his team would address ball security when they practiced this week in preparation for hosting non-conference opponent Quincy Notre Dame in a Friday 7p.m. contest

Ironmen Field Deemed Too Muddy: Late Friday afternoon, just hours before NCHS’ scheduled game with Unit 5 School District rival Normal Community High School, NCHS Athletic Director Nic Kearfoot called an audible and was able to move the game from NCHS’ Ironmen Field to Hancock Stadium on Illinois State University’s campus.

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.