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.”

By Steve Robinson | November 3, 2018 - 10:34 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – To explain what happened to Normal Community West High School in their second round Illinois High School Association Class 6A game against Palos Heights-based Alan J. Shepard High School, a school named after the late astronaut, verbiage used by NASA would seem appropriate: Normal West’s mission to get to the championship avoided being scrubbed. Normal West came from behind to beat the Astros, 26-17.

With the win, the 6th ranked in the Class Wildcats advanced to the quarterfinals of Illinois High School Association Class 6A playoffs for the first time in school history. The victory will have the Wildcats taking to the road to take on 11-1 Oak Lawn-based Richards High School this weekend, winners of a second round contest by the score of 35-21 over Yorkville.

Junior wide receiver Cole Hernandez scored two touchdowns, the second of which put West in front after trailing for most of the first half, aiding in the effort.

After winning the coin toss and accepting to receive, Shepard (8-4) scored first on an 8 yard touchdown run by senior wide receiver Jamail Hunt at 8:23 in the first quarter followed by senior kicker Michal Strama’s extra point, putting the Astros on the scoreboard first, 7-0.

A 43 yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Carson Camp to senior wide receiver Magnus Moeller helped Normal West (11-1) tie the game at 7-all following senior kicker Parker Theobald’s extra point..

Although Shepard started their next drive at their own 30, West defenders managed to see to it the Astros only got as far as West’s 16, prompting the decision for Strama to kick a 34 yard field goal. That gave the Astros a 10-7 lead with 11:15 in the second quarter. West ended their ensuing drive with a punt allowing Shepard to begin their next drive at their own 38. Eight plays later, right hand senior quarterback Kevin Graham was forced to throw across his body to senior wide receiver Chris Harrison to avoid defenders for the Astros next score, followed by Strama’s extra point, increasing Shepard’s lead, 17-7 with 5:56 until halftime.

West cut that lead to 17-13, as Camp connected with Hernandez for the first time on the night from 15 yards out followed by Theobald’s extra point cutting Shepard’s lead, 17-13, at the 3:44 mark, a score they would keep until halftime.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, each team seeing opportunities spoiled by the opponents defensive maneuvering. But it was a 9 yard pass to Hernandez from Camp that put West in front for the first time in the contest, 20-17, after Theobald’s extra point with 2:09 remaining.

A defensive maneuver by West junior linebacker Zack Marcotte helped the Wildcats’ effort on the Astros’ next series, as he stripped the ball from Graham and scrambled to pick up the ball in the end zone with 53.9 seconds remaining on the clock. But Theobald’s extra point was no good resulting in the final score after West defenders forced Shepard to rush through their plays until the final gun.

Of what was his first defensive score, Marcotte said, “That was the most exhilarating. I suddenly realized, ‘I got the football. It’s a touchdown. Game’s over. We win.’”

“I’m just excited to make it to the quarterfinals,” West head coach Nate Fincham said, explaining not getting that far into the playoffs in years the school has existed “has been like a black cloud hanging over these kids’ heads. I’m proud of the way they stuck with it. They just kept working throughout the season and offseason.”

“I knew they were athletic and I knew they would give us some issues,” Fincham added. “They kind of surprised us a little bit. I don’t think we expected them to be that physical up front. But we responded well and that’s what’s important.” Beating Shepard was the goal for the week, Fincham added. Having Oak Lawn Richards to beat is another goal, he explained.

“The main thing I can say is hats off to Normal West,” said Shepard head coach John Roan. “They made fewer mistakes than us so they deserved to win the ball game. We liked our chances coming in and we thought we played a pretty good first half. In the second half, the mistakes started to mount and we didn’t overcome them.”

By Steve Robinson | October 27, 2018 - 10:59 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Anybody trying to catch hold of Davion McQuirter Friday night had a tough time. Just ask any of the defensive line or secondary of Peoria Notre Dame when they visited Wildcat Field for the opening round of Illinois High School Association Class 6A playoffs at Wildcat Field. McQuirter tallied up 253 yards on 22 carries, already earning 200 by halftime, as he and the Wildcats eliminated the Irish from the playoffs with a 34-21 victory in damp conditions.

As a result, the 4th seed Wildcats will take on 5th seed Palos Heights (8-2) this weekend, winners over 12th seed Springfield by a score of 51-36.

The 5 foot-9, 180 pound running back got his evening started at 7:47 in the first quarter, scoring from 80 yards out to successfully end the evening’s first possession for Normal West (9-1), followed by senior kicker Parker Theobald’s extra point, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.

The ensuing possession for Peoria Notre Dame (6-4) ended in a punt which bounced then dropped to a stop at West’s 1 yard line. Two plays later, McQuirter scrambled past Irish defenders for his next score from 3 yards out at 3:29 in the quarter, and West owned a 13-0 lead despite a failed 2-Point conversion attempt, and carried that lead into the second quarter. An 85 yard pass from senior quarterback Carson Camp to sophomore wide receiver Corey Walker made McQuirter’s score possible.

PND cut West’s lead, 13-7 on a 7 yard rushing touchdown by senior running back Georgio Grivetti, capping the visiting team’s longest march of the night going 80 yards in 15 plays, followed by senior kicker Sidney Maroon’s extra point.

PND’s ensuing kickoff gave West the ball at their own 32, but it didn’t stay there long thanks to McQuirter who raced 68 yards down the near sideline for the Wildcats’ next score followed by Theobald’s extra point, putting West up, 20-7 at 9:20 in the second quarter holding that lead going into halftime.

West received the ball to start the third quarter and added to their lead, 27-7, on a 14 yard touchdown run by Camp, followed by another Theobald extra point.

PND responded with a touchdown to conclude the ensuing drive, pulling within 13, 27-14, featuring senior running back Blaine Stanton’s 5 yard score, topping a 9 play, 71 yard drive, followed by another Maroon extra point.

West held the ball going into the fourth quarter and scored on a McQuirter 2 yard dash with 10:08 left in the contest, followed by Theobald’s extra point, increasing the Wildcats’ lead, 34-14.

Senior running back Logan Cover’s 5 yard touchdown run followed by Maroon’s extra point, turned out to be the last points for the season for PND.

West first season head coach Nate Fincham said his team had to adjust to what they were seeing in PND’s play, “In the first half, we were scoring a little bit too fast and our defense was getting gassed. I changed things so that we would get a few yards at a time so that our defense wasn’t going back out after the offense had been on the field for two or three plays.”

“We went to the mentality of having first downs and that gave us some extended drives,” Fincham added. “That helped our defense.” The win was the second this season for the Wildcats over the Irish. The two sides opened the season Aug. 24 here, with West winning, 44-13.

“We had a slow start to it, but we came on toward the end,” was the assessment from PND head coach Pat Armstrong. “West had three or four broken plays where our guys weren’t in the right spot and West scored three touchdowns early. You can’t have that happen and win football games. “I’m proud of the boys and their effort. They had their backs against the wall, they were tired the last half of the season and they did a great job. I’m 100 percent happy with the boys’ effort and what they did.”