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 | March 3, 2016 - 10:08 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Pekin HS

BasketballNORMAL – Sydney Diekhoff’s season ended quickly at Illinois High School Association Class 4A 3-Point Shootout at Redbird Arena Thursday.

Although her fellow Pekin High Dragons closed out their season with a loss against Bradley Bourbonnais in regionals this year, Diekhoff said she was glad to have her season continue by making it this far in this annual competition. She tried to get this far last year, but fell short of the goal at regionals.

This year, she made her way to State, having seen 9-of-15 shots swish through the hoop at regionals and 8 more do the same in sectional competition. But grouped with five other girls from across the state here, Diekhoff sank 3 of five shots from right wing, just 1 of five from the top of the key, and 2 of five fall from left wing for a total score of 6-for-15. She said she was glad it lasted a little longer, but Diekhoff’s season is now at an end.

“(I thought to myself) going into regionals, it would be pretty cool to advance to sectionals,” explained the junior who has hopes of majoring in the Sports Management field. Being a 1,000-point scorer has allowed her to garner attention from Bradley, Southern Illinois University, and Arkansas.

“I thought this would be pretty fun because I’ve never gotten that far before. After our team lost, and I moved on, I knew moving on in sectionals meant the competition was going to be a lot more challenging.”

Pekin DragonsRedbird Arena being a little larger venue than PCHS’ Hawkins Gym, Diekhoff said she employed a practice strategy from the beginning that she thought would help her at the larger college arena. She did not use the game floor at PCHS to shoot baskets, but rather, shot at one of the baskets near the bleachers. Although they were folded up when she practiced, she said doing so aided her mental impression of shooting at a basket that was in front of a crowd of seats, as seen at Redbird Arena.

This venue didn’t intimidate Diekhoff, she said. “It’s definitely a different environment knowing you’re at a big university. But I think the floor is about the same, even if it is longer. But we have a pretty big gym in Pekin.”

Diekhoff said PCHS head Coach Becky Fulkerson and her assistant coach, Katie Murphy, “were really excited and really supportive and this has been a pretty fun ride so far,” Diekhoff said. “(My coaches’ advice) was to not be short and flat with my shots.” Diekhoff said she went in also trying to remember another Fulkerson hint to use her legs at the line, too. But both coaches also told her “to have fun and not worry about it, and just enjoy the time while I’m here.”

IHSA“My folks are pretty happy I made it this far,” Diekhoff said about how dad Brett and mom Tiffany feel about their daughter making it to State for this event.

Having practiced for this beginning just before regionals, “I believe I practiced as much as I could for it,” Diekhoff said. “I just came up a little bit short.” With one more season of high school ball left, Diekhoff has one more chance to get back to State.

Advice for players coming up behind her from PCHS’ all-time scoring leader for those girls who want to take a crack at making to the State 3-Point championship: “Just enjoy basketball at the high school because that time goes by really fast.”

By Steve Robinson | August 20, 2011 - 10:57 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, Pekin HS

WASHINGTON – Washington Community High head football coach DarrellCrouch knows his team must hurdle over its competitors in the Mid-IlliniConference to win its championship outright.

Last year, Crouch’s team finished7-3, including a regular season loss to Morton and ending the season in afirst-round playoff shelling by Joliet Catholic.

Crouch and his team, obviously,look to better that record and make it back to the IHSA playoffs. But first,the Panthers need to get past the teams in their conference, and especiallypast teams Crouch sees as sitting atop the conference – Morton, Metamora, andDunlap.

“Our goal is to win the conference,”Crouch said. “The last four years, we’ve either been first or second. We wantto be first.”

Position-By-Position: Senior Isaac Fisher has the controls asquarterback this season, going into his third year as a starter. That gives Fisheranother opportunity to hand off to four guys who have spend as their strongpoint: Senior running back Kyle Zimmerman; Juniors Austin Harrell, Austin Reel,and Brent Brown.

Of those players, Crouch explained,“they will be our four frontrunners at that position.”

At wide receiver, Crouch is lookingfor contributions from senior Justin Robinson and sophomore Chris Friend.Robinson and Friend will be joined by a player who is new to the Panthersprogram this year, junior Anthony DiMito. DiMito transferred to WCHS fromSpring Valley Hall High School.

On the offensive line, seniors JoshHack and Mike Ernst; juniors West Pyle, Evan Cooper, Kyle Clark, and BradKuchenbecker; and sophomore Cole Stark will become responsible for holding backopposing oncoming defenses.

Sophomore Friend and junior runningback J. D. Eddy will serve as the kicking unit for the Panthers this season,with Fisher doing some kicking as well.

“We’re, right now, trying to workthings out to see who’s the most consistent,” Crouch said, explaining his team’spreparation for its kicking game.

On defense, holding the front linewill be Kuchenbecker, with juniors Chris Sexton and Kyle Clark rotatingfrequently at defensive tackle. Also on the line at defensive end is seniorJustin Robinson. Also part of the defensive line are junior Jake Moline, juniorJosh Fager, and senior Mason Wright.

Junior Louis Favre will serve asmiddle linebacker, joined by senior weak-side linebacker Charlie Ludolph, andFriend at strong-side linebacker.

Squib Kicks: Washington hosts Pekin Community High for itshomecoming game Sept. 23….Junior defensive back Dominic Carrol is sidelined forthe next 4-6 weeks with a strained knee…..WCHS has 12 seniors on its roster aswell as five players who play the game on both sides of the ball.

By Steve Robinson | January 31, 2010 - 1:23 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, Pekin Daily Times, Pekin HS

BasketballNORMAL – Following Pekin Community High’s game against Normal West High here Saturday night, Coach Dave Mott said his team played a team he described as being “long and athletic.”

While that may describe the members of the team, in some ways, it also described the game between the Dragons and the Wildcats itself – Normal West showed athleticism in their scoring, thus making the game a long one for the Dragons, who lost the non-conference contest, 49-36.

“(West’s) tall guys all could shoot threes,” Mott said.

In fact, Austin Stewart, Bradley Hallstein, Tyler Bell, Taylor Scheuermann each contributed at least one three each to the contest, with Stewart’s 21 points, including one trey leading the Wildcats on the night. Bell followed in double digits, with 15 points.

“We did not do a very good job of locating Stewart and Bell on the arc, even though we knew they could shoot it (from there) very well,” Mott said.

“But let’s face it: they were tall, and in spots, very athletic, and I think that wore us down,” Mott said.

Pekin DragonsAn exchange of treys opened the contest with West’s Bell firing the first salvo to open the game at 6:49, followed by Caleb Huss’ 3-point reply 30 seconds later. Pekin’s defense occupied the paint enough to force West to employ outside shots, in a quarter that ended with the Wildcats owning a 9-6 lead going into the second quarter.

Aaron King’s two baskets at the beginning of the second quarter helped Pekin pull in front of West, 12-11 with 6:10 in the second quarter, but a three by Stewart at 3:43 until halftime pushed the Wildcats forward, 18-16, on their way to a 22-17 halftime lead.

Stewart scored three baskets for West (14-8) fairly quickly almost from the beginning of the third quarter, pushing West in front 29-21. A trey by Bell, followed by Taylor Scheuermann’s two free throws helped push West toward a 42-23 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Mott installed fresh troops in the fourth quarter for Pekin (6-15), to try giving younger players floor time while attempting to cut the deficit. Nathan Taphorn and Tom Lohmann made the most of the opportunity. Taphorn opened the last stanza with a basket and free throw, cutting West’s lead to 42-26 at 7:13, and Lohmann’s layup at 5:22 cut West’s lead to 45-28.

“In the first half, I thought our older players were competing hard,” Mott said. “(But) the start of the third quarter killed us. That was it. In the first three or four minutes of the third quarter, the game was over.

“I was just disappointed that we weren’t more competitive to start that third quarter,” Mott said.

Normal WestDespite his team’s record to this point, Mott said he still has a goal of making sure the Dragons make it to – and through – their regional game, come tournament time.

West head coach Brian Cupples also saw the third quarter’s action as “being the key to the game.”

Cupples said his team “saw some things that (Pekin) was doing to us defensively, and our defense was really good for us the whole night, which gave us the lead, kept us in the lead, and then, helped extend it, and then we executed a little bit offensively in the third quarter.”

PCHS’ junior varsity began the night on a down note, losing to West, 36-28. The Dragons resume conference action against Morton Tuesday night.

By Steve Robinson | December 2, 2008 - 10:42 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, Pekin Daily Times, Pekin HS

BasketballNORMAL – When her team’s game against Normal West High School was over Tuesday night, Pekin Community High Girls’ Basketball Coach Becky Fulkerson tried looking at her team’s first loss of the season in a positive light.

“We got the loss out of the way,” she said, trying to put a brave face on her team’s 59-39 non-conference loss to the Wildcats.

Lady Dragons head coach Becky Fulkerson admitted after the contest that her team “came out flat” when the game began. But as the first half of the game continued, to the disappointment of the roughly 30 PCHS fans who came out for the game, stayed that way through the first half of play.

From the opening tip, Normal West (4-1) jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the strength of baskets by sophomore post player Lauren Berry and a bucket plus a free throw from junior guard Ashley Reeves.

Pekin DragonsPCHS junior guard Lauren Cash stopped the onslaught with a three-pointer of her own with 6:15 in the first quarter, cutting West’s lead, 7-3. But another bucket by Reeves, added to a trey by junior guard Anne Brown would give West a 20-10 lead after one quarter. Brown led West in double-figures with 10 points. Three other Wildcats players finished the night with nine points each.

West owned a 34-19 halftime lead, but Wildcat fouls sent four Lady Dragons players to the free throw line, gaining just three points, but allowing PCHS to get settled as the half approached, trailing 34-19.

Fulkerson said that after that start, her team “got outhustled the entire first half.”

“It was hard to kind of come back from that big deficit that we had built in the first half,” said Fulkerson.

“The tempo (of the game) was a little faster from the beginning than I think we were ready for,” Fulkerson continued.

Normal WestAlthough PCHS managed to settle down at the start of the third quarter, West outscored them, 17-11, with the help of a trey by senior guard Katherine Riggins and free throws by junior guard Erin McGinnis, Berry, and Riggins, giving West a 51-30 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter was the only quarter PCHS managed to outscore West in – barely, — by a 9-8 count, on the strength of a trey at 3:12 by Cash, who led PCHS with 10 points.

“The second half, obviously, was a much-better half,” Fulkerson said, adding that her team tried changing defenses on the Wildcats in the second half.

West’s junior varsity squad came from behind to defeat PCHS, 41-39.