By Steve Robinson | March 15, 2018 - 10:46 pm
Posted in Category: Normal West HS, The Normalite

NORMAL – Normal Community West High School ’s Softball season opened on a somber note March 15 at Maxwell Park as, before head coach April Schermann’s team took to the field against non-conference rival Metamora, they paid tribute to Olivia “Livi” Sonetz, the team’s shortstop, died March 7 from injuries she suffered when her car was struck by another vehicle.

Normal West’s Softball team paid tribute to 17-year-old Sonetz as part of their lineup introductions before the game with the Redbirds began. A pair of bats shaped together into a cross with a softball attached stood just inside the fencing behind home plate. A light blue and white “O” was painted into the sand in front of it.

Ellie Sonetz, Livi’s older sister who also played at West, stood in for her sister, wearing her sister’s number 0 uniform when Livi was introduced as the second baseman, batting ninth. The crowd of roughly 700 at Maxwell Park registered their feelings with applause as her older sister stood in for Livi. As each member of the team was introduced, they touched the makeshift memorial before standing in line for the national anthem.

Prior to the first pitch, the team released sky blue and white balloons into the air and hugged one another in the pitcher’s circle. There was also a moment of silence for Livi.

As the game began, Schermann made a substitution for Ellie, putting Kacie Quick in at second prior to the start of the contest. Quick took a knee before the game started, as well.

In the stands, there were players and coaches from Twin City softball teams and teams throughout the county in attendance. University High, Bloomington Central Catholic, Bloomington High School, Downs Tri-Valley, Holy Trinity School, and members of Bloomington-Normal Girls’ Softball Association (BNGSA) were all visible in the crowd.

The tone may have been somber at the beginning, but once the game got going, there was cheering, albeit subdued, and rooting from the crowd. The Wildcats blanked the Redbirds to start the season, 5-0.

Parkside Junior High Softball Parents Operate Concessions: Normally, West parents man the concession stand at Maxwell Park, but Megan Davis, a parent of a Parkside Junior High Softball player, offered to get and rounded up volunteers of seven PJHS parents to operate the stand so that any West Softball parents who wanted to see the pre-game activities and the game could do so. “We told the West parents we had it covered, and that was it,” Davis explained.

By Steve Robinson | March 10, 2018 - 10:02 pm
Posted in Category: Central Catholic, The Normalite

PEORIA – The way Bloomington Central Catholic head coach Jason Welch saw his team’s Illinois High School Association Class 2A Championship game against Pinckneyville, the Saints wanted to issue a challenge to the Panthers.

But when BCC (25-7) went from leading 7-6 after a free throw by senior forward Patrick Rahuba at 5:14 in the first quarter to owning a 12-6 lead courtesy of another Rahuba charity stripe shot over three minutes later, it looked as though the challenge might have been too great for the Panthers, as the Saints registered a 69-61 victory to come in 3rd place in the Class.

“I’m just extremely proud of these guys,” BCC head coach Jason Welch said during the postgame news conference. “They’ve worked extremely hard and the guys off the bench did a great job. Our kids came out today and we gave Pinckneyville a challenge.” Going into the second quarter, BCC owned a 14-8 lead.

Only a three by senior guard Grant Jausel cutting BCC’s lead, 21-15, at 4:59 in the second quarter, followed by a Jausel jumper that made BCC’s lead, 23-17 seemed the closest the Panthers would come in the first half before BCC would go on a 5-0 run which helped stretch the Saints lead, 28-17, at the 2:52 mark. Fouls by Pinckneyville (31-4) sent senior guard Elijah Davis to the line making the Saints lead, 30-18, on the way to a 35-20 halftime lead.

A layup by senior guard Austyn Ellison, free throws by fouled junior guard Luke Yoder, and a trey from senior forward Jack Gilmore had BCC owning a 42-25 lead at the 4:58 mark in the third quarter. But threes by Jausel and sophomore guard Dawson Yates, plus a deuce from Jausel allowed the Panthers to come within nine, 49-40, with 1:29 left in the quarter. An Ellison trey with 35 seconds left restored BCC’s double-digit lead as the fourth quarter began, 52-40.

But the fourth quarter began with BCC’s lead reduced to seven on an unanswered trey and deuce by senior forward Kyle Luke, giving the Saints a 52-45 lead with 7:28 left. The Panthers came within four, 56-52, thanks free throws and a trey by senior guard J. C. Moll and a jumper by Kyle. The Panthers came within three – their closest margin, 64-61 – on a Jausel layup at the 1:23 mark. But after that, beginning with a pair of free throws by senior guard James Morris, BCC finished the game on a 5-0 run.

Ellison and Gilmore scored 10 points each for BCC. Pinckneyville had four players in double figures led by Moll’s 16 points, followed by 15 from Yates, 14 from Jausel, and 10 from senior forward Tyler Rice.

Welch credited senior leadership from Rahuba, Ellison, Morris, Gilmore, Davis, forward Owen Talbott, and center Garrison Kear for the success his team had throughout the season which led the team getting to State.

“Everybody stepped up defensively,” Ellison said during the postgame news conference.

“It feels amazing to be finishing with a win, but knowing that it’s my last time to play with my brothers, these guys aren’t just my teammates, they’re my best friends,” said Eli Davis. “It feels good that we got to leave a legacy and that we got to finish on top.”

Pinckneyville head coach Bob Waggoner admitted the news conference would be “hard for me” because he would be losing the seniors on the team to graduation. As for the contest, Waggoner said the team’s biggest fear wasn’t losing but rather letting down the small community of just over 5,400 in Perry County in southern Illinois. Because the team is close-knit, off-and-on during the interviews, boys wiped away tears.

Waggoner said BCC “was a lot quicker, their pressure on the ball hurt us early.” He admitted it was tough to prepare for Winnebago in the semifinal Friday, and then turn around to face BCC Saturday because the two teams had decidedly different playing systems.

BCC Loses Semifinal, 60-49, To Chicago Orr: BCC had hoped to stay in front of their semifinal opponent and Class 2A reigning champion, Chicago Orr, when the two met on Friday on Peoria’s big stage. And for nearly two full quarters, the Saints pulled that off. In the first quarter, thanks to a jumper from junior forward Tommy Nelson and a trey from junior guard Luke Yoder, the Saints owned a 9-4 lead at the 5:24 mark in the period. Two free throws by Orr’s Tyronn Mosley followed by a rebound shot by senior guard James Morris kept BCC out front, 11-11-6 with 4:34 left. A trey each from senior forward Jack Gilmore and senior guard Austyn Ellison extended BCC’s lead, 17-11, with 2:55 left in the quarter en route to starting the second quarter with a 19-15 lead.

BCC (25-7 following this game) stayed in front, 26-20, on a trey by Gilmore, and 26-22, but that was followed shortly by a BCC basket by junior forward Tommy Nelson put BCC up, 28-23. That lead prompted a timeout from Orr head coach Louis Adams with 4:38 until halftime. Following the timeout, a trey and two free throws by Orr senior guard Chase Adams helped pull the Spartans within three of BCC, 32-29, giving the Saints reason to call time with 1:24 until the half. But after that, a deuce by Orr senior forward Dannie Smith and a jumper by BCC senior guard Elijah Davis a deuce by senior guard Brian Hernandez put Orr in front for the first time, 34-31 with 38 seconds in the half. But the teams would enter the half tied following a trey by Orr senior guard Brian Hernandez with 8 seconds in the quarter. The teams would enter the third quarter tied at 34-all as a result.

The beginning of the third quarter started out with Smith hitting a jumper to put Orr (29-4 after this game) up, 36-34 and from there, BCC found themselves in chase mode for the remainder of the contest despite a three in that quarter by Ellison, and deuces by senior forward Patrick Rahuba and Morris. As a result, Orr owned a 51-45 lead going into the fourth quarter.

A free throw by Orr senior forward Raekwon Drake nudged Orr’s lead to 52-45 at 6:56 in the last quarter. Free throws by Yoder sliced that lead to five, 52-47 with 4:45 left but a basket and a free throw by Drake pushed the lead to 55-47. Nelson added a deuce to cut the lead to 55-49 before free throws by Smith and Adams, and a dunk by senior guard Emanuel Oneal closed out the contest, advancing the Spartans to the title game.

Orr head coach Adams blamed falling behind BCC in the opening period to his team “not having any sense of direction. We rely on defense pretty heavily. BCC shoots the ball pretty good. For us to come out tied that we were in the second half, we couldn’t get no worse. We could only get better. In the second half, our boys came out and played like they normally do.”

“We played a really great Chicago Orr team. They’re battle-tested,” said BCC head coach Jason Welch. “They did a great job. Our kids did a nice job of resisting for as long as we could. They did a nice job. I was proud of them. We fought our brains out. Ultimately, they’re a really good basketball team and we tip our hat to them and say, ‘congratulations.’”

Despite that loss, Welch said he had a team that showed they were tough. The Saints only were outpaced on rebounds by a 14-11 count. Welch said that stat showed, “we’ve got a bunch of fighters in here. That’s what we’ve got…a bunch of fighters. The guys played their guts out, ultimately gave themselves a chance to win “ He said Orr may have made more shots than BCC, but in Welch’s words, “They didn’t out-tough us.”

By Steve Robinson | March 6, 2018 - 10:09 pm
Posted in Category: Ridgeview, The Normalite

NORMAL – A third quarter comeback by Annawan turned out to be too much for Ridgeview as the Mustangs’ attempt to win the Illinois High School Super-Sectional at Redbird Arena on Illinois State University’s campus fell short, with the Braves emerging victorious, 39-32 before roughly 800 fans, the sides evenly divided.

The fans appeared to get the matchup they were expecting, as the first quarter was a seesaw affair, Ridgeview senior Jacob Donaldson and Annawan senior Owen Landwehr exchanging buckets to tie the game at 2-all soon after the opening tip. Donaldson and Annawan senior Dante Weathersby went basket for basket to tie the game, 4-all by the first quarter’s 4:53 mark. Landwehr hit a deuce to put the Braves up, 6-4, which Donaldson immediately countered with one of his own, tying the game, 6-all, at the 3:31 mark. Landwehr and Ridgeview sophomore Levi Zimmerman traded scores to tie the contest at 8-all with 2:42 in the quarter. Within the quarter’s last minute, a layup by Ridgeview senior Alex Tongate, followed by a trey from Annawan senior Jacob Wolf, followed by a deuce with 6.1 seconds left by Zimmerman gave Ridgeview a 12-11 lead to take into the second quarter.

Senior Justin Myers and Zimmerman added to that total to give Ridgeview (28-5) a 6-0 run to work with as the second quarter opened, prompting Annawan to call a timeout with 5:25 left in the quarter. After that, a foul by the Braves’ Landwehr sent Donaldson to the free throw line where he sank two shots, increasing the Mustangs’ lead, 18-11 with 4:45 left in the quarter. But a trey by Wolf pulled the Braves within four, 18-14, with 3:48 in the quarter.

One minute and 28 seconds later, Myers’ deuce pushed the Mustangs up, 20-14. But fans on both sides reacted when sophomore Julian Samuels hit a trey for Annawan with 1:24 until halftime to pull the Braves within three, 20-17. It was the lead the Mustangs would begin the third quarter on.

But when the third quarter began, a 6-0 run by Annawan (30-3) featuring back-to-back deuces by senior Ben Buresh followed by an unanswered deuce by Landwehr pushed the Braves ahead, 23-20 until a trey from senior Matthew Nunamaker tied the game, 23-all, with 3:33 in the quarter. Senior Brendon Shaw and Weathersby followed with unanswered deuces for Annawan, to give the Braves a 27-23 lead with 1:13 left in the quarter. Donaldson closed out the quarter with a deuce with three seconds left to keep Ridgeview within two, 27-25, going into the fourth quarter.

Ridgeview confounded Annawan early in the fourth quarter defensively prompting Braves head coach Alex Coppejeans to call a 30-second timeout a minute into the final quarter. Annawan was further perplexed by back-to-back Ridgeview baskets by senior Tyler Ridgeway, tying the game at 27, and then putting Ridgeview up by two, 29-27, at the 6:05 mark. A deuce by Shaw tied the game at 29, and a free throw by Weathersby put Annawan up by one, 30-29, and was followed by a trey by Wolf completing a 6-0 run which prompted Ridgeview to regroup during a timeout with 2:06 remaining.

But Annawan resumed from that point, increasing its lead with two free throws by Buresh, answering being fouled by Ridgeview. His free throws increased Annawan’s streak to 8 unanswered points and a 35-29 lead. Another Ridgeview foul sent Landwehr to the line with 44 seconds left, giving him the opportunity to add two more points, upping the Braves’ lead, 37-29.

Ridgeview got to the free throw line twice more due to Annawan fouls, sending Donaldson both times, where he went a combined 3-for-4, cutting the Braves’ advantage to five, 37-32. But it was one more Ridgeview infraction that sent Annawan’s Buresh to the line a final time with 23.5 seconds left, where he sank both ends of his turn resulting in the final score.

Landwehr was Annawan’s only player in double-figures with 10 points, with Buresh and Shaw coming close with 8 points, and 7 respectfully.

Donaldson was Ridgeview’s only player in double figures, with 13 points. Zimmerman tallied 6, followed by 4 each from Myers and Ridgeway. Nunamaker sank 3, followed by Tongate who had 2.

“I’m just so proud of our guys and I’m really happy for them,” Annawan’s Coppejeans told reporters afterward. “We were more concerned with guarding the paint and, honestly, Ridgeview has some guys who can really attack the rim really well. So, I thought we did a really nice job of closing out and rotating. Our team defense tonight was really spectacular.”

“We knew we had to be concerned about Myers and Donaldson because they’re really, really good players,” Coppejeans added. “And Coach Kellar has that ‘It’ factor as well with his program.”

Characterizing the fourth quarter as a struggle, Ridgeview head coach Rodney Kellar told reporters, “It’s hard to get shots if you don’t make shots. I thought we did our best to give ourselves a chance, but when you don’t get shots at the other end, it’s hard to keep up with them.” Kellar said he speculated it would probably be the first team scoring 40 points who would come away victorious.

“I thought we executed well to start the game,” Kellar added. “We came out and got good shots. In the third quarter, they made a good run at us and I’m really proud of our kids because they came back and got us even, and even had a two-point lead at one point.”

Kellar said he pointed out to his players at the outset they needed to keep Landwehr “out of the paint” and Buresh “off the boards.” Ridgeview did succeed from keeping Buresh from scoring until the second half.

By Steve Robinson | January 29, 2018 - 10:14 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

BasketballNORMAL – Once Normal Community West High School’s boys’ basketball team got the jump on rival Normal Community High School Friday night in their rivalry contest, there appeared to be no stopping them the rest of the evening. But NCHS did manage to put the breaks on the Wildcats late in the fourth quarter but it couldn’t keep Normal West from staying in front for a 42-37 road victory.

Sandwiching two missed free throws by Wildcats sophomore guard Drew Wollenschlager were two deuces by teammate junior center Francis Okoro which gave the Wildcats a quick 4-0 lead. NCHS junior Dishon Hall put the Ironmen on the scoreboard with a layup at the quarter’s 3:27 mark, cutting that lead to 4-2. Another deuce by Okoro gave Normal West a 6-2 lead. A trey by NCHS junior Daylen Boddie sliced that lead to one, 6-5. But a trey by West guard Shea Cupples gave the Wildcats a 9-5 lead with which to open the second quarter.

Boddie opened the second quarter by fouling senior forward Drew Yonker who sank two free throws and was followed by a trey from senior forward Terance Montgomery-Fisher, and after an Ironmen timeout, senior guard Brady Cupples hit a deuce which pushed Normal West ahead, 16-5. Boddie hit a jumper and senior Dalton Tevis followed, to come within seven, 16-9 with 2:20 left in the quarter. Okoro’s next basket doubled the Wildcats’ lead, 18-9 with 1:17 left in the quarter and he followed that up with a jumper to put Normal West up 20-7, with four seconds left.

But Boddie startled the full crowd of roughly 5,000 fans with a half court shot to beat the buzzer and cut Normal West’s lead, 20-12, going into halftime.

NCHSBrady Cupples’ opening shot for the third quarter put West up, 22-12, and was followed by a bucket from Boddie, changing the score to 22-14. From there, West went on a 7-0 run that was all Okoro except for the last two points. Up until that point, the 6 foot-9 junior scored three baskets and answered a foul with two free throws before Wollenschlager answered a foul with a free throw giving West a 29-14 lead. Coleman reduced that to 29-17 with a trey at 2:48 in the period but Coleman and junior Joe Lippert responded with unanswered baskets to cut the lead to 10, 29-19, with 2:30 left in the quarter. An Okoro bucket put West up, 31-19 and a free throw by Wollenschlager made the lead, 32-18. NCHS came within 11, 32-21, on a Boddie shot and Okoro closed out the quarter on a basket for a 34-21 Wildcats lead.

Boddie opened the fourth quarter for NCHS with a trey, closing West’s lead to 10 again, 34-24, and then Cupples was fouled where he answered with two free throws putting West up, 36-24 with 7:09 left in the game. After a Wildcats timeout, senior Jalen Coleman’s trey at 3:49 pulled NCHS within nine, 36-27. But Coleman fouling Cupples got West one free throw to put the Wildcats up 10, 37-27, with 2:46 left.

Normal WestA free throw by Boddie closed the Wildcats’ lead to nine, 37-28, and West called a timeout with 1:45 left. A C. J. Chastain basket cut the Wildcats’ lead, 37-30 and a free throw by Alec McGinnis gave West an eight-point advantage, 38-30 until a fouled Boddie cut that lead at the line, 38-32. That prompted Wildcats head coach Brian Cupples to call time with 59.5 seconds left. following the timeout, a fouled Okoro went 1-for2 on the line to stretch West’s lead, 39-32. Cupples then fouled Christian who sank one, closing in on West, 39-33. But Cupples then was called for a technical for something he said to an opponent. That cut West’s lead, 39-35 with 32.3 left. Two NCHS fouls against him sent West junior forward Nate Duckworth to the line where he sank 3-of-4 giving West a 40-35. The last basket of the night came from Boddie with 3.8 seconds left.

“I thought we were great defensively, and I thought we were great rebounding,” said West head coach Brian Cupples. “NCHS’ kids did a great job battling and that got it down to a one or two position game which got it tight on us. We had a great start defensively. NCHS made tough shots.”

“We dug ourselves in a whole and West did a great job of taking care of the ball and made just enough free throws and did enough to win,” explained NCHS head coach Dave Witzig. “Okoro was a ton tonight and they handled the ball well tonight, and they did a great job.”

By Steve Robinson | January 28, 2018 - 10:22 pm
Posted in Category: NCHS, Normal West HS, The Normalite

BasketballNORMAL – The annual North-South Girls’ Basketball Shootout featuring teams from Normal Community High School, Normal Community West High School, Belleville East and O’Fallon rotated its way to NCHS Saturday, Jan. 27 giving fans something other than cold weather or politics to ponder. NCHS went 2-for-2 in victories over their opponents while Normal West dropped both sides of their contests.

Belleville East 68, Normal West 44: An opening 10-0 lead from the game’s tip-off by Belleville East (15-9) featuring two baskets each from juniors Kayla Rainey and B’Aunce Carter helped put the Lady Lancers in front of Normal West quickly to begin their day. Two baskets by junior Jess Jacobs and Carrie Sims allowed the Wildcats to cut that lead to 16-9 going into the second quarter, but Carter would add 8 more points before halftime, joined by senior Grace Tantillo who added one more bucket to give the Lady Lancers a 38-24 halftime lead. West’s biggest basket in the second quarter was a trey by Jacobs at the quarter’s 6:15 mark.

Carter and senior Jailyn McClenney each had three baskets in the third quarter helping increase their team’s lead, 56-35. A trey for West by Jacobs added the Wildcats’ biggest points in the quarter. Junior Whitney Bozarth’s trey in the 4th quarter toward the game’s conclusion helped to narrow the score.

Carter led Belleville East in double-figures with 35 points followed by 13 from junior Bryce Dowell and 10 from McClenney. Jacobs was the only player to hit double digits for Normal West (13-9) with 10.

NCHSNCHS 63, O’Fallon 39: NCHS (20-5 after their second game) closed out the event with a 63-39 win over O’Fallon. The opening quarter was highlighted by three treys for the Lady Iron from senior Summer Stoewer giving NCHS an 11-6 lead until O’Fallon senior Sydney Thurwalker hit a trey cutting the lead to 11-9. Thurwalker scored 9 of the Panthers’ points in that opening quarter, but NCHS went into the second quarter with a 17-14 lead.

After NCHS junior Abby Feit and O’Fallon’s Ashley Scholer exchanged buckets to keep NCHS up 19-18 early in the second quarter, NCHS demonstrated a 12-0 outburst featuring baskets from sophomore Kylee Schneriger, sophomore Maya Wong, and senior Hannah Johnson pushing NCHS’ lead to 31-18 before O’Fallon’s bench called time. O’Fallon would only score four points after that though, while NCHS entered the 3rd quarter after holding a 40-22 halftime lead.

Defender for O’Fallon (24-3 after their second game) held NCHS to just 8 points in the third quarter while only scoring 9 themselves topped by a trey at 1:09 in the quarter by junior Rayna Bullock. That reduced NCHS’ lead to 48-29. NCHS lead 48-31 going into the fourth quarter.

As she had at the start of the contest, Stoewer led off the fourth quarter with a basket to put the Lady Iron in front, 50-31 and the team got a boost courtesy of three baskets in the quarter from Molly McGaugh to seal the victory. Stoewer led NCHS’ scoring with 18 points, including four treys, and was followed in double-figures by Feit with 16. Thurwalker was the only O’Fallon player in double-digits, scoring 11.

Normal WestNCHS Starts Day With A Win: NCHS appeared unfazed by their 10a.m. tipoff which started the annual rotating event, defeating Belleville East, 69-55. Although Carter did the heavy lifting for the Lady Lancers by scoring 14 of her team-high 24 points in the first quarter, NCHS’ Feit matched that pace and exceeded it finishing with a game-high 26. NCHS held leads of 21-19 after one quarter, 42-30 at halftime, and 58-41 after three quarters. Schneringer was the only other Lady Iron player in double-figures with 15 points. Rainey and Dowell each had 9 points apiece for the Lady Lancers.

Normal West Drops First Game: Normal West started their morning game against O’Fallon strong, with scoring led by junior Ayanna Gibbs, scoring 6 points in the opening quarter and powered further by a trey by Bozarth giving the Wildcats an 18-14 lead going into the second quarter. Second quarter treys from sophomore Claire Demosthenes and Bozarth gave West a 35-32 halftime lead before two treys from Schloer and a trey each from sophomores Kayla Gordon and Makayla Best helped push the Panthers in front, 50-47 as the game went into the fourth quarter.

The Panthers stayed in front on the strength of a trey by Best followed by two deuces each from Schloer and Thurwalker. West only scored 15 points in the last quarter powered mainly by buckets from senior Arie Sims and a trey from Kaitlyn Hardin. Schloer led double-digit scoring for O’Fallon with 16 points followed by 10 each from Best and Thurwalker. Gibbs led West with 14 points followed by 13 points each from Demosthenes and Jacobs.