BasketballBLOOMINGTON – University High School’s girls’ basketball team went from a semifinal double overtime loss to Morton Dec. 29 into a chance at third place within the Large School Girls bracket Dec. 30 at the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament. In their final game of the tourney, the 6th seed Pioneers faced 5th seed Rochester.

Beating Rochester in this final game of the tourney would put the Pioneers back on a winning course after starting the season going 11-0 before falling to the tourney Large School Girls bracket’s number two seed, Morton, in double overtime, 42-39.

But the Pioneers were only able to keep pace with the Rockets in the third place game for a little more than half of the contest before dropping a 47-40 decision as a crowd of roughly 300 watched at Shirk Center. The loss left the Pioneers facing a two-game skid while claiming fourth place for the bracket.

U-High PioneersAfter a deuce by Madison Faulkner to give Rochester a 2-0 lead, U-High (11-2) went up 4-2 on a deuce and two free throws from forward Raven Hughes with 4:48 to go in the opening quarter. But a quick trey by Nicole Robinson followed by a deuce by Faulkner put Rochester up, 7-4. Hughes responded with a deuce at 2:08 to cut that lead, 7-6. Jessica Baker’s deuce with 53.7 seconds left put the Pioneers up, 8-7. But Faulkner’s next basket allowed the Rockets to blast into the second quarter with a 9-8 lead.

A basket by Jasmayne Lawrence followed by two free throws by Hughes to start the second quarter pushed U-High up, 12-9 at the 5:56 mark. But Rochester’s Angela Perry sank a trey at 4:06 which tied the game, 12-all. A deuce by Pioneers’ Addy Loeffler and a trey by Hughes sandwiched a basket by Perry helping U-High go up, 17-14 at 3:06 in the quarter. Faulkner hit two free throws to put Rochester up, 18-17 at the 2:07 mark. It was followed by a trey by Hughes which put U-High up, 20-18, and Rochester’s Aubrey Magro hit 1-of-2 free throws to slice the Pioneers’ halftime lead to 20-19.

Two free throws by Lawrence were sandwiched between a deuce and a trey from the Rockets which allowed Rochester (12-3) to take a 24-22 lead with 5:26 left in the third quarter. Lawrence’s jumper at 5:14 tied the game at 24-all. Rochester’s Lyric Boone and U-High’s Loeffler exchanged deuces after that tying the game at 26-26..Perry and Boone hit back-to-back unanswered deuces after that, giving Rochester a 30-26 lead with 3:15 left in the quarter.

A Hughes jumper pushed the Pioneers within two, 30-28, before back-to-back deuces by Faulkner and Havilyn Dulin pushed Rochester ahead 34-28 with 14 seconds to go. Four seconds later, Hughes hit one of a pair of free throws to cut the Rockets’ lead, 34-29.

Back-to-back unanswered baskets by Boone gave Rochester a fast fourth quarter start and Rochester its biggest lead to that point, prompting U-High head coach Laura Sellers to call a timeout with 6:40 to go in the contest.

From there, a three-point play that included one free throw by Hughes pushed the Pioneers within four, 38-34, with 5:17 remaining.

statefarmholidayclassic.gifPerry’s basket at 3:51 stopped U-High’s surge, keeping the Rockets in front, 40-34. Back-to-back buckets by Amber Nanni and Loeffler sliced that lead to two, 40-38 at the 2:25 mark before Dulin’s next deuce 10 seconds later gave the Rockets a 42-38 lead, where Rochester head coach J. R. Boudouris took a timeout.

Following that timeout, Pioneers fouls sent three separate Rockets players to the free throw line, including Dulin. Those free throws finished out the winning effort for Rochester, but U-High got a late second basket from Nanni for the final score.

Perry and Faulkner led Rochester’s scoring effort with 16 and 10 points, respectfully. Hughes was U-High’s lone player who achieved double-digits, with 22.

“I thought they played more zone coverage against us today than they have in the past,” said Boudouris, referring to the Pioneers’ effort. “We expected that though.”

Sellers said her squad played four really good teams in this year’s tournament, but that against the Rockets, “We hit a wall.”

“I thought they were going to bury us in the fourth quarter, but we cut it to two points once. We just ran out of energy,” Sellers concluded.

BasketballUniversity High’s girls’ basketball team’s winning streak entered double digits Tuesday at The State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament. The Pioneers, despite a fourth quarter push from Chicago St. Ignatius, held off the Wolfpack for a first round Head coach Laura Sellers’ team is seeded seeded 6th in the tournament’s Large School Girls bracket. Chicago St. Ignatius was seeded 11th.

The Pioneers’ victory will had them squaring off against 3rd seed Springfield High School Wednesday at 8:30p.m. at Normal Community High School. Springfield High disposed of Bloomington High in their first round game, 73-59 Tuesday morning at BCC.

U-High’s Raven Hughes and Jasmyne Lawrence each hit baskets to jump out to a fast 4-0 lead to open the first quarter for the Pioneers before the Wolfpack’s Aleah Spurell hit a deuce at 6:42 in the opening quarter to cut the lead, 4-2. Lawrence and Hughes hit unanswered deuces back-to-back increasing the Pioneers’ score, 8-2 at 5:03 in the quarter before early fouls by U-High put Spurell and Nicolette McDonald on the free throw line to help St. Ignatius come within two, 8-6, at the 3:01 mark.

State Farm Holiday ClassicKimmy Sendelbach and Hughes hit back-to-back unanswered deuces helping double the Pioneers’ lead, 12-6, with 1:31 remaining in the quarter. That was followed by a deuce by St. Ignatius’ Hayley Cange who cut the Pioneers ‘lead to 12-8. U-High was able to open the second quarter with a 14-8 lead.

After Cange opened the second quarter with a deuce to cut U-High’s lead to 14-10, Hughes hit two back-to-back deuces, followed by a jumper from Addy Loeffler to put the Pioneers on a 6-0 run which doubled their score, 20-10 with 3:11 until halftime, prompting St. Ignatius head coach Cara Doyle to call a timeout.

Following the timeout, U-High’s Jessica Baker hit a three, pushing the Pioneers up, 23-10, with 2:28 left in the quarter. Fouls late in the quarter helped U-High add to their lead, sending Hughes to the free throw line twice, where she sank 3-of-4 shots, giving the Pioneers a 26-10 advantage.

After Lawrence hit two free throws to open the third quarter, giving U-High a 28-10 lead, and the teams exchanged layups to give U-High a 30-12 lead, Chicago St. Ignatius (4-7) went on a 6-0 run thanks to a pair of unanswered layups by McDonald and two free throws by Molly Gannon to cut the Pioneers’ lead, 30-18, with 4:17 in the period.

Lawrence scored a three-point play after being fouled five seconds later to give U-High a 33-18 lead, but St. Ignatius responded a trey from Gannon to bring the Wolfpack within 12, 33-21. Jessica Huber hit a deuce for U-High and McDonald responded, moving the Pioneers’ lead, 35-23. Hughes was fouled shortly afterward, and sank two free throws to give the Pioneers a 37-23 lead at 2:46 in the quarter. But a second trey from Gannon pulled the Wolfpack within 11, 37-26. A deuce from Loeffler with 52.5 seconds pushed U-High up, 39-26 and prompted St. Ignatius to call for timeout. Following the timeout, Hughes contributed one more basket, giving U-High a 41-26 lead with which to open the fourth quarter.

U-High PioneersHughes opened the fourth quarter with a pair of free throws after being fouled by the Wolfpack’s Cange. She was followed by a basket by Lawrence and added one more after that herself to give U-High a 47-26 lead with 4:43 left in the game. But St. Ignatius responded with an 8-0 run highlighted by two threes – to pull within 11, 47-36, prompting them to take a timeout with 1:54 remaining. A layup by Spurell nine seconds later prompted the Wolfpack to huddle for a second timeout. Following that, Grace Barclay hit a deuce to increase the Pioneers’ lead, 49-38, with 1:28 remaining. A deuce by Logan Daly with 54.8 seconds left and two free throws by Gannon 21 seconds later were as close as the Wolfpack would come thanks to the Pioneers defense in the closing moments of the contest.

Hughes’ 21 points, followed by 13 from Lawrence helped power U-High to the tenth consecutive victory. Gannon was Chicago St. Ignatius’ lone scorer in double-figures with 12. Spurell and McDonald came close, nearly touching double figures with 9 points, and 8 points, respectfully.

“The score showed that we had them for three and a half quarters and we made sure we got some players in to get some game experience in the fourth quarter,” U-High head coach Laura Sellers said. From this point on in the tournament, Sellers added, “The competition gets better every game. We need to take care of the basketball and play as a team to get it done.”

“Basketball is a game of moments, and we just need to put our good moments together,” said Chicago St. Ignatius head coach Cara Doyle. “U-High is a very nice team. They run their system very well. Their kids are well-coached and their kids are good rebounders. Their offensive rebounds and put-backs were hard for us.”

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – Bloomington Central Catholic dropped a 60-50 decision in the championship game of the Small School Boys’ bracket at the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Classic on Dec.31.

Fifth seeded BCC defeated 12th seed Peoria Christian, 78-55; beat fourth seed St. Joseph Ogden, 63-58, and dethroned top seed Rockford Lutheran, 48-42 to get to the final game, while 2nd seed QND doubled up on Prairie Central in round one, 64-32; beat St. Joseph Ogden, 63-58 in round two; and beat Stanford Olympia, 59-43, in their semifinal, to get to the title contest.

State Farm Holiday ClassicIn a contest held at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus, BCC was able to keep pace with QND in the first quarter, on the strength of threes from senior John Rave, junior Matt Barnes, and sophomore James Morris, allowing QND only a two-point edge, 17-15, going into the second quarter.

But as that second quarter began, threes by junior guards Carter Cramsey, Johnny Ray, and a layup from senior forward Tanner Stuckman pushed QND out to a 29-20 advantage at 2:36 until halftime. That lead jumped to 31-20 when Stuckman struck again just over a minute later. The Raiders’ defense got impatient with 5.6 seconds left as QND junior forward Justin Bottorff fouled BCC senior Jake Baughman, who sank two free throws, closing QND’s lead, 36-22 going into halftime.

Sophomore Austyn Ellison opened the third quarter for BCC with a basket, pulling the Saints within 12, 36-24. But Ray and Stuckman combined for five unanswered points, pushing QND ahead, 41-24, at 5:24 left in the period. At that point, BCC went on the first of two scoring runs – an 8-0 streak – as junior Jacob Gilmore, Rave, and Baughman hit buckets and Rave adder a free throw to pull BCC within 11, 42-31, at the 2:46 mark.

Central CatholicBCC’s second scoring rush came from baskets from Gilmore ad Baughman and two Baughman free throws. QND’s lead, as a result, was cut to nine, 46-37, going into the fourth quarter.

A Baughman free throw opened the fourth quarter, cutting QND’s advantage, 46-38. After that, baskets by junior Jacob Mayfield and Stuckman, complimented with free throws by senior guard Aubrey Reis put QND up, 52-40 with 5:01 remaining, had BCC head coach Jason Welch call time. After that, BCC outscored QND, 10-3, coming within five, 55-50, with 2:11 remaining. That close a margin had QND head coach Kevin Meyer calling for time to consider his team’s options.

Quincy Notre DameBut after that time out, BCC fell into foul trouble, as four different QND players went to the free throw line to successfully score 5-of-8 free shots, resulting in the final score. Mayfield led QND with 18 points, followed by 16 from Stuckman. Rave and Baughman led BCC’s effort, with 16 points, and 15, respectfully.

“Overall, it was a good win for us,” QND’s Meyer said. “Overall, I’m very proud of my guys. BCC ratcheted up their defense in the third quarter, and we just needed to be a little bit stronger.”

“Quincy Notre Dame dictated all the terms in the game,” BCC’s Welch told reporters afterward. “They were able to get whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. I didn’t think our kids responded very well, especially on our defensive end.”

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – Second best. Despite their best effort, University High’s boys’ basketball team, seeded 4th, found themselves unable to overtake second seed Rock Island in the championship game of the Large School Boys’ bracket at the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Classic when the two teams met for that bracket’s championship on Dec.31.

U-High beat Rockton-Hononegah, 70-51, outpaced Wheaton Warrenville South, 73-45, and defeated Chicago North Lawndale, 62-57 to get to the final game, while Rock Island embarrassed Chatham Glenwood, 60-25 in round one; beat North Chicago, 67-47 in round two; and slipped past Zion-Benton, 63-60 in their semifinal, to get to the title contest.

State Farm Holiday ClassicIn a contest held at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus, and following a first quarter during which threes by University High junior guard Keondre Schumacher and junior forward Jack Martin were matched by Rock Island senior guards C. J. Neville and Jason Jones, the game’s second quarter opened with a 17-all tie.

Martin and teammate guard Alex Morris exchanged baskets with Rock Island sophomore forward Lacey Watson in an effort to keep the game tied at 21-all. Pioneers senior forward Logan Wolf exchanged layups with Rock Island senior forward William Miles, tying the contest at 23-all with 4:09 until halftime. But a layup by Neville spurred the Rocks forward, 25-23, at the 3:19 mark, followed by a trey from junior guard Jay Richardson, moving the Rocks further ahead, 28-23 at the 1:51 mark. Wolf and Morris did manage back-to-back layups to close out the half for U-High as Rock Island held onto a 28-27 lead.

U High PioneersMiles opened the third quarter with a free throw, extending the Rocks’ lead, 29-27, at 7:16 in the third quarter. from there, an exchange of baskets made tied the score at 31-31 with 5:37 left in the quarter before U-High pushed forward on deuces by Morris and two free throws by senior center Perry Lim, putting the Pioneers in front, 35-32, with four minutes left in the quarter. A three-point play by Neville helped the Rocks tie the game, 35-all, followed by a trey by Jones which put Rock Island up, 38-35 at the 2:58 mark in the quarter.

Another Morris deuce at 2:17 in the quarter cut that lead, 38-37, but a trey from junior guard Corey Freeman at the 1:55 mark gave the Rocks a 41-37 advantage, prompting Pioneers head coach Bob Fitzgerald to call for a timeout. Schumacher and Lim hit back-to-back unanswered layups tying the game, 41-all, as the game went into the fourth quarter.

A foul by the Rocks’ Richardson sent U-High’s Martin to the free throw line, where he sank two shots, putting the Pioneers up, 43-41. Neville got back one free throw, cutting the Pioneers’ lead, 43-42, with 5:52 in the contest. A fouled Morris sank two free throws at 3:56 pushing U-High up, 45-42, and Jones responded with a trey for the Rocks, tying the game, 45-all, with 3:22 left. Morris hit a jumper pushing U-High up, 47-45, but then promptly fouled Rocks’ Neville. Neville sank 1-of-2 free shots, allowing U-High a 47-46 lead. Morris hit two more free throws with 44.2 seconds left, increasing his team’s lead, 49-46.

Rock IslandRock Island pulled within one, 49-48, with 23.7 second left, prompting U-High to call time. A trey by Elijah Gooden gave the Rocks the lead with four seconds left, and both sides each took a last time out before Morris received an inbounds pass and tried for one last shot from just beyond half-court, which missed, giving the Rocks victory.

Neville led all scorers with 16 points. He was followed in double-figures for the Rocks by Jones’ 14. Morris’ 15 points led U-High, followed by 12 from Schumacher.

“U-High is a great opponent, well-coached, and they’re running stuff well, and the game came down to getting stops,” Rock Island head coach Thom Sigel said. “U-High took advantage of opportunities we gave them. We just made one more play in the end.”

“I’m real proud of my kids because they played focused, and I thought they played tough,” explained U-High head coach Bob Fitzgerald. “Rock Island just made one more play than we did. When you play in games like that, you have to be tremendously proud of the resiliency and the toughness and character of your basketball team.”

BasketballNORMAL – It probably wasn’t the finish head coach Marcus Mann or his players wanted, but they did get to take on an intercity foe to achieve a seventh place finish at the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Classic at Normal Community High School on Dec. 31.

Summer Stoewer and Caelyn Steffens led all scorers with 13 points apiece, as the 7th seed Lady Iron pounded the Pioneers, 48-34 to take home a trophy from the annual tourney. No Pioneers players achieved double figures in the game. Raven Hughes and Amber Nanni were the only U-High players who came close, with 9 points and 8 points, respectfully.

State Farm Holiday ClassicSeventh place may not have been the desired destination for Mann’s crew, but a quarterfinal loss to second seed Rock Island, 58-41, sent the Lady Iron toward that fate. But it was also a fate NCHS had a delay in getting to as a result of a record-making five overtime contest between Morton and Chicago North Lawndale, which pushed games back, including the quarterfinal contest between U-High and Rochester, and delayed this game’s start by 45 minutes.

Once NCHS’ game with Rock Island began, both sides demonstrated an even amount of strength, playing to a 6-all tie before a trey by Division I recruit Becca Beal hit a trey at 3:13 in the quarter, putting the Lady Rocks, 9-6. NCHS responded with a deuce from junior guard Kendall Sosa shaving the lead, 9-8, before a basket from junior guard Justice Edell pushed Rock Island up, 11-8. a bucket by NCHS junior forward Julie Lemke cut the Lady Rock’s lead, 11-10, at the 1:27 mark. But a deuce from senior forward Markiya Williams with 24.2 seconds left gave Rock Island a 13-10 advantage going into the second quarter.

NCHSNCHS sophomore Hannah Johnson used a free throw to reduce the Lady Rocks’ lead, 13-11, to open the second quarter. But that was followed by a layup from Rock Island’s senior guard T’Nauzhae Robinson, beginning a 7-0 run for the Lady Rocks, increasing their lead, 20-11, until a bucket by NCHS sophomore guard Ashley Klinzing killed the effort, reducing the lead to 20-13. Rock Island senior guard Annika Anderson and Klinzing exchanged free threes, and Beal added a bucket, keeping the Lady Rocks up, 25-16, prompting NCHS to call time at the 2:46 mark. Following the timeout, a deuce from Johnson were the only points the Lady Iron could muster, trailing at halftime, 35-20.

Johnson starred in NCHS’ third quarter battle with the Lady Rocks, scoring two buckets and going 2-for-4 from the free throw line, and sophomore forward Chloe Wright adding two baskets as the Lady Iron outscored Rock Island in the period, 14-10, shaving the Lady Rocks’ lead, 45-35, going into the fourth quarter.

From there, however, Rock Island took command, beginning with a 9-0 run which began with a deuce from Williams at 7:28 and ended when NCHS’ Sosa hit a deuce at the 4:24 mark in the contest. By that point, Rock Island held a 54-36 lead. Only Wright would score again from that point for the Lady Iron completing a three-point play, pulling her team within 15, 56-41, en route to the final score.

U High PioneersBeal and Williams led Rock Island in double-digits with 15 and 12 points, respectfully. No NCHS player reached double-digits, but Johnson came closet with 9 points.

“Normal came out and they were game,” explained Rock Island head coach Thad Hoover. “It wasn’t that they were giving us anything. We were battling.”

In discussing the Lady Iron’s strategy against Rock Island, NCHS head coach Marcus Mann told reporters afterward, “We knew they were a long, athletic team coming into the game, and that we’d have to limit their easy chances, and rebounding was one area we wanted to focus on to keep them from getting a big advantage.”

Mann’s team got off on a positive note in the tournament against 10th seed Mahomet Seymour, outpacing the Lady Bulldogs 28-3 in the fourth quarter en route to a 68-45 victory, with Stoewer and Sosa leading the scoring charge with 23 and 20 points, respectfully. Lauren Harrigan added 10 points for the Lady Iron, as well. Eric Lenschow led the Lady Bulldogs with 17 points in her team’s opening effort, followed in double figures by Isabel Charter with 12 points.