By Steve Robinson | January 22, 2017 - 10:15 pm
Posted in Category: Ridgeview, The Normalite

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – While both the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams from Ridgeview High School advanced to their respective championship games at the 106th Annual McLean County/Heart Of Illinois Tournament, the teams came away with vastly different results, which, for the boys, included tying a record for threes in a contest. All of Saturday’s games were played at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus.

Ridgeview Boys Beat Deer Creek-Mackinaw, 58-32: Head Coach Rodney Kellar’s Ridgeview Mustangs’ boys’ basketball team (19-1) kept Deer Creek-Mackinaw (11-9) at bay early while racking up points for themselves on their way to their third consecutive championship title, beating the Chiefs, 58-32, before 2,000 fans.

One of the individual highlights of the night was Mustangs senior guard Tyler McCormick tying a tourney record for three-pointers, with five. Two of those threes came in the first quarter and one added by senior guard Noah Young helped set the pace for the Mustangs, as they entered the second quarter with a 21-8 lead. Senior guard Corey Graham sank another three to open the second quarter and expand the lead, 24-8.

The Chiefs reached double-digits at 6:44 in the second quarter on a deuce by senior guard Nick Debolt, reducing Ridgeview’s lead, 24-10. The Mustangs would carry a 32-14 lead into the half.

The onslaught would continue in the third quarter, with Ridgeview leading, 43-23, despite Deer Creek-Mackinaw matching the Mustangs in points scored, 9-9, in that period.

Foul trouble would cause the Chiefs’ pursuit of 4th ranked in Class 1A Ridgeview to unravel. Three Mustangs shooters – junior forward Jacob Donaldson, Young, and McCormick – went a combined 8-for-10 from the free throw line to push to victory.

“Our scoring came in bunches and it came from a lot of different people,” Ridgeview’s Kellar said. “It was a real battle to get here and once we got here, we were ready.”

“We lost McCormick and Young way too many times, and once we did find them, their other guys started making shots,” was the assessment of the loss from Chiefs’ head coach John Hughs.

McCormick credited shooting drills in practice for what made his effort successful.

trophy-mctourn.jpgEPG Boys Finish 4th After Loss To GCMS: Sixth seed El Paso Gridley’s boys’ team (13-7) took home a fourth place plaque, having lost to 4th seed Gibson City Melvin Sibley, 40-39. The Titans trailed 25-19 at halftime and 37-31 after three quarters. EPG came within one, 40-39, after a trey by junior forward Dylan Smith with 36.4 seconds remaining before GCMS’ defense stalled the Titans’ effort to take the lead. GCMS finished with a 14-6 mark.

Eureka Girls Win Championship, Beating Ridgeview, 52-28:
Fans of Ridgeview High’s girls team, seeded first in the tournament and seeded 4th in Class 1A, saw their team’s efforts toward a championship stall in the title matchup against second seed Eureka. The Hornets beat Ridgeview, 52-28, stinging early and often, going up 10-0 early in the first quarter thanks in part to a trey each from junior guard Natalie Bardwell and junior guard Tessa Leman. Only senior guard Jordan Talley and freshman guard Grace Ward could each make a basket to the Mustangs on the board in the first quarter, with Eureka owning an 18-4 lead. The Hornets extended that advantage to 25-9 at halftime and 40-19 at the end of the third quarter.

Heyworth Girls Finish 4th With Loss To Fieldcrest, 55-44: Third seed Heyworth High’s girls’ team took home a fourth place trophy following a 55-44 loss to 4th seed Fieldcrest early Saturday. The Hornets finished 20-3 after the tourney, with Amber Tomlin leading her team’s scoring with 9 points. Fieldcrest’s Kianna Klendworth led the Knights with 15 points. With the win, Fieldcrest increased its record to 18-7.

By Steve Robinson | January 24, 2016 - 10:49 pm
Posted in Category: LeRoy, Ridgeview, The Normalite

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – A second half comeback became necessary for Ridgeview to emerge the boys’ champion of the 105th Annual McLean County/Heart Of Illinois Conference Tournament, as the Mustangs came from behind to beat LeRoy, 54-46, at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus on Jan. 23. The Mustangs’ victory goes into the record books for being the first team to win back-to-back championships since Fieldcrest did it in 2009 and 2010.

Ridgeview (18-2), seeded 2nd in the tournament, and ranked first in Illinois High School Association Class 1A, found themselves in a three-point shootout early, as junior guard Tyler McCormick, senior guard Drew Jones, and senior guard Luke Ford combined for a trio of threes, trying to stave off threes from LeRoy senior Noah Perry, junior guard Brett Egan, and senior center Matt Chastain. But LeRoy had the stronger supporting cast as the game began, with a deuce from freshman guard Nick Perry, helping the Panthers start out with a 22-15 lead edging into the second quarter.

The pace of the second quarter slowed down slightly from there as 4th seed LeRoy (14-4) employed three-pointers from Chastain, Egan and Perry in the second quarter to increase the Panthers’ lead, 26-21, going into halftime.

trophy-mctourn.jpg LeRoy extended its lead on a three-point play by senior forward Teddy Harms, having been fouled by Ridgeview’s senior forward Austin Zielsdorf, increasing the Panthers’ lead, 29-21. But Ridgeview roared back on a 11-0 run spurred by senior guard Drew Jones, Zielsdorf, and Ford who each hit threes, and a Zielsdorf deuce, thrusting Ridgeview in front, 32-29, and prompting LeRoy head coach Mark Edmundson to call for a timeout.

When play resumed, Chastain scored a deuce with a slam, pulling the Panthers within one, 32-31, but a pair of threes from Ford and a three-point play McCormick after being fouled gave Ridgeview a 38-31 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Jones hit a three which thrilled the crowd as the ball swirled around the rim at least twice before dropping into the basket, giving the Mustangs a 41-31 lead with 7:38 left in the game. Harms responded with back-to-back deuces, closing LeRoy’s gap, 41-35, prompting Ridgeview head coach Rodney Kellar to call not just a timeout, but two of them within 20 seconds of each other to plot out strategy further. Free throws from Zielsdorf, junior guard Noah Young, and Ford offset a three from LeRoy’s Perry en route to victory.

Zielsdorf led the Mustangs’ scoring with 13 points. Jones followed scoring with 12 points. He was followed in double figures by 11 each from Ford and McCormick. Chastain led all scorers, pocketing 17 for LeRoy. He was followed by 11 from Perry.

Kellar said afterward he thought LeRoy’s decision to go to man-to-man on his team was a good move on his opponent’s part considering these teams see each other regularly during the season. LeRoy head coach Mark Edmundson was not available immediately after the game for comment.

BaseballBLOOMINGTON – In battling for a championship, sometimes it’s fitting that the game gets decided on the very last play before the buzzer sounds. Going into the last minute of the last minute of the Boys Championship at the 103rd McLean County/Heart Of Illinois Conference Tournament, seventh seed Blue Ridge looked to have a three-point lead, 49-46, and time on their side against top seed Ridgeview.

Then Ridgeview freshman guard Tyler McCormick sank a three-point shot with 43 seconds in regulation, tying the game, 49-all. A final one-man daring drive down the court and into the scoring lane by Ridgeview senior guard Christian Fannin resulted in a missed layup as the buzzer sounded in regulation, resulting in overtime. But it was a free throw, followed up by a trey from sophomore guard Lindi Balazi that gave the Knights a 56-54 victory to earn a Championship crown.

By achieving the victory, Blue Ridge (15-5) earned what turned out to be just the second County Championship in school history, the last victory coming in 1988. Going back to when the school was known as Bellflower High School before that, basketball fans had only known of two previous County Tournament Championship teams, in 1914 and 1965.

Just one game after Ridgeview head coach Randy Kellar earned his 500th coaching career win, Blue Ridge handed the Mustangs their first loss on the season, leaving them with an 18-1 mark.

Blue Ridge senior guard Michael Plunk fouled out of the contest just 8 seconds into the four minute extra period, putting Ridgeview senior guard Trey McCormick on the free throw line, where he sank both shots, and then followed it up with a trey to give the Mustangs a 54-49 edge with 2:49 left.

trophy-mctourn.jpg Senior forward Will Duggans landed back-to-back deuces for Blue Ridge, putting the Knights within one, 54-53, with 1:35 left in the extra period. But Blue Ridge senior forward Clint O’Neal fouled sophomore Austin Zielsdorf to the free throw line, where he sank both shots, giving Ridgeview a three-point advantage, 56-53, with 36.2 seconds left.

Ridgeview sophomore forward Luke Ward fouled Belazi with 24.6 seconds left, and Belazi only made one of two free shots, cutting Ridgeview’s lead, 56-54. Belazi quickly followed that up with a layup off the right wing with six seconds left to give Blue Ridge the victory that time over the previous seasons hadn’t.

The game’s first quarter was a see-saw battle, punctuated by threes for Ridgeview from Trey McCormick and Ward, pushing the Mustangs past the Knights, 12-11, with 2:35 left in the first quarter. but back-to-back unanswered deuces by Plunk and sophomore forward Dylan Trent gave Blue Ridge a 15-12 lead, with 49.1 seconds left in the period. Zielsdorf’s two free throws after being fouled closed out the quarter’s scoring, cutting Blue Ridge’s lead to one, 15-14.

Blue Ridge Tigers But during the second quarter, Ridgeview ran into early foul trouble, giving an opening to Blue Ridge. O’Neal and Trent went a combined 3-for-4 at the line to open the second quarter, followed by a deuce from Plunk, putting the Knights on a 5-0 run, giving them a 20-14 lead with 3:59 left in the quarter. At the same time, Ridgeview’s offense stalled, as Tyler McCormick from the floor and Zielsdorf at the free throw line were the only Mustangs players that could provide points midway through the quarter, cutting Blue Ridge’s lead, 22-18 at the 2:32 mark in the quarter. The Knights entered halftime with a 25-19 lead.

Blue Ridge extended its distance to 10 as the third quarter opened, 29-19, on two free throws by Plunk and a deuce by Trent. Fannin’s jumper at 5:37 in the period. Ridgeview’s Tyler McCormick and Blue Ridge’s Plunk exchanged three-pointers in the quarter, giving the Knights a 34-24 lead, with 3:57 remaining. From there, Ridgeview attempted to just keep within range, as Blue Ridge owned a 37-28 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Baskets by Zielsdorf and junior guard William Tinsley, two free throws by Zielsdorf, and a trey by Tyler McCormick energized the Mustangs, pulling within eight, 45-37, with 4:35 left in the fourth quarter. A three-point play, including a free throw by Trey McCormick, cut Blue Ridge’s lead to five, 45-40, and two more free throws by Zielsdorf cut that lead to three, 45-42. A Blue Ridge basket by Duggins put Blue Ridge up, 47-42, with 2:30 left in regulation. Fannin’s basket for Ridgeview cut that lead, 47-44, at 2:21 in the final period of regulation, prompting the Knights to take a timeout.

Ridgeview Mustangs O’Neal’s jumper at 1:12 extended the lead, 49-44, but on the next play, O’Neal fouled Zielsdorf, who promptly sank two free throws, cutting the lead, 49-46, with 59.8 seconds left. McCormick hit a trey with 43 second left, tying the game at 49-all before Fannin’s failed final drive in regulation.

Plunk led all scorers with 18 points. He was followed in double-digits for the Knights by Trent with 11, and Duggins with 10. Zielsdorf led Ridgeview’s scoring effort, with 14 points, followed by Tyler McCormick’s 13, Trey McCormick’s 11, and 10 from Fannin.

“Ridgeview is unbelievably coached,” Blue Ridge head coach Kyle Watson said. “Some shot just went our way. Ridgeview picked up their pressure. There have been times our kids haven’t handled adversity very well, but to the credit of our kids, I think we handled adversity tonight. Especially, with our point-guard, Plunk, fouling out in overtime.”

The win was “a great credit to our kids coming off the bench,” Watson added. “You know, you’re not going to win four games in a week with just your starters. You need your bench players coming in as well. Our bench players showed a lot of guts tonight.”

Ridgeview head coach Rodney Kellar began his post-game comments by saying his kids were “Mustang strong” while battling for the title Saturday. “There was a lot of heart and a lot of pride in our comeback, and so, it’s pretty fitting that the game ended the way Blue Ridge did,” Kellar said. They beat us to rebounds, and they beat us to the ball. It’s kind of fitting that they made the last play. In a game like that, the last play wins and they made the play, and hats off to them.”

By Steve Robinson | January 20, 2014 - 10:19 pm
Posted in Category: Ridgeview, The Normalite

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – Even before his Mustangs boys’ basketball team took to the court against Fieldcrest in the first quarterfinal match at the 103rd McLean County/Heart Of Illinois Conference Tournament Monday night, Ridgeview head coach Rodney Kellar said he was telling people the game against the Knights already had a feel of a semi-final showdown.

But the fact was that the winner would see action in the semis, and the loser would find themselves competing in a separate bracket scrounging for a shot at fifth place. Top seed Ridgeview held on to their semifinal feel and defeated 9th seed Fieldcrest, 48-34, to advance to the semis. The semifinal contests will be held Friday, with Ridgeview scheduled to meet the winner of the quarterfinal match between 4th seed El Paso Gridley and 5th seed Downs Tri-Valley.

The two teams took a defensive posture against one another until junior guard William Tinsley’s trey opened a door for Ridgeview (17-0) at 4:52, putting the Mustangs up, 3-1. After an exchange of baskets tying the game at 3-all, Ridgeview sophomore forward Austin Zielsdorf’s deuce with 1:58 left gave the Mustangs a 5-3 lead. Senior guard Trey McCormick added a little excitement to close out the period, hitting a trey at the buzzer to give the Mustangs an 8-3 advantage going into the second quarter.

trophy-mctourn.jpg After freshman guard Tyler McCormick opened the second quarter with a trey at the 6:35 mark, Fieldcrest (8-8) capitalized on a foul committed by McCormick on Knights’ junior guard Jackson Puetz who was in the process of shooting from behind the arc. Puetz made 2-of-3 free throws, and was followed by a trey from junior guard Ryan Barth, cutting Ridgeview’s lead, 11-8, with 4:48 left in the quarter.

Senior guard Ryan Zielsdorf hit a deuce at 3:59 until halftime to increase Ridgeview’s lead, 14-8, but Fieldcrest roared back on a 6-0 run which included a deuce by Barth, two free throws from sophomore guard Anthone Rogers, and a deuce from Puetz. That spurt tied the game at 14-all with 1:19 remaining. Fannin’s layup with 40 seconds left in the second quarter was the go-ahead bucket the Mustangs needed to hold a 16-14 lead.

Fieldcrest junior forward Grant Jochums would cut Ridgeview’s lead to a point, 16-15, to open the third quarter after being fouled by Tinsley, but sophomore Luke Ward’s trey at 6:51 in the period pushed Ridgeview up, 19-15. A jumper by Ward would give Ridgeview a 21-16 advantage, but Jochums, Puetz, and Barth would shoot a combined 4-for-6 from the free throw line after being fouled, cutting Ridgeview’s lead, 21-19. Tyler McCormick would use three more treys to give Ridgeview a 30-23 cushion going into the fourth quarter.

Fourth quarter-opening jumpers by Fannin and Tyler McCormick gave Ridgeview a 34-25 lead with 4:53 left in the contest, but a pair of threes from sophomore Drew Barth, and a deuce and foul shot by Puetz put Fieldcrest back within two, 36-34, with 1:12 left in the contest. Back-to-back fouls by the Knights sent Ward and Trey McCormick to the free throw line, sinking a perfect 4-for-4, increasing Ridgeview’s lead, 40-34, with 27.6 seconds left. Fieldcrest took a timeout at that point, but fireworks from their bench ensued afterward, leading to an increased advantage for Ridgeview.

Ridgeview Mustangs First, Jochums fouled Tyler McCormick, giving Ridgeview two free throws, which McCormick sank, increasing his team’s lead, 42-34. Then, Fieldcrest was assessed two technical fouls as a result of head coach Matt Winkler first straying too far out of the coaches’ box on the sidelines and then making a comment to Official Mark Jontry. Jontry awarded Ridgeview a total of four free throws for the two technicals, with McCormick staying at the free throw line, sinking three of them, increasing the distance, 45-34. Two more foul calls against Fieldcrest sent McCormick and Ward back to the free throw line again, one after the other, for the second time to close out the contest, as the pair sank a combined 3-for-4 for the final score.

Tyler McCormick led all scorers in double figures with 14 points. He was followed in double figures by Trey McCormick’s 13. No Fieldcrest players achieved double-figures, but Ryan Barth and Puetz neared the top of the list, with 9 points and 8 points, respectfully.

“We played well defensively and I thought we contained the ball real well,” Kellar said. “I think the stats will show we limited Fieldcrest to one shot on defensive rebounding when they did make a shot. I think that really was the key to limiting those opportunities.”

Kellar praised two of his players’ contributions to the Mustangs’ offense, saying, “With Austin Zielsdorf and Tyler McCormick off the bench, we have great balance and great depth. Those two are very versatile, and it allows us to play other people at other positions. As a result, we do a good job sharing the ball.

“I told the kids it’s a great opportunity to play a game like that, to be pushed to the limit,” Kellar said, because they could face teams that put them in the same scenario when they are in the postseason tournament begins.

“Their defense was awesome,” Winkler told reporters afterward. “They hustled. Coach Kellar’s got them playing great basketball. That’s why they’re undefeated. Our kids fought hard. We just didn’t shoot the basketball very well, and that was because of Ridgeview’s defense.”

BLOOMINGTON – To all who saw the Girls’ championship game at the 101st McLean County/Heart Of Illinois Tournament on Jan. 21, LeRoy High School appeared to have things well under control, looking as though they would coast to certain victory.

But a fourth quarter surge by El Paso Gridley changed that, giving the Titans a 54-50 come from behind victory, and their second consecutive girls’ tournament title.

Over 1,500 fans at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center watched as LeRoy (20-2) started the game on a 7-0 run behind baskets by senior guards Ashley Walker and Molly Marcum. Junior guard Lauren Russell added back-to-back unanswered threes, allowing the Panthers to own a 19-7 lead going into the second quarter.

A free throw by sophomore Codee Schlipf and deuces by junior Chelsea Kessinger and sophomore Rebekah Ehresman were the only scoring EPG could muster in the opening quarter.

Two more threes in the second quarter by Marcum and one trey provided by Russell helped rush LeRoy further, increasing the Panthers’ lead to 35-17 at the half.

EPG (22-0) opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run, closing the gap with two free throws from Kessinger, two baskets and a free throw by Ehresman, and a deuce by senior Chelsea Barnard. That cut LeRoy’s lead to 35-26 with 4:50 left in the quarter. EPG outscored LeRoy, 6-4 in the last two minutes of the quarter, cutting the Panthers’ lead to 41-35 going into the fourth quarter.

Although LeRoy opened the quarter with a single basket, putting the Panthers up 43-35, EPG responded with an 8-0 run ending in a trey by Schlipf at the 4:25 mark that tied the game at 43-43. Junior Jenna Souhrada’s steal and layup at 4:07 put EPG up, 45-43.

The game would be tied twice more from there – 45-all, and 49-all – before EPG would pull away, starting with a free throw by junior Mattie Buchanan with 49.4 seconds left. foul trouble would continue to plague LeRoy in the closing minute, as Ehresman, Sourada, and Schlipf would go a combined 4-for-6 at the charity stripe to reach the final score.

Ehresman led EPG in scoring with 15 points. She was followed by Souhrada’s 14, and 12 from Schlipf. Marcum and Walker scored 13 points each to lead the Panthers’ scoring, followed by 11 from Russell.

EPG head coach Kyle Bobbitt said the strategy he imparted on his team going into the second half was to “take care of the basketball, not turning it over, and taking quality shots, and we did that.”

“LeRoy’s a quality team,” Bobbitt added. “They came out and shot 50 percent in the first half. I told our girls we have to focus on getting stops on LeRoy, and that’s our number one job. We had to contest shots, get after LeRoy and pressure them a little bit.

“I told our girls at halftime that we had to cut LeRoy’s lead to 10 by the fourth quarter,” Bobbitt said. “We cut it to six, and right then and there, you could see we had an opportunity to take the game, and we did.”

Bobbitt added that Souhrada “stepped up tonight, and she came through when we needed.”

“We didn’t follow through with our game plan in the second half, and we turned the ball over too much against a very talented El Paso Gridley team,” explained LeRoy head coach Danielle Cooley. ”We knew the Titans were going to go on their runs and that they were going to come out and press because they had to up the tempo to get back in this game.

“We drew up a game plan, but we just didn’t execute it,” Cooley added. “We know how to break a press and we just didn’t do it tonight.”