BLOOMINGTON – Ask El Paso Gridley girls’ head basketball coach Jeff Sinn and you get the feeling seeing his team seeded 9th prior to the 109th Heart Of Illinois Conference/McLean County Tournament was short-changing his team before they had an opportunity to prove their skills.

The Titans came into this tournament seeking to win the girls’ tourney’s crown but ended up carting home a third place award after beating sixth seed Fisher, 38-34, Saturday afternoon at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus.

EPG (10-12 after this game) jumped out to a fast 5-0 lead thanks to back-to-back baskets, a trey and a deuce, from senior guard Addison Benedict. Fisher responded with back-to-back shots from junior guard Morgan Coile and freshman guard Kallie Evans, reducing the Titans’ lead, 5-4, with 1:50 left in the quarter.

Fisher (11-11 following this game) owned a 7-5 lead as the opening quarter ended, courtesy of a free throw by senior guard Kylee Bishop and a deuce from senior forward Brianna Keeton, allowing the Bunnies to carry that lead into the second quarter.

EPG found themselves needing to respond to a pair of three-point shots to start the second quarter. Those came from Bunnies senior guard Daneigh Burk and junior forward Brianna Sommer, giving Fisher a 10-9 advantage with 5:35 left in the quarter. But Hood’s second trey, coming at the 4:23 mark, allowed Fisher the advantage of a four-point lead, 13-9. A pair of free throws by fouled sophomore guard Jordyn Cannon allowed EPG to close in on the Bunnies’ lead, 13-11, before a deuce from Hood help extend her team’s lead, 15-11.

At this point, Sinn called time out with 2:35 remaining until halftime, after which the Titans went on a 6-0 tear, starting with a Benedict firing a deuce and a trey, and a jumper from junior forward Rebecca Orns, allowing the Titans to jump over the Bunnies going into halftime, 18-15.

Third quarter scoring was back and forth, starting with senior guard Kylee Bishop’s deuce which opened the period, reducing EPG’s lead to one, 18-17. Orns responded with a deuce to give the Titans a 20-17 advantage. Senior forward Ashley Smith’s deuce at the 4:43 mark helped close the gap the Bunnies faced, trailing by one, 20-19, but Orns’ basket with 3:37 left put EPG up, 22-19. Bunnies junior forward Leah McCoy’s jumper sliced EPG’s lead to one, 22-21, with 3:20 left. But Cannon’s next basket extended her team’s lead, 24-21, with 2:55 left in the quarter.

Hood’s basket with 43.5 seconds in the third again closed the gap EPG tried to leave Fisher in, 24-23, before EPG sophomore guard Michaela Kelly’s deuce with 17.5 seconds left renewed the Titans’ three-point lead, 26-23. The quarter closed on Bunnies senior forward Ashley Smith’s bucket and foul shot attempt, which she missed, allowing EPG to hold on to a single-digit lead, 26-25, entering the fourth quarter.

Fisher retook the lead briefly, 27-26, thanks to a jumper from senior forward Brianna Keeton. It was replied to with one by EPG sophomore forward Devyn Hinthorne putting EPG up, 28-27. A basket by senior forward Ashley Smith allowed the Bunnies to hop in front briefly, 29-28. EPG stepped back in the lead, 30-29 with 5:41 left in the contest, starting a 6-0 run for the Titans which included a deuce and two free throws from Olivia Tipler. Keeton’s basket ended the streak, and pulled the Bunnies within three, 34-31 with 3:11 left in the game.

Two free throws by Kelly, having been fouled by Hood, pushed EPG’s lead up by five, 36-31 with 1:47 left, in the middle of which, Bunnies head coach Ken Ingold called time, but the tactic failed. A basket by Evans trimmed the Spartans’ lead back down to two, 36-34, prompting Bunnies head coach Ken Ingold to another call time out 30.2 seconds left.

Bishop fouled Cannon, putting EPG back on the free throw line with 29.1 seconds remaining, where she sank two baskets, putting the Titans up, 38-34. Following an EPG timeout, Cannon was fouled again, this time by McCoy, with 13.7 seconds left. Cannon missed the first of two shots. From there, Fisher inbounded the ball, getting it to Bishop, who launched a shot from just beyond half-court as the buzzer sounded, only to see the ball smack the backboard and fall to the floor.

Benedict led all scorers and EPG in double-figures with 14 points. Hood pocketed 10 for Fisher in leading her team’s effort. Ingold was not available for comment following the contest. Fisher holds a 12-11 record after this contest.

“We took home third place and starting from being 9th seed, that’s pretty darn good,” EPG’s Sinn admitted following the contest. “The girls didn’t let them distract them. We know we can play and we’re a tough team and we showed that during this tournament.” He added his team has shown improvement in their play offensively and defensively since the season began in November.

He added placing third after their seeding in the county tournament was a good thing and credited being in the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Classic last month as “good preparation for this.” The Titans finished the Classic with a 2-2 mark.

golfBLOOMINGTON – Regardless of the endeavor, or of the sport or profession, it’s been said that “it’s better to go out on top.” If that’s the case, El Paso Gridley High School’s Boys’ Golf team, and twin brothers Michael and Branden Mounce, would have been seen to have done just that in style at the Illinois High School Association Class 1A State Golf Tournament at Prairie Vista Golf Course.

That’s because, at the conclusion of the two-day tourney, on Oct. 18, the Mounce brothers tied for third individually overall. Both boys each shot a two-day total of 148 while helping the Titans earn their second straight first place finish with a total score of 619 on the 72-par course. Winnetka,Ill.-based North Shore County Day High School finished second with a two-day score of 629, while Nashville finished third with a total of 652.

On the tourney’s first day Oct. 17, EPG shot 306 to take the crown, with Winnetka,Ill.-based North Shore County Day High School placing second scoring 315, and Nashville collectively came in third having shot 319.

With their scores, the Mounce brothers led the way for their Titans teammates, all of whom could easily be spotted on the course thanks to their white bucket-style hats, a tradition that began within the last couple of seasons.

As individuals, Michael Mounce finished both rounds one and two with a 2-over-par 74 each day, while Branden Mounce finished day one with a par 72 and day two going 4-over-par 76 to arrive at the same total. As a result, the Mounce brothers shared third place overall for the tournament.

Fellow Titans teammates Derek Zielsdorf, a junior, had a two-day total of 177; Kyle Colmone, a senior, had a two-day total of 166; Brady Colburn, a junior, had a two-day total of 157; and freshman Kevin Greene had a two-day total of 182.

As for the Mounces tying by tournament’s end, “Yeah, it was a surprise,” Michael Mounce said. “We didn’t finish as well as we wanted to coming down the last couple holes. We definitely could have improved a lot. But, it worked out how it worked out.”

Branden Mounce smiled as he said he “wished he could have beaten him,” referring to Michael. Branden said that, in the end, “Things worked out. I would have liked to not have to hit my tee shot on 18 in the water today.”

Branden Mounce assessed on Saturday how the tourney concluded for EPG this way: “We started off slow today, and then we finally got it going. We had to hold off Winnetka at the very end because we didn’t finish as strong as we’d liked to. But it definitely was our goal to come here and win like we did last year.”

There was also some pride showing in how well the Mounces lead their team from head coach Ken Colmone. “You know, when you have two guys like Michael and Branden in your program, you expect a lot out of them,” Colmone said. “They’re great kids. They work hard. They’ve gotten out of golf exactly what they’ve put into it. They’re hard workers and they go at it and they battle every day.”

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – A pair of notable outcomes that resulted from the conclusion of the Girls Championship game of the 103rd McLean County/Heart Of Illinois Conference Tournament doesn’t happen very often. First, not just one, but two El Paso Gridley players set new marks for points scored in the game; and second, the seniors on EPG’s squad can boast being on a team that won the Girls’ Championship all four years of their high school careers.

Those outcomes were made possible by Tourney top seed EPG’s 60-48 victory over second seed Tremont Turks at Shirk Center on the Illinois Wesleyan University campus following the game played Saturday, Jan. 25. The milestone stretch allowed EPG to tie the tournament record for four consecutive titles established by Ridgeview High School from 1991-94.

trophy-mctourn.jpgTitans senior guard Rebekah Ehresman and senior forward Codee Schlipf hit back-to-back deuces to open the contest, and Schlipf followed up with a pair of early free throws, giving EPG (17-2) a quick 6-1 lead with 6:31 left in the first quarter. Less than a minute later, Schlipf hit a three, tripling EPG’s lead, 9-3. The closest Tremont would get in the opening quarter would be within two, 9-7, following a pair of free throws by junior forward Wesley Woodard and a deuce by sophomore forward Lauren Hartman. But one trey each by Schlipf and Ehresman would give the Titans some breathing room going into the second quarter, leading 19-11.

Ehresman would complete a three-point play after being fouled just after the second quarter opened, increasing EPG’s lead, 22-13, with 6:36 left. A trey by senior guard Hayley Miller at 6:24 in the quarter touched off a 10-0 run for Tremont (16-3). That run included Hartman and Miller each going 1-for-2 at the free throw line, and Miller and junior guard Jill Runyon each hitting a deuce. That stretch allowed Tremont to take a one-point lead, 23-22, with 3:20 left until halftime. But Schlipf would get two more baskets and Ehresman one more, allowing EPG to take a 28-25 lead into the half.

Schlipf and Runyon would exchange deuces early in the third quarter, resulting in a 30-30 tie before a Woodard foul sent Ehresman to the free throw line, where she sank both shots, followed by an unanswered deuce by Schlipf, giving EPG a 34-30 lead at 3:17 in the third quarter. Woodard cut that lead, 34-32, with a deuce at the 2:57 mark. But sophomore Jen Ehresman responded with a trey for EPG at 2:40 in the quarter, giving the Titans a 37-32 lead. Woodard responded with a deuce and Runyon hit a trey, cutting EPG’s lead, 39-37, with 42 seconds left in the quarter. EPG carried a 41-38 lead into the fourth quarter.

El Paso Gridley Titans Rebekah Ehresman opened the fourth quarter nearly single-handed with a trey followed by an unanswered deuce, pushing EPG up, 46-38, at the 6:23 mark. Woodard cut the lead with a deuce, 46-40 at 5:47. But from there, the older of the two Ehresman sisters and Schlipf used a combined 5-for-6 at the free throw line to give the Titans a 51-42 lead, with 4:19 left in the contest. Woodard hit a deuce but missed a chance at a three-point play after being fouled in the attempt, cutting EPG’s lead, 51-44. After Schlipf hit a deuce giving the Titans a 53-44 lead, EPG went on a 7-0 blitz which included Schlipf, Rebekah Ehresman, and senior forward Anna Gauger going to the free throw line, sinking a combined 7-for-8 from the line en route to the final buzzer.

New scoring records were established – and even exceeded – during this contest, first, when Rebekah Ehresman scored 26 points. In this contest, she was not just high scorer for the game, but she surpassed her own previous high point-count from EPG’s appearance in last year’s girls’ championship where she scored 24. Schlipf also entered the record book, scoring 25. Woodard was Tremont’s high scorer, pocketing 12, followed in double digits by Miller, who had 10.

Tremont Turks Although his team is ranked 8th in Illinois High School Association Class 2A, Titans head coach Kyle Bobbitt characterized his players as “hungry” for a victory in the championship matchup. “They knew about the opportunity. They understand what this tournament means. Around here, this tournament is a big thing. They were part of the group that got our last trophy, and they understand the meaning behind it. Having it means you’re the top dog.” Speaking of his seniors, he added, “They wanted to go out winners here.”

“Tremont is a very tough team,” Bobbitt said. “They knocked down some tough shots. We knew coming in it was going to be a tough matchup for us. Tremont is very deep, they have good shooters, and they have some size. They’re a very good team. Give them some credit. They knocked some tough shots down.”

Turks head coach Justin Wahls said his team felt good about only being behind by three at the half, “but in the second half, we just turned the ball over too many times. We just gave the game to them. We lost it for ourselves, that’s for sure.”

Wahls admitted Rebecca Ehresman and Schlipf “showed up big tonight.” As for his own team, he credited Woodard, saying, “We knew we would need someone on the inside. She pounded it down inside. She’s a great post player.”

There is a possibility these two teams will square off in IHSA Regionals at the end of the regular season, Bobbitt said.

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – Normal Community High School came up a game short of playing for the Large School Boys Bracket championship at 35th annual boys’ tournament during the Bloomington-Normal State Farm Holiday Classic. The Ironmen fell to Chatham Glenwood, 43-41 in the semifinal matchup at Shirk Center on the Illinois Wesleyan University campus on Dec. 28.

As a result of the loss, NCHS (7-4) faced Mahomet-Seymour for third place on Monday at Shirk Center. As a result of the victory, Chatham Glenwood would face reigning Large School Boys Champion North Chicago.

NCHS junior forward Alex Peacock and Chatham Glenwood junior guard Drew Parriott exchanged treys to open the contest, putting the game in a quick 3-3 tie. NCHS jumped out to a 10-4 lead on baskets by junior guard Connor Oltman and Peacock. Chatham Glenwood recovered enough to pull within two, 10-8, just before the quarter ended on baskets by junior guard Cole Harper and junior forward Sam Anderson.

El Paso Gridley Titans Chatham Glenwood (8-3) pulled even at 10-all on a Parriott basket to open the second quarter. Two unanswered deuces and a trey by Allen helped push the Titans in front, 17-12, with 3:09 left until halftime. Parriott’s baskets were part of a rapid-fire 7-0 run. Peacock helped the Ironmen regroup using a pair of free throws and a basket, cutting that lead, 19-16, going into intermission.

NCHS junior Duane Farrington opened the third quarter with a basket for the Ironmen, slicing Chatham Glenwood’s lead to one, 19-18, with 7:49 left in the third quarter. The Ironmen did have a 6-0 run midway through the third, giving them a brief lead, 26-25, at the 4:43 mark. But from there, Allen helped the Titans surge ahead, scoring 10 of the 13 points his team managed to tally in the quarter. As a result, Chatham Glenwood owned a 32-28 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Fans were treated to an exhibition of threes in the fourth quarter, as Allen and Parriott landed treys as the quarter opened. That was followed by a trio of threes for NCHS by junior guard Zach Thompson, pulling the Ironmen within one, 38-37, with 3:45 left in the game.

Thompson hit another three at the 3:07 mark, giving NCHS a 39-38 lead. But Parriott replied with another three of his own with 1:17 left, giving the Titans a 41-39 lead. Peacock would foul Allen with 5.6 seconds left in the game, and Allen would sink both subsequent free throws, putting Chatham Glenwood up, 43-39.

statefarmholidayclassic.gif NCHS rushed to get the ball to an outside shooter with the remaining seconds they had left, looking for a player behind the three-point line, finding Oltman who hit a two-point layup at the buzzer leading to the eventual final score.

Allen was the lone Titans player in double-figures with 26 points. Peacock and Thompson reached double-figures for NCHS, tallying 11 points each.

“It was a struggle all night for both teams,” Chatham Glenwood head coach Todd Blakeman said afterward. “NCHS clogged the lane, and we claimed some shots, but we had some shots at the right time and they made a comeback. We did a nice job against Tyler Seibring. He can flat-out shoot.”

In referring to trying to contain Allen, NCHS head coach Dave Witzig said, “I thought we did a good job on him and he still got 26 points tonight.” But he added, “you have to give credit to Chatham Glenwood because their defense is hard-nosed, physical, and they get in your way and they did a great job.”

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – El Paso Gridley’s girls’ basketball team came into the Bloomington-Normal State Farm Holiday Tournament looking to get a jump on a positive season. The goal for every team is four wins, aiming to get to a championship. Anything short of that, either in a coach’s or his players’ minds would be graciously accepted by not to be settled for.

EPG exited this event’s 17th annual girls’ tournament with 6th place, having lost to Bloomington Central Catholic, 44-41, in a contest held at Normal Community West High School on Saturday, Dec. 28. BCC held off Camp Point/Augusta S.E., 75-56 to get to the matchup with EPG. Earlier in the day Saturday, EPG toppled Brimfield, 68-62, to earn the right to compete against BCC to see which team would earn fifth place.

EPG finished the tournament at 2-2, and improved their overall record to 11-2. They began the tournament with a 60-42 win over St. Joseph-Ogden. That victory put the Lady Titans in a second round game against Kankakee Bishop MacNamara.

During that game against the Fightin’ Irish, the Titans owned a quick 6-4 lead in the first quarter on two baskets by senior guard Rebekah Ehresman and a single deuce by sophomore guard Shelby Fulk. But a pair of deuces and free throw by Bishop MacNamara junior guard Khadaizha Sanders pushed her team in front of EPG, 9-6, going into the second quarter.

El Paso Gridley Titans EPG senior forward Anna Gauger hit back-to-back unanswered deuces to open the second quarter giving the Titans a 10-9 lead with 6:03 left in the quarter. Sophomore guard Jen Ehresman’s deuce at 4:03 in the quarter pulled EPG within two, 14-12. but beginning with another Sanders basket, Bishop MacNamara went on a 13-0 run to close out the quarter, including a trey by junior guard Hanna Mitchell, giving the Fightin’ Irish a 27-12 halftime advantage.

Bishop MacNamara kept EPG at bay throughout the third quarter. only senior forward Codee Schlipf and Gauger managed to get into the paint offensively for EPG, while Bishop MacNamara saw scores from senior forward Jenna Stauffenberg, junior forward Corinne O’Connor, and senior forward Kyleigh Payne. The onslaught resulted in EPG trailing, 45-28 going into the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter, fouls called on EPG sent five separate Bishop MacNamara players to the free throw line for a combined 4-for-9 scoring drive. Jen Ehresman, freshman forward Lauren Hoselton, and sophomore forward Riley Hickey provided points for EPG as the game drew to a close.

statefarmholidayclassic.gif Sanders led all scorers with 13 points. For Bishop MacNamara, she was followed in double figures by Payne and O’Connor, each of whom added 10 points apiece. No EPG players managed double figures, but Schlipf and Gauger each tallied 8 points apiece.

“The time we have at this tournament is going to be a measuring stick to see what we need to work on,” explained EPG head coach Kyle Bobbitt. “Bishop MacNamara was, by far, the strongest team we’ve played all year. They had a lot of quickness and we don’t see much of that quickness. But like I told the girls, ‘you’ve got to keep your head up.’ I told them this is a learning experience. We need to see what we need to work on.”

Reporters could not reach Kankakee Bishop MacNamara head coach Ramon Daguinsin following the game.