By Steve Robinson | January 13, 2019 - 10:03 pm
Posted in Category: LeRoy, Lexington, The Normalite

It’s Heart Of Illinois Conference/McLean County Tournament time again. The 108th annual event starts Saturday at El Paso Gridley High School with opening round action and runs through to a girls’ championship game and a boys’ championship game, both at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus on Saturday, Jan. 26. The tourney will take its customary break on Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Former local broadcaster L. A. Decker has served as public address announcer for the entire tourney at Shirk for a number of years now and has taken the pulse of the event for some time, predicting which teams will get furthest. The one thing Decker does not do, however, is predict who will win championship games. He said upholding that personal policy helps him maintain objectivity. He does, however, almost sound like a pro scout at times in his analysis which helps novice fans and students of the game know what is going on with local teams.

Lexington Girls Seeded Third: Decker points to the girls’ teams seeded first and second in the tournament as being “head and shoulders above” the remaining teams in the field. Those would be top seed Eureka (19-2 overall and 10-0 HOIC) and second seed Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (17-4 overall and 8-1 HOIC). But coming right behind them are the Lexington Lady Minutemen (13-2 overall and 7-1 HOIC), earning the third seed. The key to Eureka is, according to Decker, “They don’t rebuild when they have new players. They retool.”

“Lexington could surprise some people,” Decker said, adding they would not be the only team to do so, saying the same about fourth seeded Ridgeview. Lexington has only lost a conference game and a non-conference game so far. “The Minutemen girls are definitely the surprise team from what I have seen in the records,” Decker said. The Ridgeview Mustangs were 15-4 overall and 7-1 Conference at this writing.

The Lady Minutemen recently lost to Dwight, a loss which halted a 9-game winning streak for head coach Bill Elias’ crew.

“Tremont beat LeRoy Jan. 8,” Decker reminded. “That vaulted the Turks ahead of LeRoy in the standings.

Decker said he sees Elias’ team in the final four of the tournament, along with the other top three seeds, but cautions either Deer Creek-Mackinaw or El Paso Gridley could sneak in to disrupt the scenario. With all the first round games at EPG Saturday, eighth seed Flanagan-Cornell will face ninth seed Heyworth to open the tournament on Saturday at 11:30a.m. Fourth seed Ridgeview hosts 13th seed Fisher at 1p.m. Fifth seed Dee-Mack hosts 12th seed Tri-Valley at 2:30p.m. Seventh seed EPG hosts 10th seed LeRoy at 4p.m. Sixth seed Fieldcrest takes on 11th seed Tremont to close out the day at 5:30p.m.

Decker said he “sees the chalk holding up” meaning the top four seeds survive their challenges, with Eureka facing GCMS for the title.

LeRoy Boys Seeded Fifth: GCMS is the top seed in the Boys’ Tournament bracket, with the Falcons owning a 15-2 record as of Sunday, including a perfect 7-0 conference mark. Deer Creek-Mackinaw is seeded second at 15-3 and 4-0 conference, and Tremont is seeded third. The Turks have a 15-4 overall record which includes being 4-2 in conference play. LeRoy, the fifth seed, has the highest seed in the Boys’ bracket of county schools, just below fourth seed Fieldcrest. While that won’t be seen as encouraging to some readers of this column, Decker said LeRoy (9-4 overall and 6-1 Conference as of this writing) should not be overlooked or counted out once play begins.

Head coach Rodney Kellar’s Ridgeview Mustangs are 10-8 overall and 3-4 in conference, and seeded ninth in the tournament. They are slated to take on eight seed Downs Tri-Valley to start the day Saturday at 11:30a.m. Lexington boys, seeded 13th, will open the tournament against fourth seed Fieldcrest Saturday at 1p.m. LeRoy’s fifth seed puts them against 12th seed Fisher in a 2:30p.m. matchup. Seventh seed Eureka meets 10th seed Flanagan-Cornell in a 4p.m. contest. Sixth seed EPG finishes the day at 5:30p.m. against 11th seed Heyworth.

Although they are the last single-digit seed, Decker said, he doesn’t know if that makes the Mustangs a longshot or the wild card in the race. He added Tremont is likely the team to watch because the Turks “have spoiled a few parties for teams” when on the court this year.

Lexington’s boys’ team has struggled in the early season, Decker said. The Minutemen as of Sunday were 7-11 overall and winless in six tries in conference play. Last season, the Minutemen “held their own,” as Decker explained it, against HOIC opponents but have yet to demonstrate that skill this season. Decker predicts GCMS and Tremont will square off for the championship.

Regardless of who wins, there will be bragging rights attained for the winners, disappointment and possibly a few tears shed by the defeated, but the games and their outcomes will at least give us a week where we can try to take our minds off of any winter blahs we may be encountering and give us time to enjoy the competition.

By Steve Robinson | September 9, 2017 - 10:31 pm
Posted in Category: LeRoy, The Normalite, Tri-Valley

FootballLeROY – Tri-Valley High School’s football team demonstrated precision, practically from the opening kickoff, against LeRoy, perhaps showing why they have their rank of 9th in Illinois High School Association Class 2A, defeating the LeRoy Panthers, 49-0, before roughly 400 people at McKean Field Friday night.

That precision in this Heart of Illinois Conference matchup was evident, literally from the opening kickoff, as Vikings senior wide receiver Mason Cagley took the game’s opening kickoff 85  yards for his team’s first score, followed by sophomore kicker Bryce Bedillion’s extra point, putting Tri-Valley (2-1) up, 7-0

Following LeRoy turning the ball over on downs to end their first possession, junior running back Zach Woodring’s 2 yard touchdown run at 6:10 in the same quarter, followed by Bedillion’s extra point, pushed the Vikings ahead, 14-0. The Vikings increased their first quarter scoring at the 3:38 mark courtesy of a 43 yard pass from junior quarterback Jake Reeser to senior wide receiver Casey Hamilton, followed by another Bedillion extra point, giving the Vikings a 21-0 advantage going into the second quarter.

LeRoy Panthers FootballLeRoy (1-2) fumbled to close out its first drive of the second quarter, turning the ball over to Tri-Valley on the Vikings’ 41 yard line. Seven plays later Reeser connected with senior tight end Clayton Leipold on an 18 yard touchdown strike followed by another Bedillion extra point, increasing the Vikings’ advantage, the 6:56 mark.

LeRoy had its next possession end in a punt and Tri-Valley went back to work scoring on a 6 yard run by Woodring at the 1:52 mark before halftime. Bedillion’s extra point pushed the Vikings’ advantage further, 35-0, going into the half.

LeRoy received the second half kickoff but punted after getting nowhere in three plays. The Vikings returned the punt to LeRoy’s 32 yard line, and three plays later, Hamilton scored again, from 3 yards out for a touchdown run followed by Bedillion’s extra point, pushed Tri-Valley further, 42-0. As a result of the 40-point difference, game officials employed IHSA’s “Mercy Rule,” using a continuously running clock, stopping it only for team timeouts or injury timeouts.

LeRoy’s next possession ended in a fumble, giving the Vikings the ball at LeRoy’s 39 yard line. Nine plays later, freshman lineman-turned-running back Jake Fatima’s 7 yard touchdown run at 1:02 in the third quarter, followed by Bedillion’s last extra point on the night, led to the final score.

“I was really happy with the way we executed, and our offensive did very, very well tonight,” Tri-Valley head coach Josh Roop said.

“Obviously, when you play a team of that caliber, you can’t give them points,” said LeRoy head coach B. J. Zeleznik. “We gave them free points right off the bat. That was it. We knew it was going to be an uphill battle and that didn’t help things.”

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley brings its 3-0 record to McKean Field when they take on the Panthers here on Sept. 15.

By Steve Robinson | May 28, 2016 - 10:09 pm
Posted in Category: LeRoy, The Normalite

BaseballBLOOMINGTON – LeRoy senior left fielder Teddy Harms explained Saturday his team did not score too early during games last season. He said the Panthers usually didn’t strike until the third or fourth inning. But this year, he added, they had been scoring earlier – some games in the first inning – to achieve wins.

On Saturday, at Jack Hornenberger Field on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus for a chance at a Class 1A Sectional semifinal victory against Ottawa, Ill.-based Marquette Academy, the early scoring pattern showed up again, helping the Panthers outpace the Crusaders, 6-4, to advance to the Danville Schlarman Sectional championship Tuesday against Salt Fork.

After Marquette Academy (26-7) failed to score in their half of the game’s first inning, LeRoy (29-5) took a 2-0 lead, as with one out, a double by senior left fielder Harms scored senior center fielder Ethan Bryant who had doubled in front of him, giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead. After senior first baseman Ricky Vermaat struck out for the inning’s second out, sophomore right fielder Austin Lane doubled scoring Harms, increasing LeRoy’s lead, 2-0. But junior pitcher Brett Egan struck out ending the Panthers’ scoring.

Marquette Academy left fielder Dylan Gerding led off the top of the third inning with a double and advanced around the bases during an out and a single by as Crusaders senior catcher John Lechtenberg giving LeRoy a 2-1 lead.

Marquette Academy went scoreless in the top of the second inning and was hampered by defensive mistakes which LeRoy capitalized on. Panthers senior shortstop Bryce Dooley led the bottom of the second inning by getting to second base on a single and a Crusaders error. Bryant followed hitting directly to Marquette Academy first baseman Logan Komater for the inning’s first out.

Harms then singled and advanced to second on a second Marquette error and Vermaat singled and advanced to second on an error, scoring Dooley and Harms, giving LeRoy a 4-1 lead. That was followed by Lane’s bases-clearing triple, scoring Vermaat, upping the Panthers’ lead, 5-1.

A 6th inning double by Lane scored Harms, who singled to start the inning, increasing LeRoy’s lead, 6-1.

LeRoy PanthersMarquette Academy regrouped in the top of the seventh inning as Lechtenberg smacked a three run home run with no outs, scoring Komater who singled and leadoff man senior second baseman Joe Hawks who started the inning with a walk, slicing LeRoy’s, 6-4. Those developments prompted LeRoy head coach Wayne Meyer to visit the mound to check on his pitcher, Brett Egan. Following the visit, Egan demonstrated to his coach a victory was in hand, striking out Crusaders third baseman Keaton Snyder and watching Crusaders shortstop Jel Raikes get put out at first base.

Egan collected the win, increasing his record to 9-1, while Marquette Academy’s Bryce Fanti was the losing pitcher, his record dropping to 7-3.

Harms said his first inning double “contributed to the momentum of the game. We knew Ottawa Marquette was going to have good offense, and surprisingly, they didn’t have any until the last inning. We knew we were going to have to come out and hit the ball well to counter their offense.”

Of his decision not to yank his pitcher in the late innings, LeRoy head coach Wayne Meyer explained, “Egan had a heavy workload today, but he’s been off a week and we threw a lot of change-ups, so Brett was going to stay out there until we won.”

In regard to the hits Harms got during the contest, Meyer said his left fielder had been hitting pitches under the ball lately. Meyer said he had been trying to get Harms to get his bat to meet “the meat of the bat.” Meyer added, “But when he’s in the middle, he can really drive it.”

“You’ve got to give LeRoy’s kids credit,” Marquette Academy head coach Todd Hopkins said following the game. “They came out swinging the bats and made plays and Egan was outstanding. We were trying to get something going and get the pitch count up the last two or three innings. We got guys on, we got the three runs in our half of the seventh inning, and things just didn’t pan out. Give LeRoy credit. They won the game and they deserve to go on and I wish them the best.”

Fisher Ends LeRoy Softball’s Season: But while the boys were claiming victory, LHS’ Softball team fought hard in the closing innings against Fisher in their Class 1A Sectional semifinal, but wound up falling to the Bunnies, 16-9. The loss gave head coach Doug Hageman’s troops a 28-7 record for the year.

By Steve Robinson | March 12, 2016 - 10:21 pm
Posted in Category: LeRoy, The Normalite

BasketballPEORIA – LeRoy High School’s Boys’ basketball team achieved a milestone Saturday, winning its first State Title in the sport in school history, defeating Chicago Leo High School, 38-35, before 1,000 fans, equally divided in their devotion to their favorite team.

Over the course of the playoffs, it took beating five teams to get a very first State Basketball Championship in Class 1A for head coach Mark Edmundson’s LeRoy Panthers Boys’ team. For some teams, getting that far can seem like a heroic feat in itself.

The contest was tied at 2-all, 4-all, and 6-all with Panthers senior center Matt Chastain scoring each basket to get the contest off to the start their fans were hoping for. From there, LeRoy (28-5) starting breaking away with another basket from Chastain who also added two threes, joined by senior forward Noah Perry, who added two free throws, helping give the Panthers a 14-8 advantage going into the second quarter.

Chicago Leo (24-9) regrouped enough as the second quarter began to put together back-to-back unanswered baskets by senior center Chris Winters and senior forward Darias Oliver, cutting LeRoy’s lead, 14-12 at the 6:41 mark in the quarter. Nick Perry’s basket at 6:21 in the quarter upped the lead, 16-12, but an Oliver jumper got Leo within two, 16-14. A basket by senior forward Noah Perry increased LeRoy’s lead, 18-14. But a foul by senior forward Teddy Harms sent Oliver to the free throw line for Leo where he sank 1-of-2 completing a three-point play leaving LeRoy to own an 18-15 lead at halftime.

Chastain opened the third quarter with a jumper putting LeRoy in front, 20-15, and Winters capitalized on a Harms foul, sinking one free throw, keeping Leo within four, 20-16 before Nick Perry hit a trey to push the Panthers up, 23-16, with 3:44 left in the third quarter.

Leo stunned LeRoy with a one trey each from senior guard Mykel Hampton and Oliver, reducing LeRoy’s lead to three, with 1:26 left in the quarter. A free throw by a fouled Chastain, followed by a deuce from Leo senior point guard Darius Branch were a mix allowed the Lions to come within two, 26-24, as the contest entered the fourth quarter.

LeRoy PanthersNoah Perry’s basket at 7:40 in the fourth quarter pushed LeRoy up, 28-24. But two Branch free throws notched Leo within two, 28-26, with 4:46 remaining. Chastain responded, when fouled by Leo’s Corielle Robinson, with two free throws, putting LeRoy up, 30-26, with 3:53 remaining. Oliver converted a rebound into a layup at 3:27, reducing LeRoy’s lead to two, 30-28.

But a Nick Perry trey at 3:20 boosted LeRoy in front, 33-28. Hampton responded with a trey of his own, reducing LeRoy’s lead, 33-31, before the game was tied, 33-33 thanks to a deuce from Oliver with 1:33 remaining. Between those two scores, LeRoy took a final time out with 2:37 remaining.

A Chastain jumper put LeRoy up, 35-33, with 1:15 remaining. But a Panthers foul sent Branch to the free throw line for Leo, where he sank both shots tying the game at 35-all with 57.8 seconds remaining. That prompted Leo head coach Shawn Frison to call a timeout.

Coming out of the timeout, Noah Perry raced the floor against Leo defenders and the ticking clock, sinking a trey for a 38-35 Panthers lead, which turned out to be the margin of victory. Leo’s Branch took one last desperation shot from just beyond the top of the key, but it sailed just to the right of the basket as the final buzzer sounded.

Chastain led LeRoy’s scoring with 21 points and finishing his career having concluded his high school career with 2,081 points. Oliver was the only Leo player in double-figures with 14 points.

“I can’t believe we’re here, and to win it, I still have goosebumps,” Edmundson said afterward. “Leo kept doubling on Matt even when he kept finding people to pass to. Offensively and defensively, I think we were prepared.”

Chastain said winning a State championship is a great way to end his high school playing career. He further credited Edmundson, saying, “I couldn’t ask for a better coach because without him, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. We bought in to what he taught us.”

Noah Perry said he “was missing a ton of shots and getting really frustrated” prior to landing the winning basket. “My teammates were frustrated, too. To finally knock down that last shot, when it really mattered, was really good to get.” Perry added Edmundson told him during the team’s final time out there would be a chance for Perry to get a big shot before the game ended, and that Perry would make it.

“Leo had really big players and I managed to do what I could to get rebounds,” explained Harms, when asked about how rough inside play on the court was during the contest.

When asked for an opening statement to begin his team’s half of the press conference, Leo head coach Frison declined to do so, instead, beginning with praise for his players. “I am so proud of their effort and how hard they played,” Frison started. “I feel that these student-athletes, these young men are very well prepared for the next step in their lives.”

Frison added,” We played hard and we fought hard. A couple of more shots, it would have been a different game.” He added, jokingly, he’d like the two teams to have a rematch. Edmondson’s response to Frison’s suggestion: Uh…No.”

IHSAPanthers Deny Liberty In 48-32 Semifinal Win: A quick start helped LeRoy get the jump on Liberty in the first of two semifinal games held on Friday at Carver Arena, as the Panthers got one step closer to a first State final, beating Liberty, 48-32. As 1,000 fans watched, the Panthers had a fairly easy time handling Liberty High School, located in the town of Liberty, Ill., 78 miles west of Springfield. The Panthers had a fairly easy time against Liberty – at least during the first half of the contest.

LeRoy jumped out to a fast 5-0 lead on a trey by Nick Perry and two free throws by a fouled Harms. Reed Wolfmeyer scored Liberty’s first basket for his team at 3:24 in the opening quarter, reducing LeRoy’s lead, 5-2, but baskets from Perry and Chastain had the Panthers owning an 11-4 advantage with which to open the second quarter.

The Panthers’ onslaught continued in the second quarter despite Liberty’s attempt to keep them out of the paint. Perry hit a trey at 6:06 in the period putting LeRoy up, 14-4. Harms added a jumper a minute later making it 16-4. Zach Barker scored Liberty’s first points of the quarter at 3:25, reducing the lead, 16-6. It was a bucket that was followed up by free throws from guard Tayton Roe, whom Chastain fouled. With that, LeRoy owned a 16-8 lead. A three-point play including a free throw from Chastain, followed by a trey by Brett Egan at 1:03 until halftime gave the Panthers a 22-8 advantage.

Liberty (29-5 following this game) pulled within 10, 22-12 on unanswered jumpers from Wolfmeyer and Cole Wellman, closing the gap with 7:19 left in the third quarter. A free throw from Egan and a Harms jumper gave LeRoy a 25-12 lead. Roe and Perry exchanged baskets keeping LeRoy up, 27-14 before the Eagles went on the attack beginning with a basket from Roe, closing the LeRoy’s lead, 27-16. from there, Liberty outscored the Panthers, 12-5 stunning LeRoy’s faithful as the Panthers’ lead dropped to 32-28 going into the fourth quarter.

LeRoy was able to revive itself in the fourth quarter as Chastain hit back-to-back deuces, Harms hit a free throw, and Egan sank a shot from beyond the 3-Point arc to pull the Panthers up, 40-28 with 4:55 remaining. Chastain added a dunk for good measure to cap off LeRoy’s 10-0 run, giving the Panthers a 42-31 lead with 3:48 remaining en route to the championship match against the Lions.

Chastain and Perry led LeRoy in scoring with 20 and 10 points, respectfully. Roe and Wolfmeyer led Liberty with 12 and 10 points, respectfully.

“I thought we played extremely good defense,” Edmundson said. “The second half was so rugged and physical, trying to beat Liberty’s pressure and their traps with the way they played, and that the way they played to get here.”

“I want to tell everybody I thought our boys did a great job,” Liberty head coach Greg Altmix said. “They battled, got turnovers…we just ran out of gas a little bit.”

To get to the semifinal showdown with LeRoy, Chicago Leo squeaked by Woodlawn, 46-45.

By Steve Robinson | March 9, 2016 - 10:24 am
Posted in Category: LeRoy, LeRoy Leader

BasketballNORMAL – If you sat in the stands at Redbird Arena here Tuesday night, you could almost paint a stark picture of the options LeRoy’s boys basketball team had as they entered the SuperSectional here against Newark. That contrast was painted by the Panthers’ shiny white jerseys and shorts and were contrasted with those of the Norsemen who wore all black Tees and shorts with blue numbers. The obvious choice: Wear the white, save the day, and give the Panthers a shot at making it to the State Tournament in Peoria for the first time in school history.

As a result of the victory, the Panthers will take their 26-5 season record into Carver Arena to face Liberty in the Class 1A semis first game on Friday at 12:15p.m.

LeRoy jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead to open the first quarter on a trey, free throw, and deuce, all unanswered, by Matt Chastain, before Newark got on the scoreboard thanks to a deuce from center Jack Clausen, cutting LeRoy’s lead, 6-2. LeRoy’s early free throws at that point came as a result of a foul committed by Newark’s Will Clausel.

Chastain and Clausen exchanged deuces pushing LeRoy up 8-4 with 5:32 left in the first quarter before a trey each from forward Brett Egan and Chastain gave the Panthers a 14-6 advantage at the quarter’s 4:35 mark. A three each from Cameron Myre and Will Clausen pulled Newark even, 14-all, as the first quarter ended.

Chastain help push LeRoy up 16-14 and triggered a 13-0 run with a trey at 5:49 in the second quarter, putting the Panthers up, 29-18, before a free throw from Newark’s Evan Schomer halted the barrage with 2:21 left until halftime. LeRoy closed out the quarter with a 5-0 run featuring a Noah Perry trey to go into halftime owning a 34-19 lead.

Newark (27-3) fought back early in the third quarter on a deuce and two free throws from Schomer followed up by a bucket by Dylan Patrick, pulling within 13, 38-25, prompting LeRoy head coach Mark Edmundson to call a timeout. But after the timeout, Newark seemingly kept digging away at LeRoy’s lead, first with a basket from Schomer followed by a basket from Jack Clausel. LeRoy owned a 40-31 lead going into the fourth quarter.

LeRoy PanthersBack-to-back unanswered baskets put LeRoy up, 44-31, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but Clausel shot two baskets, including a trey to outpace Perry to close Newark’s gap, 46-36, with 6:23 left in the contest. A followup bucket from Schomer closed LeRoy’s lead to eight, 46-38. At one point in the exchange of buckets, Newark closed the gap to within six, 46-40, with 4:09 left in the contest. It was a margin that prompted Edmundson to call another timeout.

Newark got as close as seven, 53-46, on the strength of back-to-back successful shots by Patrick and Schomer before Newark foul difficulties put Perry and Chastain at the line for a combined 5-for-6 to seal the victory and a first-ever trip to State.

“We were never ranked all season,” Chastain told reporters following the contest. Chastain, the leading scorer for both sides with 34 points added LeRoy came into the playoffs with the attitude that “State rankings are just a number,” and then reminded that the Panthers spent the entire season playing without having been ranked.

“So, from there, we played as hard as we could, we won a couple games, so now, we have all the confidence in the world and I think that’ll carry over very well,” Chastain concluded.

Perry followed Chastain in double figures for LeRoy with 21 points. Newark had two players in double figures as Jack Clausel led with 19 points, followed by 15 from Schomer.

IHSA“I thought Newark would play us a tight man and then switch to zone,” Edmundson said. of the coverage he anticipated encountering from the Norsemen. “I thought we did well against both, and when you’re making shots like we did in the first half, there’s not a lot an opponent can do.”

In fact, LeRoy was shooting 13-for-20, or 65 percent from the field in the first half. That percentage cooled somewhat to 53 percent in the second half. Conversely, Newark was 20 for 57, or 35.1 percent from the field for the contest, including shooting 8-for-23, or 35 percent, from the field during the first half.

Newark head coach Rick Tollefson said the early foul trouble Will Clausel ran into foul trouble early on in the contest. Tollefson said those fouls “dictated the game. We tried to pretty much go small, which was probably a mistake on my part. We tried to save some minutes for him while putting pressure on LeRoy. Those fouls just changed the game.”