By Steve Robinson | November 24, 2008 - 10:37 pm

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – If the opening game of the 38th Annual Intercity Basketball Tournament is any indication, Twin City roundball fans are in for a wild ride.

Bloomington Central Catholic defeated Normal West, 71-68, in a contest marked by three-point play and, in West’s case, successful second and third tries at the basket, despite attempts by the Saints’ defense to keep West from getting those points.

BCC (1-0) jumped out to an 18-10 lead by the end of the first quarter on the strength of two players who each scored a pair of threes in the quarter — sophomore guard Hayden Hoerdemann and senior guard Tom Norton.

West (0-1) was able to keep pace in the first quarter on the strength a three by senior forward Dusty Paska.

Normal WestThe game’s second quarter featured a little more contact for either team, as each team went to the free throw line four times. West was 2 for 6, and BCC was 6 for 8 from the charity stripe in the quarter.

Junior guard Tyler Bell hit the lone three in the quarter, at the 2:27 mark, pulling West within eight, 30-22, but single baskets by Hoerdemann and Norton helped BCC pull in front to lead 32-28 at the half.

West outscored BCC in the third quarter, 21-20, largely because of rebounding and threes, one each courtesy of senior guard Jordan Jefferson, junior forward Bradley Hallstein, and junior guard Tyler Bell. BCC’s Norton scored a pair of threes in the quarter, but West’s backboard work helped to cut the Saints’ lead to three, 52-49, going into the fourth quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, baskets by senior center Kiel Turpin and Paska helped cut BCC’s lead to one, 54-53, with 6:38 left in the game. From there, West led briefly three more times, before a deuce by Hoerdemann tied the game for the last time – at 63 all, with 3:05 left.

From there, Hoerdemann scored six straight points, including two free throws, putting the game seemingly out of West’s reach.

Ironically, Hoerdemann committed a foul, putting West senior forward Christian Baker on the free throw line with 17.1 seconds left. Baker sank both free throws, cutting BCC’s lead, 69-67, but two seconds later, free throws by Norton, who had been fouled by West’s Paska, gave BCC a first victory on the season.

Central Catholic Saints“We won the game, but I told our guys, ‘if you’re satisfied with (the way you played), you’re crazy’,” explained BCC head coach Jason Welch. “I told them if you play like that every night, you’re going to get beat and beat badly. You cannot let (your opponents) play like that on the glass (and expect to win).

“We were too lackadaisical with the ball (and) made too many mistakes with the ball,” said West head coach Brian Cupples. “Obviously, Hoerdemann and Norton killed us, whether we played man-to-man or zone. They hit some tough shots, and give their team all the credit, their team played well. We made too many unforced mistakes with the ball.”

“(West) wasn’t beating us with their first shots at the basket,” Welch said. “They were beating us (with rebounds) taking second, third, and fourth shots (at the basket). Their second efforts were just killing us.”

Hoerdemann led all scorers with 34 points, including three treys. He was followed in double-figures by Norton’s 29, including five treys.

West senior forward Christian Baker led the Wildcats’ scoring on the night with 16 points. He was followed in double figures by junior guard Tyler Bell, who scored 13.

By Steve Robinson | November 17, 2008 - 10:52 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously voted down a proposed 81 cent per month increase proposed by Comcast Cable for basic cable service to its customers. Current basic service is currently $14.75 per month, but Comcast is looking to increase their basic service cost to $15.66 per month.

Since taking over the cable service from Insight Communications in January, Comcast has moved three channels previously found on its basic service to its extended menu, but not replaced them with other programming.

The three networks that were moved were C-Span 2 (formerly found on Comcast Ch. 2); ION Television, an entertainment channel (formerly found on Ch. 14); and EWTN, a Catholic-centered network (formerly found on Ch. 15).

Steve Mahrt, the Town’s Corporate Counsel, told Council members that, if the Council were to vote down the rate increase, Comcast could appeal to the Federal Communications Commission, and FCC, in turn, could approve the rate hike.

Council member Jeff Fritzen told Council members, “Should we even enter into (voting down this ordinance allowing the rate hike), and it gets passed to the FCC shows how much (Comcast) cares (about this ordinance being passed.”

“It would be nice to know why (Comcast) dropped three channels and want a rate increase,” said Council member Adam Nielsen. “We shouldn’t reward someone for a decrease in service.”

Council member Sonja Reece suggested a deferral on the matter, and Council member Cheryl Gaines suggested that Comcast officials should appear before the Council in person to explain why the rate increase was needed.

“(Voting against this ordinance) shows Comcast we pay attention to this ordinance, whether Comcast does or not,” said Mayor Chris Koos.

At a public hearing on the matter, held just before the Council session, Eugene Irving, 1305 Spear Dr., told Council members, “The Council has two choices (on this) – approve or reject, but rejecting this ordinance would send a message that we are not happy.”

Jim Armstrong, 307 N. Walnut, explained to Council members at the hearing that it was not so much the rate increase that he objected to, as it was “the poor service” Comcast was providing, citing the removal of the three channels from basic service.

Greenhouse For Town?: A discussion concerning costs arose when Council members discussed the possibility of the Town entering into an agreement with Chicago-based Farr Associates concerning doing a feasibility study to retrofit a local building for use as a greenhouse.

Town Planner Mercy Davison told Council members that Heartland Community College’s Green Institute would like to make the project a joint effort between HCC and the Town.

The Town has received a $75,000 grant from The Kresege Foundation for the project, but Farr Associates reported to the Town that a feasibility study done by them would cost $125,000.

Council member Jeff Fritzen said he would like to see a cost cut on this project rather than authorize an increase in funding for it.

City Manager Mark Peterson said limiting the scope of the project could decrease interest in it by The Kresege Foundation.

Neilsen said the community could benefit from such a project, but he cautioned, “I don’t want a ‘yes’ vote to be taken to mean, (financially,) that ‘the sky’s the limit.’”

Tax Levy Approved: Council members unanimously passed an ordinance authorizing the 2008 Property Tax Levy. A public hearing concerning the Tax Levy was not required because the total increase over last year’s tax levy did not exceed five percent. The total tax levy for 2008 is $14,198,276. The proposed levy will result in just over $8.5 million in property tax revenue for the Town.

Council members also unanimously passed an ordinance amending a section of Town Code pertaining to 1-car driveways, known to some as Parking Pads.

Liquor License Approved: A special meeting of the Normal Liquor Commission was held prior to the Council session. Commission members unanimously approved a liquor license application for Pizza Hut of America, Inc., doing business as Pizza Hut, 1601 E. College Ave. A change in ownership of the restaurant necessitated the special meeting to be held.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of minutes of the Council’s regular meeting held Nov. 3, 2008.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Nov. 12, 2008.

• A motion to reject a bid to replace the entry stairs at the Fire Station Headquarters Building. A bid submitted, of $38,907 for the project, submitted by Bloomington-based Felmley-Dickerson, was rejected by the Town because it was 116 percent more than the $18,000 the Town had budgeted for the project.

• A resolution authorizing payment for additional work to Morton-based CORE Construction for the College Ave. Parking Deck in the amount of $52,212, and approval of the associated budget adjustment.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a modified Intergovernmental agreement pertaining to the use of a Police Shooting Range Facility with the City of Bloomington and McLean County.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an agreement to terminate Intergovernmental Agreements concerning the Main Street Corridor. In 2007, the Town entered into such an agreement with the City of Bloomington, the McLean County Regional Planning Commission, Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, and BroMenn Regional Medical Center in order to conduct the Main Street Corridor Study.

• A resolution providing for a feasibility study on the designation of a portion of the Town of Normal (Proposed One Normal Plaza Redevelopment Project Area) as a redevelopment project area and to induce development interest within such area.

• A resolution approving a waiver from a portion of the Parkland and School Land Fees for the Willow Trails PUD.

• A resolution conditionally approving an amended preliminary development plan for Constitution Trail Centre Planned Unit Development – Taco Bell site.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving and amended final development plan for the One Normal Plaza PUD (Y Dorm Parking Lot).

• An ordinance regulating basic cable rates for Comcast Cable. A public hearing on the matter of a proposed rate change by Comcast took place prior to the meeting.

By Steve Robinson | November 15, 2008 - 9:05 am
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – The three new schools that are under construction in the Unit 5 School District received formal names following a unanimous vote by school board members at the group’s regular meeting Nov. 13.

Cedar Ridge Elementary School is the name of the new school that will be placed in the Cedar Ridge Subdivision. The second elementary school, to be located at The Grove At Kickapoo Creek Subdivision will be named Benjamin Elementary School.

Benjamin Elementary is being named after the Benjamin family, as per a land agreement with the family.

Four generations of the Benjamin family were present for the meeting, in which they saw their family name added to the roster of future Unit 5 schools. Seven generations of the Benjamin family have lived in the area over the years. Between 25-30 members of the family attended the meeting to witness the Board’s giving formal approval to the school being given the Benjamin name.

The district’s first middle school will be known as George L. Evans Middle School, named after a former teacher and district superintendent, who retired in the mid 1980s.

Board members shared fond recollections of Evans in giving their support for the middle school to bear his name.

Board member Scott Lay described Evans as “a kind and decent man who would be very honored by having a school named after him.”

Board member Gail Ann Briggs recalled Evans’ “willingness to be even-handed and to mentor” other Board members. The school would have simply been called “George Evans Middle School, but Briggs recalled that Evans always included his middle initial, L, when he signed his name.

A committee of 16 people – a mix of school administrators, PTO and CAC members, students, and community members – selected five names each for the one elementary at Cedar Ridge and the new middle school, leaving Board members to make final selections for each school.

Groundbreaking for the schools will take place next spring.

“I’m glad we were able to get (the schools) named,” Superintendent Gary Niehaus said after the meeting. “I think it adds to where we are with our building projects. We are also happy to acknowledge the Benjamin family on one of our new buildings.”

Tax Levy Deadline: Unit 5 has until Dec. 30 to file to set a date for a hearing on its Tax Levy. Property taxes in Unit 5 will be lower this year, offsetting overpayments last year. Those overpayments were the result of district errors last year. Unit 5 received nearly $48.9 million in the education fund last year. The district’s operating expenses are paid using the education fund.

Unit 5 mapPrairieland Elementary’s “Good News”: Darius Fox, son of Michele Shepard, Normal, a fifth grader at Prairieland Elementary School, was honored with one of five “Good News” reports from throughout the District. Last month, Fox was awarded a Pratt Foundation Scholarship – just one of 17 students nationwide to receive the honor. In earning the award, Fox will receive weekly private piano lessons in the Illinois Wesleyan University Preparatory Music Program.

District’s “Good News”: The District had good news reports of its own, as well. Those reports included:

• Tim Cox, a district mechanic and bus driver, was honored for his efforts with kids in his position as a driver.

• Nine current and one former instructor of Foreign Language from Normal Community who have received “Those Who Excel” Awards from the Illinois State Board of Education. The current NCHS teachers are: Jeff Christopherson, Mary Esther Baldwin, Heather Budak, Anita Claricoates, Lisa Cross, Julie Howell, Annette Jones, Laura Litwiller, and Mirjam Schnablel. Another honoree, who taught at NCHS but now teaches at Chiddix Junior High, is Carrie Pedregosa. These Foreign Language instructors teach French, German, and Spanish.

• Board members Gail Ann Briggs, Meta Mickens-Baker, and John Puzauskas were honored for having achieved varying degrees of Board Member Status, as designated by the Illinois Association of School Boards. Briggs was rewarded for having maintained a Master status; Mickens-Baker was rewarded for having achieved Master Board Member Level II Status; and Puzauskas was honored for achieving Level I status.

The District’s last “Good News” report concerned Willie Brown, a State Farm executive vice president, who also received a “Those Who Excel” Award from IASB, for his efforts in working with the district.

SchoolReach Contract Renewed: Board members unanimously approved to renew its contract with SchoolReach, the Fenton, Mo.-based company that sells and services an electronic notification system

Last November, the board approved the purchase of an electronic notification system from SchoolReach. Unit 5 has a contract with SchoolReach at a cost of up to $129,000 for the contract period.

SchoolReach’s product has the capability to contact up to 6,000 parents per minute through email and/or phone. It can be used for things like announcing snow days to notifying specific parents about matters such as athletic event delays and any school-wide crisis.

Enrollment Is Up: John Pye, Assistant Superintendent For Human Resources, presented same-day enrollment figures for Oct. 31 this year over last year. Enrollment is up 2.25 percent from the same time last year, with 12,733 students attending, as opposed to 12,453 students being in class at the same time last year.

Graduation At Coliseum: The Class of 2009 for both Normal Community High and Normal West Community High will be held at U. S. Cellular Coliseum in May, per an agreement with Coliseum management.

Costs for the ceremonies to Unit 5 would be 5,958, a $704 increase from last year. The reason for the increase had two factors: First, Unit 5 shared the cost last year with Bloomington’s District 87 because Bloomington High held ceremonies during the same weekend, something that will not happen next year. Secondly, Unit 5, at the suggestion of U. S Cellular Coliseum officials, will hire a sound technician for the ceremony, at an additional cost to the District. There were complaints last year that parts of the ceremony were difficult to hear.

Board Meets At Sugar Creek Elementary Dec. 10: There will be no second meetings for the Board in November or December because of breaks for Thanksgiving later this month and the holiday break next month. The Board’s lone December meeting, to be held on Dec. 10, will be held at Sugar Creek Elementary School.

By Steve Robinson | November 9, 2008 - 10:23 pm
Posted in Category: Bloomington HS, NCHS, The Normalite

FootballBLOOMINGTON – Normal Community High’s campaign to continue playing in the IHSA Class 6A playoffs came to an end at Fred Carlton Field Saturday, as Bloomington High School defeated the Ironmen, 27-10.

NCHS head coach Wes Temples summed up the loss in three short sentences.

“We came to play. The kids battled. We didn’t get it done.”

BHS (10-1) scored first, with a little defensive assistance. NCHS was forced to punt after failing to move the ball on three plays, punting from their own 20 yard line. BHS junior defensive end Dane Thornton blocked the Ironmen’s first punt of the game. BHS retrieved the ball and began their first series of downs from NCHS’ 19 yard line.

Three plays later, at 10:12 in the first quarter, BHS senior running back Marcus Johnson scored from two yards out. BHS senior kicker Adam Peden’s successful point-after gave BHS a fast 7-0 lead.

NCHS FootballA crowd of nearly 3,000 fans watched in chilly temps as NCHS (9-2) mounted their first lengthy possession of the game, going 78 yards on nine plays, ending in a 22 yard field goal by senior kicker Ethan Cashen at 1:08 in the first quarter, cutting BHS’ lead, 7-3.

BHS senior running back Darrelynn Dunn starred in the Purple Raiders’ next possession, carrying the ball 5 times for 86 yards, including a 54 yard touchdown sprint with 10 minutes left in the second quarter, to put BHS up 13-3 following a blocked point-after try. NCHS senior defensive lineman Zach Liming received credit for blocking Peden’s extra point.

From that point on in the second quarter, both teams’ defenses kept any more points from being scored in the first half.

BHS deferred receiving the ball after winning coin toss before the game, but could do nothing with the ball once they got the ball for the first time in the third quarter.

However, NCHS took advantage of the situation, thanks to a wind-blown BHS punt that put the Ironmen on BHS’ 42 yard line. Five plays later, NCHS senior quarterback Zachary Johnson connected with senior receiver Travis Mullen for a 33 yard touchdown score, cutting BHS’ lead, 13-10, following Cashen’s extra point, with 8:18 left in the quarter.

BHS FootballBHS would use almost seven minutes to go 60 yards on 12 plays for their next score, a 1-yard quarterback keeper by senior Mykul Pearson, with 1:37 left in the third quarter, followed by a successful point after by Peden. That gave BHS a 20-10 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Marcus Johnson would score his second touchdown in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter for the Purple Raiders on a 1-yard pass from Pearson to give BHS its final tally after another successful point-after by Peden.

NCHS senior receiver Chad Hinshaw led NCHS’ receivers with four catches for 109 yards.

Temples added afterward, “I thought our kids played hard. We weren’t the better team today.”

Following the game, Temples had one last huddle with his team’s 21 seniors, thanking them for their efforts over the course of the season.

IHSA“Your team goes where your seniors go,” Temples said after the game. “They led us this year and they did a great job. They’ve done everything we’ve asked of them since last March, and I wanted to let them know about how proud we are of them.

“Our football team goes as our seniors go,” Temples repeated.

BHS’ Darrelynn Dunn had 33 carries for 259 yards. Mullen closed out his NCHS rushing career by leading the Ironmen with 8 carries for 36 yards.

BHS will travel visit Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin High School in the quarterfinals next weekend.

By Steve Robinson | November 6, 2008 - 10:32 pm
Posted in Category: Illinois Wesleyan, Pekin Daily Times

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – Ron Rose found himself looking back at Illinois Wesleyan accomplishments from last season before he could discuss the upcoming season at the team’s Media Day event at the Shirk Center Thursday.

Looking back at the second place finish his Titans achieved last season, after having been picked to finish no higher than seventh, Rose, who begins his third season here, said, “I’m not sure if we overachieved or if people just underestimated our team.”

Whichever way one chooses to look at how well IWU did in 2007-08, Rose is asking his players to step up their play right from the start, seeing as the Titans have been selected to finish fourth in the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin preseason poll, not to mention picked to finish 18th in a preseason poll by

Wheaton is tapped to win the conference in the CCIW preseason poll, with Augustana second, Elmhurst third, and IWU fourth.

Rose is quick to mention that the Titans defeated Wheaton three times over the course of last season.

“(Last season,) we played very hard with a very unselfish group,” Rose said. “If we can play this year with that same level of unselfishness, and have players with a ‘team first’ attitude, we’ll win some ball games.”

Considering the schedule IWU faces in Rose’s third season here, unselfish play will help a team that is 27-25 in his two years here, including a 13-15 mark in CCIW action.

One-third of the schedule is loaded with Top 20 ranked teams, starting right at the top with a game at #1 ranked Washington University on Saturday, Dec. 6, followed by #19 ranked University of Chicago at Shirk Center on Dec. 19. At a tournament in West Palm Beach, Fla. in December, IWU will take on Northwood University, a Top 5 contender in NAIA.

IWU TitanFour Local Players: Rose has four Times-area players on the roster this season – Pekin Community High alum, now IWU senior guard Jordan Morris; Washington Community High alum, now IWU sophomore Sean Johnson; Morton High alum, now IWU freshman forward Dexter Walker; and Delavan High alum now IWU freshman guard Jordan Zimmer.

Johnson is among 8 returning sophomores, while Walker and Zimmer account for being two of IWU’s 8 freshmen. Morris is one of the trio of seniors on the roster.

“We know what we were capable of, and we ended up surprising some people,” said Johnson, who scored in double digits in 15 games last season, including pocketing 25 on the road against Elmhurst.

“Getting placed 4th is not a disappointment,” Johnson said. “It’s just a testament to how good our conference is. We’ll just have to work hard to get where we were last year, and as players, we’ll have to come in and work hard every day to accomplish that.”

CCIW“This is a pretty hungry group,” Rose said of his players. “They understand the winning tradition at Illinois Wesleyan. So I think we’re hungry to bring it back.”

Rim Shots: IWU starts the season on the road Friday, Nov. 21 at a tournament at Indiana’s Manchester University, taking on Taylor University-Fort Wayne in their first game….IWU’s first home game is against Marysville (Mo.) on Nov. 30….Stanford Olympia High alum and Lincoln Community College transfer Carrie Williams and Sarah Cotner, a Washington Community High alum, are on IWU’s Women’s Basketball squad this year.