BasketballBLOOMINGTON – One might say luck ran out on Stanford Olympia High’s Boys basketball team Wednesday at the Bloomington Normal State Farm Holiday Classic.

Olympia, having won seven straight, including beating Macon Meridian Tuesday, to get to the Class 1A-2A semi-finals at Illinois Wesleyan’s Shirk Center, was looking to make Minonk Fieldcrest its eighth straight victim.

But Minonk Fieldcrest doubled up on Oly, 56-28, to advance to the Class 1A-2A Final at Shirk Center Thursday night against Bloomington Central Catholic. Olympia will meet Peoria Christian in the Class’ 3rd place game at Normal West High School, starting at 1:30p.m.

Olympia (11-3) played without the services of junior forward Mike Hallstein, who was home with the flu. Hallstein played although ill Tuesday night in the Spartans’ win over Macon Meridian.

“They just beat us,” said Olympia head coach Gerry Thornton afterward. “They just beat us.”

Minonk Fieldcrest (12-0) jumped out to a fast 7-0 lead shortly after tip-off, on the strength of a deuce and a three by senior forward Taylor Baxter, and a jumper by Kaleb Garber. Olympia’s first basket did not come until Grant Litwiler hit a deuce with 3:25 in the first quarter, cutting the Knights’ lead, 7-2.

The ClassicLonnie Kirby went 1-for-2 from the free throw line after being fouled, for the only other scoring by the Spartans in the quarter, giving Minonk Fieldcrest a 14-3 lead going into the second quarter.

Although Oly managed to score just 10 points in the second quarter, their defense could not hold back Baxter, who scored 13 of his game-high 24 points before the half – nine of those points coming on a trio of unanswered threes, pushing the Knights’ lead to 29-13 to start the third quarter.

Minonk Fieldcrest increased their lead to 45-23 at the end of the third quarter, with two baskets by Spencer Pratt and a bucket each by Noah Williams and Litwiler helping the Spartans to maintain their pursuit.

Baxter led all scorers with a game-high 24 points, followed by 10 from teammate Trent Hartzler for the Knights. Pratt was Olympia’s lone double-figures player, with 10 points.

“I thought we had a pretty good scheme and then Baxter made some sensational shots,” Thornton said. “For a team with one starter back, we’ve had a good year. We’ll get better. We’re better than we showed tonight.”

“I thought our defense really made offense go tonight,” explained Minonk Fieldcrest head coach Matt Winkler. “I just thought we played 32 minutes of basketball tonight. I’m just proud of our guys for playing inspired, hard-nosed defense. We’ve gotten better rebounding, which was one of our weaknesses.”

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – Stanford Olympia head coach Gerry Thornton put his team’s most recent win at the Bloomington Normal State Farm Holiday Classic in a very special category after the Spartans defeated defending Class 1A-2A State Champs Macon Meridian, 53-44, at Illinois Wesleyan’s Shirk Center.

“None of my players are old enough to remember (the slogan of) the ’83 (Chicago) White Sox,” Thornton said, reminding reporters that that group of players went by the motto, “winning ugly.”

“(Our game tonight) was kind of an ugly win,” Thornton said. “We weren’t really in sync, and our kids missed some shots. But our kids made enough (defensive) stops and we got enough rebounds, and made enough plays at the end.”

In their semi-final game on Wednesday at the Shirk Center starting at 6p.m., the Spartans will take on a Minonk Fieldcrest. The Knights came from behind Tuesday to defeat Chillicothe IVC, 72-71 in overtime.

Alex Becker and Clint Stroud had early baskets that helped Olympia jump out to a quick 4-0 lead as the game began, but only held a 9-7 lead going into the second quarter, thanks to a quarter-ending three by Derek Cooksen.

But the Spartans opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run featuring deuces by Mike Hallstein and Spencer Pratt, topped off by a three by Stroud, giving Olympia a 16-7 lead with 6:11 left in the quarter. A trey by Kyle Fore at 3:36 in the quarter aided in the Hawks staying close even though Olympia owned a 25-16 halftime lead.

The ClassicThe Spartans stayed in front throughout the game, but Trent Swigert and Cooksen were able to provide Macon Meridian with back-to-back threes late in the third quarter, cutting the Spartans’ lead, 39-27, entering the fourth quarter.

Although Stroud started the fourth quarter with a trey, putting Olympia up, 42-27, the Hawks responded with back-to-back unanswered threes of their own from Swigert and Fore, 42-33, with 5:48 left in the game.

Stroud was knocked to the floor after a collision with Macon Meridian’s Fore at 4:48 in the fourth quarter. Although fans became concerned because Stroud did not get up immediately from the impact, he is fine and the injury will only require stitches, Thornton said.

Swigert would hit back-to-back threes in the latter moments of the game, bringing the Hawks as close as they would get on the night, 48-42, with 39.4 seconds left. He would lead Macon Meridian in double figures with 14 points, followed by Fore, who scored 10, including two treys.

Pratt led all scorers with 19 points. He was followed in double figures by Stroud’s 16 and 10 from Hallstein.

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – As day one of competition in Boys Class 1A-2A of the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament concluded Monday, head coach Gerry Thornton and his basketball squad from Stanford Olympia High School appear to have made the grade, and find themselves in the championship bracket, having disposed of Rochester, 67-39, in a game held at Normal Community West High School.

Following his team’s 67-39 victory over Rochester Monday, Thornton said he and his assistants told the Spartans players they were looking for a “B or B Plus effort” from their players.

Olympia (10-2), seeded fifth at this year’s tourney, will tangle Tuesday with the tournament’s fourth seeded Macon Meridian at the Shirk Center on the Illinois Wesleyan campus. Tip-off for that game is slated for 6p.m. Macon Meridian defeated El Paso Gridley. 62-45, to advance to the tournament’s championship bracket’s second round.

Stanford Olympia 67, Rochester 39: The fifth-seeded Spartans had a fairly easy assignment in trying to outlast the Rockets. A pair of threes by Mike Hallstein early in the contest helped Olympia jump out to a quick 8-2 lead with 5:25 left in the opening quarter. A pair of early free throws by Alex Becker at 4:14 and a deuce by Clint Stroud at 3:48, pushed Olympia in front, 12-4, prompting Rochester head coach Josh Heberling to call a 30-second timeout to settle his players down.

But Olympia raged further, leading 18-12 after one quarter. A three-pointer by Rochester senior forward Zach Carlson at 6:47 of the second quarter allowed the Rockets to get as close as they would come the entire game – 20-17 – but a trey by Hallstein with 4:03 left until halftime gave the Spartans a 26-17 jumpstart on their way to a 38-21 halftime lead.

The ClassicThrees by Spencer Pratt and Hallstein in the third quarter helped Olympia increase their lead to 50-23 with three minutes left in the third. Oly owned a 53-27 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Rochester (1-10) regained their composure somewhat in the fourth quarter, responding with threes from Trent Nolen, Tony Nika, and Wes Lunt. Zach Carlson was the only Rockets player in double figures, scoring 13.

Hallstein was one of three Olympia players in double figures, scoring 22. He was followed by Pratt, who scored 21, and 13 from Stroud.

“We told our kids we wanted a B or B plus effort because kids come into tournaments after Christmas real lethargic,…and we wanted to make sure we didn’t do that. We thought our energy was pretty good for the most part.”

Thornton said he repeated at a Monday practice before the game the need for the players to be ready for them to play. He said his squad will be ready for Macon Meridian. Thornton was quick to remind that Olympia was the last team to hand the Hawks their last loss in post-season play two years ago.

Heberling said that, based on film of Olympia that he saw, it was important for his players to have their hands up ready for rebounds. “We did that, but there wasn’t much that we could do when they get the shot in,” Heberling said. “When a team’s hot like they were (today), there’s not much we can do.”

By Steve Robinson | December 15, 2009 - 10:57 pm
Posted in Category: Pekin Daily Times, U-High, Washington HS

BasketballNORMAL – The way Washington Community High head coach Kevin Brown saw things after his team’s performance at Normal University High Tuesday night, he knew going into the season he had a young team needing to mature.

The Panthers’ 55-36 victory over the Pioneers Tuesday night seemed to provide proof of the first steps Brown’s team may have taken to reach that maturity.

Normal U-High (4-5) jumped out to a fast 8-2 lead on baskets by Connor Brown, Eric Robb, and Mitch Styczynski. U-High ended the quarter on a 6-0 tear, thanks to a deuce each from Brady Knapp and Styczynski, and a pair of free throws by Kyle Morris, giving the Pioneers a 17-13 lead after one quarter.

The Pioneers continued that stretch with a three by Brown at 7:16 of the second quarter, extending the hosts’ lead 20-13.

At that point, U-High took a timeout, but it seemed it was the Panthers’ who began their growth lesson. Brown told them as they broke their huddle from that timeout, “you can do this!”

Washington High SchoolFrom that point, the Panthers went on a 10-0 run with deuces from Ben Ryan and Robert Izaguirre, a pair of free throws by Connor Underwood, a basket/single foul shot combo from Izaguirre, all topped off with a trey by Ryan Grebner, giving Washington a 23-20 lead with 3:29 until halftime. It was a lead Washington would not surrender. They managed to outscore U-High 19-6 in the second quarter and hold a 32-23 lead at halftime.

Washington (5-2) opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run – a pair of threes by Mark Roth followed by one from Grebner, to go up 41-25, before U-High’s Brown scored a trey of his own to stop the barrage, cutting Washington’s lead, 41-28. Brown would score a second three toward the end of the quarter, but Washington entered the fourth quarter with a 48-31 lead.

Washington outscored U-High 7-5 in the fourth quarter. The Washington fans in attendance gave their team a standing ovation as the final seconds ticked away.

“We were on the road in a tough environment, and we need to get tough and grow up,” the veteran Panthers coach told reporters after the game. “I told them that we needed to come out fighting and get aggressive. I saw we were passive (in the first quarter), but not bad – a typical young team on the road. We have talked a lot about being a team, and I thought that, from that point on, we really pulled together and fought through it.”

U-HighBrown said his team had two game plans – a primary attack and, if that started to falter, a secondary plan. He said the goal was to get U-High to speed up its game against their will.

Washington’s physical play, starting in the second quarter, “caught up to us,” admitted U-High head coach Bob Fitzgerald. “Kevin’s kids do a great job of getting up and pressuring the basketball, and dictating where you go on the offensive end.

“With about two minutes left in the first quarter, they picked up (their game) and we didn’t necessarily adjust as well as we should have.”

By Steve Robinson | - 10:03 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, U-High, Washington HS

BasketballNORMAL – Normal University High hosted a Washington Community High team whose maturity process on the basketball court may have surged during the second quarter of the contest between the two teams on Dec. 15.

The Panthers’ 55-36 victory over the Pioneers Tuesday night seemed to provide proof of the first steps Brown’s team may have taken to reach that maturity.

Normal U-High (4-5) jumped out to a fast 8-2 lead on baskets by Connor Brown, Eric Robb, and Mitch Styczynski. U-High ended the quarter on a 6-0 tear, thanks to a deuce each from Brady Knapp and Styczynski, and a pair of free throws by Kyle Morris, giving the Pioneers a 17-13 lead after one quarter.

The Pioneers continued that stretch with a three by Brown at 7:16 of the second quarter, extending the hosts’ lead 20-13.

At that point, U-High took a timeout, but it seemed it was the Panthers’ who began their growth lesson. Brown told them as they broke their huddle from that timeout, “you can do this!”

U-HighFrom that point, the Panthers went on a 10-0 run with deuces from Ben Ryan and Robert Izaguirre, a pair of free throws by Connor Underwood, a basket/single foul shot combo from Izaguirre, all topped off with a trey by Ryan Grebner, giving Washington a 23-20 lead with 3:29 until halftime. It was a lead Washington would not surrender. They managed to outscore U-High 19-6 in the second quarter and hold a 32-23 lead at halftime.

Washington (5-2) opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run – a pair of threes by Mark Roth followed by one from Grebner, to go up 41-25, before U-High’s Brown scored a trey of his own to stop the barrage, cutting Washington’s lead, 41-28. Brown would score a second three toward the end of the quarter, but Washington entered the fourth quarter with a 48-31 lead.

Washington outscored U-High 7-5 in the fourth quarter. The Washington fans in attendance gave their team a standing ovation as the final seconds ticked away.

“We were on the road in a tough environment, and we need to get tough and grow up,” the veteran Panthers coach told reporters after the game. “I told them that we needed to come out fighting and get aggressive. I saw we were passive (in the first quarter), but not bad – a typical young team on the road. We have talked a lot about being a team, and I thought that, from that point on, we really pulled together and fought through it.”

Washington High SchoolBrown said his team had two game plans – a primary attack and, if that started to falter, a secondary plan. He said the goal was to get U-High to speed up its game against their will.

Washington’s physical play, starting in the second quarter, “caught up to us,” admitted U-High head coach Bob Fitzgerald. “Kevin’s kids do a great job of getting up and pressuring the basketball, and dictating where you go on the offensive end.

“With about two minutes left in the first quarter, they picked up (their game) and we didn’t necessarily adjust as well as we should have,” Fitzgerald said.