By Steve Robinson | March 23, 2014 - 8:38 am
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonWith the high school basketball season at an end, it seemed a good time to clean out my notebook of items from the State Boys Tourney before turning my attention to spring season sports and activities.

Heyworth High Hornets fans will be able to now brag of their school making it to State in two sports after the Hornets’ boys’ basketball team landed at state for the first time ever. From what I saw, they had plenty of supporters in the stands at Carver Arena in Peoria, which was great to see.

Hearing the fans chant, “Hor-net Pow-er” to encourage their heroes must have helped give the team a boost, even when they found themselves down by 14 at the end of the first quarter. That chant echoed again when Heyworth took their brief lead at the midway point of the third quarter, too.

What I didn’t care much for was the slogan on the warm-up shirts of eventual Class 1A Champs Mooseheart. On the back of those shirts were the words “play angry.” If Illinois High School Association doesn’t allow fans to have signs with negative messages toward a team’s opponent at events, and regulates certain aspects of their sports, such as having a standard for how athletes’ uniforms should look, then they ought to look into having rules regarding barring such slogans.

On another subject, following our coverage of Heyworth’s semifinal win over Sesser-Valier on March 14, the ol’ editor, Mr. Pyne, and I hit the road for East Moline to cover Normal Community High School’s Sectional Championship showdown against Edwardsville. All I can say is, getting there was an adventure. But once we arrived, it was great to see the show of support from all the Ironmen fans there. The school managed to bring two buses worth of kids – 97 students total – up for the game, not to mention a couple hundred more fans who came up on their own.

What’s more, the fans stuck around in the corridors outside the gym at United Township High School to give the team a post-game rally in appreciation for their great 23-9 season. It was just nice to see such support, even if the end result of the contest wasn’t what the team, students, or fans expected or anticipated.

On another subject related to the Boys’ State Tournament, congratulations to Bloomington Central Catholic for their first win at State in Class 2A under head coach Jason Welch. Fighting on as the Saints did to win in triple overtime made the victory over Nashville that much more worth the wait.

But fans should also give an appreciative nod to Public Address Announcer Paul Herzog, for his ability to help fans settle at the end of each of the two overtimes before the final conclusion arrived. Although the hour was late at the end of double overtime with the score knotted at 62-all, and the excitement was palpable – or by now excitement that was morphing into anxiety for some fans by then – Herzog announced triple OT was coming and advised, “Take this time to breathe.”

When BCC looked to have achieved a win, Saints fans began chanting, “Vic-tor-y, vic-tor-y.” When the final horn sounded, Herzog announced the contest to be “A classic game – A classic championship game.” One could say Herzog’s tone and words were, in themselves, classic for the situation, and were appreciated. By the way, I had heard, although I haven’t confirmed, that the most overtimes in a boys’ championship game was seven.

On another subject, congratulations need to passed along to Central Catholic student Michael Billington for being named one of 26 high school students statewide selected as a member of the 2013-14 All-State Academic team by IHSA. IHSA selected 13 male and 13 female students from across the state for the honor. The students will be recognized at a banquet at the DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center in Bloomington on April 21.

IHSA’s website indicates its member schools were invited to nominate one female student and one male student by a February deadline for the honor. Nominees needed to have a minimum 3.50 grade point average on 4.0 scale after their 7th semester, have participated in at least two IHSA sponsored sports or activities during each of the last two years, and demonstrated outstanding citizenship. Nominations were then evaluated by a committee made up of IHSA principals, representatives of the Illinois Activities Directors Association, and representatives of the Illinois Athletic Directors Association. One male winner and one female winner from each of the seven IHSA Board of Directors Divisions were selected initially, while the final 12 spots were then rounded out with at-large candidates from any division in the state.

A total of 50 other students received honorable mentions from IHSA in judging those worthy of the honor. One of those students was Alexander Su from University High.

On another subject, IHSA has put out its annual list of officials of the year in 20 sports it oversees and two Twin City residents received top honors. IHSA selected Thomas E. Daugherty, Bloomington, as their top official of the year in the sport of girls’ basketball; and named Bloomington resident Jeff A. Sorensen as its top official in the sport of Wrestling. To be considered for this honor, officials must be nominated by an Officials Association recognized by IHSA. Once that is done, IHSA staff members vote on the winners based on factors such as character, skill as an official and levels worked in the IHSA State Series. This year’s winners will be recognized at a banquet during the 2014 IHSA Officials Conference to be held on Saturday, July 19 at the Peoria Civic Center.

On another subject, congratulations need to be passed along to University High senior Keita Bates-Diop for becoming a first-team selection on the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Class 3A-4A All-State team. On the same day he received this honor, Bates-Diop was also named a first team All-State team choice by Associated Press. NCHS’ Tyler Seibring was a fourth team selection by IBCA. Bates-Diop’s U-High teammate, Malik Wildermuth, as well as Bloomington High players Brady Rose and Antonio Sims, were named to IBCA’s Special Selection list of players. NCHS’ Alex Peacock and BHS’ Deion Thompson were given honorable mention by IBCA.

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a guaranteed maximum price for construction of Illinois State University Galleries at Uptown Station in the amount of $1,350,000. That amount covers the project’s construction costs.

Last November, Council members approved a guaranteed maximum price amendment in the amount of $150,275 with Peoria-based Mangieri Companies. The project has a total budget of $1.9 million. Designs for the project have been completed by a group that included officials from ISU, Mangieri Companies, Chicago-based Eckhoff Saunders Architects, and Town staff.

The new exhibit area will become ISU’s primary art showcase once it opens. The current home of art exhibits at ISU, University Galleries at the Center For Visual Arts will be kept in use for smaller exhibits, City Manager Mark Peterson explained to Council members.

Bids for construction of the project have been sought for submission. Those companies whose bids are accepted will work as subcontractors with Mangieri Companies serving in the role of project manager. Completion of the project is slated for August.

Peterson told Council members that under terms of the agreement between the Town and ISU, the University will reimburse the Town for the outlay of the project at a cost of $1.5 million plus 4 percent interest.

“If there is a change in the project, ISU will make any final decisions because it is their project,” Peterson informed Council members.

CDBG Public Hearing Held: A public hearing was held prior to the regular Council session for citizen input concerning proposed use of 2014-15 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. The hearing was required by State law. No members of the public spoke to this issue at the hearing. A total of $469,000 in CDBG funds is available to the Town.

Town Seeking “Quiet Designation”: Council member Jeff Fritzen asked Peterson if the Town was looking into seeking designation as a “quiet zone,” thus prohibiting trains from blowing their whistles passing through Normal. Fritzen said he had received a resident’s email asking him to look into it. Peterson said the Town is looking into the matter but before application for the designation can be sought, certain safety measures must be made in advance.

Peterson said the high speed rail conversion, slated to be completed sometime in 2015 once it begins, involves installation of quad gates at railroad crossings and pedestrian gates at walkway crossing areas. Peterson added if Normal were to get a quiet zone designation, it would apply only to the Town. The City of Bloomington, if it wanted a quiet zone designation as well would need to make a separate application for it.

Liquor Commission Approves Renewing Licenses: Council members, meeting prior to the Council session in their capacity as Normal Local Liquor Commission, unanimously approved recommendation of licenses for establishments in the Town that hold such licenses. These include 58 businesses that sell liquor; 12 businesses that hold wine tasting licenses; 8 businesses that hold licenses for running outdoor gardens and sidewalk cafes; 8 that hold entertainment permits; 7 businesses that hold catering licenses; 3 businesses holding video gaming licenses; and 1 establishment holding a pari-mutuel betting parlor license.

Liquor Commission members also granted a new license to Express Mart, 108 N. Linden St. Applying for the license was needed because that business has had a change in ownership.

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

• Approval of minutes of the Public Hearing held March 7, 2014.

• Approval of minutes of the Regular Council meeting held March 7, 2014.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of March 12, 2014.

• A resolution to use Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) Funds to finance General Obligation Bonds to be used for roadway improvements in Uptown Normal.

• A resolution ceding the Town’s 2014 private activity bond allocation to Eastern Illinois Economic Development Authority.

• An ordinance authorizing the publication of a zoning map.

BasketballPEORIA – For some high schools in small towns in Illinois, returning to State Finals in certain sports sometimes looks to outsiders like a common occurrence. To the folks living in those towns, many probably treat them as something to be expected as that particular sports season winds down. Small Illinois towns like Newark and Nashville come to mind when it comes to return performances year after year.

But in Heyworth, getting to State has been a rarity that comes rarely and therefore, the teams, fans, and town make the most of the occasion. In November 2010, Heyworth High’s Volleyball team made its maiden appearance at Illinois High School Association State Volleyball. This past weekend, the Hornets’ boys basketball team landed on the big stage at Carver Arena here to compete for IHSA Class 2A State title.

Mooseheart (28-3) came out firing from the opening tip, jumping out to a fast 7-0 lead on a layup by junior guard Hameed Odunewu followed by a layup and a jump shot by senior guard Mangisto Deng. Heyworth senior forward Kaleb Marr entered the record books as the first Hornets player to score points in a State championship game thanks to a deuce at 6:40 in the period, cutting Mooseheart’s lead, 7-2.

But another Deng trey pushed Mooseheart up, 10-2, starting a 12-0 run that Heyworth (26-7) could not contain, giving the Red Ramblers a 19-2. A trey by junior guard Hayden Boyd at 2:26 in the quarter, cut Mooseheart’s lead, 19-5. Senior center Colten Reeves, coming off the bench, would be the only other Hornets player to score in the quarter, as Mooseheart owned a 21-7 lead going into the second quarter.

Whereas the first quarter showed that height and speed were Mooseheart’s trademarks, the second quarter proved one of Heyworth’s greatest strengths was making adjustments. When Hornets senior forward hit a jumper at 5:44 reducing Mooseheart’s lead to 21-9. A trey by Hornets senior guard Adam Wickenhauser at 4:57 shrank the lead to 21-12. Mooseheart edged out a little further, 24-12, with on Deng free throws.

But no one could imagine what was coming after that from the Hornets, starting with a pair of free throws from Reeves cutting the lead, 24-14 . Reeves’ freebies were the start of a comeback as they were followed by another Wickenhauser trey at 3:04 in the quarter, making the score 24-17. Mooseheart did manage a deuce by senior forward Makur Puou, and another Deng free throw, putting the Red Ramblers up, 27-17. But the Hornets kept coming from there, as senior guard Justin Witten hit a trey at 2:08 to close the lead, 29-20. Deng hitting another jumper to put Mooseheart up 31-20 didn’t seem to faze the Hornets, as senior forward Logan Johnson swished two free throws through the net after being fouled, cutting the lead, 31-22, with 1:49 until halftime. Mooseheart sophomore guard Freddie Okito got the last Red Rebels basket of the half, putting his team up, 33-22. But using a trey and a layup, respectfully, Wickenhauser and Witten closed out the deficit at the half, 33-27.

Heyworth managed to maintain the pace they had established before the half a little longer once the third quarter began, as Wickenhauser hit a pair of unanswered jumpers to open the period, narrowing Mooseheart’s lead, 33-31. Heyworth extended the run further — taking the lead for the first and only time in the game, 34-33, on a trey by Marr. Heyworth fans among the roughly 4,400 fans in the arena screamed and cheered as their team demonstrated their sting during the onslaught. But as quickly as Heyworth caught up, Moosehart, the Red Rebels were on the march again on a jumper and two free throws by Puou, followed by a jumper by Deng, charging forward again, 39-34 on their way to a 45-38 lead going into the fourth quarter. Mooseheart opened the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run, starting with a layup from senior guard J.J. Odunsi. The Barrage ended once Marr hit a layup for the Hornets, cutting Mooseheart’s lead, 54-40, with 5:18 left in the contest. Free throws by Schultz and senior guard Dallas Lee helped Heyworth curb Mooseheart briefly before the Red Ramblers charged forward one last time toward the eventual final score, starting with a free throw shot by Deng, having been fouled by Marr.

Deng, nephew of former Chicago Bulls center Luol Deng, was Moosehart’s leading scorer in the contest, with 27 points. He was followed in double figures by 15 from Puou, and 11 from junior guard Hameed Odunewu. Wickenhauser was Heyworth’s lone man in double digits with 16 points.

“Early on, we were very passive in everything we were doing offensively and defensively,” Hornets head coach Tom Eller said. “Mooseheart built a substantial lead on us. We talked at the end of the first quarter about the need to get more physical and chip away at the lead, and we started doing that in the second quarter.

“In the third quarter, we ended up taking the lead, and at that point, I thought we were going to continue rolling,” Eller said. “The downside is, when you battle back from 17 points down, essentially taking a run of 18 points to take the lead by one, it takes a lot out of the kids.

“We were pressuring Moosehart full court for most of that time,” Eller said of the period when the Hornets made their impressive run at the Red Ramblers. “We were getting kids in foul trouble, and we were turning to our bench for our guys to step up for guys who were in foul trouble, and they did a fantastic job today.

“I think it wore on us to go up and down the court consistently, but we did,” Eller continued. “It got a little bit away from us in the fourth quarter where we couldn’t put a run together to come back.” Eller added he was surprised the Hornets fell as far behind as they did against Mooseheart, but that his team initiated a rally to rebound from the early deficit was no surprise.

Heyworth Hornets Heyworth put up a lot of shots in the contest, going 17-for-73 from the field, including giving out 30 3-point tries, six of which earned points. Each team had a total of 41 rebounds, but Heyworth outpaced Mooseheart in that category in the first half, 27-11.

In talking about the second quarter trey that got the Hornets rally its needed push, Wickenhauser said, “It was fun and I was glad I could do it being able to come off the bench and shoot it. I had confidence.

Summing up the season for his Hornets, Eller said, “If you had come to me at the beginning of the season and told me we would finish second in the state, I’d have been thrilled with that. I still am. To go through the different injuries and illnesses that hit our team this year…you’re talking about a group that was looking to win a Regional championship at the beginning of the year.

Eller’s final summation included mentioning that prior to this year, the closest Heyworth has ever gotten before was a Sectional championship. “But ending up in the championship game, in the state tournament, even though we came up short, is something that these kids and the coaching staff will remember, and the Town of Heyworth is going to remember for years and years to come,” he concluded.

“I’ve never seen a team shoot the ball out that far,” Mooseheart head coach Ron Ahrens said about the shots the Hornets took in the midst of their rally. “They were shooting from a long ways out. You know, stuff we wouldn’t even defend. But the thing I thought about them from the beginning is they are one of the more balanced teams we would face all year. I thought they played extremely hard.”

Ahrens said he told his players at one point in the game he didn’t think they were “matching Heyworth’s intensity level. We needed to match their intensity. That was something I liked about them. We knew it was going to be tough going in.”

Hornets Beats Sesser-Valier In Semifinal: 57-51: Eller said the realization of what his team had accomplished really did not sink in until after the Hornets’ 57-51 win over Sesser-Valier in the first semifinal contest on Friday. “It’s just unbelievable what we’ve done and what the kids have accomplished, the teamwork that they’ve given, and the dedication that they’ve given to the coaching staff this season,” he said.

But it was real and Sasser (22-11 after this game) found out early how seriously the Hornets were about taking the first step to being in a State Championship game. Dallas Lee will go down in local sports lore as the very first Heyworth player to score points in a State semifinal contest, as he sank a tip-in bucket at 6:28 of the first quarter in the Hornets’ semifinal against Sesser-Valier, putting Heyworth up, 2-0. In fact, Lee scored the first two buckets of the semifinal, and senior guard Wesley Anderson added another bucket, giving Heyworth a quick 6-0 start on the road to a possible championship. A deuce by Sesser senior guard Tyler Baxter cut off that run, but Heyworth found themselves up, 6-2.

Sasser senior center Nick McCarty’s jumper at 4:19 in the first quarter cut Heyworth’s lead, 6-4, but a Marr trey at 3:11 put the Hornets up, 9-4. a deuce by junior guard Logan Barrett cut that lead, 9-6, but Marr hit his second trey of the quarter, putting Heyworth up, 11-6 at 1:24. Two free throws by Lee and a layup from Schultz would give the Hornets a healthy 15-6 lead.

Lee would foul Sasser junior guard Nick Marlo, who would convert two free throws, followed by a three from junior guard Jake Vanwey, cutting Heyworth’s lead, 15-11, with 7:06 in the second quarter. Vanwey would hit a trio of threes in the period, cutting Heyworth’s advantage to one, 18-17, with 5:01 left until the half. Heyworth would stretch its lead, 24-19, on a pair of free throws from Witten and a Johnson jumper. Unanswered jumpers by Marlo and Baxter would reduce Heyworth’s lead, 24-23, before Boyd would hit a three, putting Heyworth up, 18-23. Sasser responded with one jumper each from Marlo and junior forward Luke Thompson, but the Hornets would still hold a 28-27 halftime lead.

Baxter, McCarty, and Marlo would combine to make the beginning of the third quarter tough on Heyworth, as the Red Devils took the lead, 34-31, at the 4:26 mark. Schultz’s deuce at 2:57 cut that lead to 34-33, and Boyd sank a trey with an assist from Schultz, allowing Heyworth to retake the lead, 36-34, going into the fourth quarter.

Witten opened the fourth quarter being fouled as he hit a deuce, and converted the free throw, putting Heyworth up, 39-34 at the7:12 mark. Thompson responded with a trey at 6:53, cutting the Hornets’ lead, 39-37. Marlo fouled Marr, who subsequently hit two free throws, putting Heyworth up, 41-37. A Vanwey jumper would put Sasser within two, 41-39, but a jumper by Witten and jumper-free throw combination after being fouled helped Lee add to the total, giving Heyworth a 46-39 lead. Thompson would get a trey for Sasser, cutting that lead, 46-42, but Heyworth would outpace Sasser, 8-2, to take a 54-44 lead with 1:29 left, giving the Hornets plenty of room toward earning a first semifinal victory.

Boyd led all scorers with 15 points. Marr followed for Heyworth with 12, and Lee added 10. Vanwey’s 13 led Sasser’s attack, followed by 10 from Marlo.

“Offensively, we struggled today,” Eller admitted. “We shot 26 percent for the game. The thing that carried us today, and this has been the issue for us in the postseason, was our free throws.” Against Sesser, Heyworth went to the line making 26-for-35, or 74 percent of their shots.

“We were able to get to the free throw line and knock them down. That was the huge difference in the game,” Eller said. “Typically, when you shoot 26 percent, you don’t win a ball game.”

“I thought it was a very hard-fought game,” Sesser-Valier head coach Shane Garner said addressing the media afterward. “Both teams had great guard play. I just thought Heyworth answered the call at the end of the game. They converted very, very well from the free throw line. I thought they were very poised. I thought they did a great job of executing their game plan very well.”

BasketballPEORIA – The madness of March in an attempt to win a state championship almost took twice as long to resolve in order to find a Class 2A winner at Carver Arena here Saturday, as Bloomington Central Catholic came from behind to force and then win what became a triple overtime thriller over Nashville, 76-62, before roughly 4,200 fans.

The game’s pace was slow and deliberate in the first quarter, BCC (27-6) recovering from a fast 7-2 deficit on a basket by senior guard Nick Norton at 1:44 followed by an unanswered deuce by junior guard Jake Reinhart with 45 seconds left, putting the Saints just one point down, 7-6, going into the second quarter.

A trey by senior guard Parker Goodlick at 7:56 helped BCC open the second quarter with a 9-7 lead, but it was brief due to a trey by Nashville junior guard Dylan Mueller at 7:40, giving Nashville a 10-9 edge. That trey set off an 8-0 run for the Hornets before BCC senior center John Hester’s going 1-for-2 from the free throw line after being fouled by Nashville sophomore forward Royce Newman. That clipped Nashville’s lead, 15-10, before Newman added a basket of his own, putting the Hornets up 17-10 at 4:31 until halftime.

A deuce by BCC senior guard Parker Goodlick made the score 17-12 at 3:43 before Nashville took advantage of a three-point play caused by a foul committed on Nashville senior guard Keegan Anderson by BCC’s Norton led to Nashville owning a 20-12 lead with 2:59 remaining in the half. BCC responded with a layup by junior center Braxton Coffman and a pair of threes from Goodlick to narrow Nashville’s lead to four, 24-20, going into halftime.

Nashville (27-8) went on a 6-0 romp to open the third quarter, with buckets from Mueller, junior guard Daniel Thorson, and Newman, opening a 10-point lead, 30-20 with 5:37 left in the period. That run ended thanks to a trey by Goodlick, 30-23, with 4:43 left. Norton would sink a trey for BCC at 1:12 cutting Nashville’s lead to four, 33-29. Back-to-back buckets by Newman and senior guard Clint Johannes would give Nashville a 37-29 lead with 22.2 seconds left. The period would end with Goodlick sinking just 1-of-3 free throws after being fouled during a three-point attempt, resulting in Nashville owning a 37-30 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Between two Nashville free throws by Johannes and Thorson, Norton hit another trey for BCC cutting the lead to 41-33, with 6:30 left in regulation. Two baskets and a free throw by Johannes, coupled with a deuce from Anderson, pushed Nashville up, 48-37 with 4:18 left. Back- to-back unanswered treys by Norton at 3:57 and 3:18 helped the Saints cut the lead down more, 48-43. Johannes put Nashville up, 50-43, after sinking two free throws at 2:34, having been fouled by BCC’s Hoerdemann.

BCC scored five unanswered points thanks to a deuce by Holman and another Norton trey, reducing Nashville to a two-point lead, 50-48, with 51.7 seconds remaining. Each team took a timeout, one after the other, after that.

When action resumed, Holman found himself fouled twice – once by Johannes and once by Newman – putting him on the free throw line for a total of four shots, half of which he made, tying the game at 50-all with 29.1 seconds left. Defense took over the last 30 of regulation, leading to overtime.

Central Catholic Hoerdemann opened the overtime following regulation play with a trey at 3:11 to give BCC a 53-50 lead. Newman countered with a jumper for Nashville at 2:51 cutting BCC’s lead, 53-52. Mueller hit a basket to put Nashville up, 54-53. BCC’s Holman responded to with a layup, putting the Saints up, 55-54. Holman was fouled in the attempt and sank the subsequent free throw completing a three-point play, putting BCC up, 56-54 with 48.4 seconds left. But Holman also gave Nashville an opening to tie the game when he fouled Newman with 30.1 seconds left. Newman sank the subsequent free throw, tying the game at 56-all, forcing double overtime.

Each team exchanged a basket to open the second overtime, tying the game, 58-all. Mueller sank a deuce for Nashville at 2:53, putting the Hornets up, 60-58, but Reinhart sank another bucket for BCC, tying the game at 60-all. Each side exchanged deuces again before the period-ending buzzer, forcing the teams into a third overtime.

Reinhart opened the third extra period with a trey at the 2:39 mark, sending BCC fans into a frenzy, putting the Saints up, 65-62. Mueller fouled Norton, who sank 1-of-2 free shots, giving BCC a 66-62 lead. But from there, Nashville defenders had difficulty avoiding foul trouble. Norton went to the line four more times, as did Hoerdemann and Hester once each before the game would end. In total during that barrage, BCC would go a combined 10-of-12 from the line, leading to the eventual final score.

“I don’t what to say, I’m so proud of them,” BCC head coach Jason Welch told reporters afterward. “I am so, so proud of them. Our players had lofty goals of winning the state tournament.”

Norton led all scorers with 25 points, including going 8-for-10 from the free throw line and hitting 5-of-12 threes. That is impressive considering he only had two points in the first half. “We knew if we kept going to Nick, we’d have a chance. He did a good job of keeping us right in it.

“I think it was pretty obvious it was a hard fought ball game for both teams,” explained Nashville head coach Brad Weathers. “I’ve got to credit Central Catholic for knocking down some big shots there at crunch time and causing a couple of turnovers. They utilized their strengths. I also have to credit our kids’ fortitude for when the momentum changed in Central Catholic’s direction at the end of regulation because they fought through two overtimes before they had it go south on us.”

“The two NBA range threes Norton hit were awfully hard to guard,” Weathers continued, adding the onslaught of free throws toward the end of the contest were too difficult to overcome.

BasketballEAST MOLINE – Normal Community High School’s hopes for continuing toward Class 4A finals literally hit the rim and bounced away in the final seconds of the Ironmen’s East Moline Sectional Final against Edwardsville, as the Ironmen lost to the Tigers, 56-53. As a result, head coach Dave Witzig’s team ends the 2013-14 campaign with a 23-9 record.

NCHS held a18-13 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Edwardsville rallied to hold a 33-28 lead at halftime in the contest which was played at United Township High School in East Moline. NCHS junior forward Alex Peacock hit a deuce to open the third quarter, followed by an unanswered three by junior forward Tyler Seibring to tie the game, 33-all, at 6:33 in the period.

A trey by Edwardsville senior guard Shawn Roundtree put the Tigers up, 36-33, at the 5:53 mark in the third. Senior guard Grant Donath and Peacock responded with back-to-back unanswered deuces, giving the Ironmen a 37-36 lead. A layup by Edwardsville senior guard Darian Brown put the Tigers back in front, 38-37 but a second Seibring three in the quarter gave NCHS a 40-38 lead at 2:17. The game entered the fourth quarter with a 40-all tie thanks to Edwardsville senior forward Armon Fletcher’s layup with 1:45 left.

Senior guard Shawn Roundtree opened the final stanza for Edwardsville (29-2) with a deuce putting the Tigers up, 42-40, but was countered by another Seibring three, putting NCHS in front, 43-42 with 4:53 left in the contest. Edwardsville scored back-to-back deuces from Fletcher and senior guard Darius Crochrell, pushing in front, 46-45. Seibring landed a jumper to cut the lead, 46-45, prompting the Ironmen to take a timeout with 2:09 left. Edwardsville countered with a timeout of their own right after NCHS’ before play resumed.

NCHS Edwardsville senior guard Darian Brown hit a trey, and was followed by a three-point play from Fletcher, who landed a deuce and free throw, having been fouled by Ironmen senior guard Ben Wylde. Junior guard Duane Farrington hit a trey with 1:07 remaining prompting Witzig to call another timeout. Coming out of that timeout, NCHS got the ball back from Edwardsville and Farrington converted a three-point play having been fouled by Roundtree, cutting Edwardsville’s lead to one, 52-51, with 58.4 seconds left. Seibring fouled Fletcher, who sank two free throws with 44.9 seconds left, pushing Edwardsville up, 54-51. Junior guard David Boyd’s deuce with 34.5 seconds left allowed NCHS to cut that lead, 54-53. Brown would another deuce to put Edwardsville up, 56-53. The Ironmen took their last timeout at that point and returned to the court trying to position themselves for a game-tying three. The ball would wind up in Farrington’s hands, who would fire the potential game-tying shot from just a couple steps beyond the three-point line only to see it smack the front rim of the basket and bounce away as the final horn sounded.

Brown would lead all scorers in this contest for the Tigers with 19 points. He would be followed in double figures by Fletcher with 15 and Roundtree’s 12. Farrington led NCHS’ effort with 13 points, including one trey. He was followed in double figures by Seibring with 11 points, including three threes, and Peacock with 10, including two treys.

“Edwardsville is a great team,” NCHS head coach Dave Witzig said. “I thought we battled – we battled hard and I thought we got the shots we wanted. Some nights shots don’t go in all the time for you, and even though our last shot at the buzzer hit the front of the rim, I thought it had a chance of going in.”

“I’m proud of our guys,” Witzig added. “We battled. We gave ourselves a chance. It was a great opportunity.”

“NCHS is excellent,” Edwardsville head coach Mike Waldo said afterward. “They have big guys, they are well-coached, and they do things extremely well. They played us about the way we thought they would. They probably did a little more helping on defense than we thought they’d do, but, otherwise, they played us about as we expected.”

“I thought our guys played a great game and did a lot of things well,” Waldo added, explaining that last year at Class 4A semi finals in Peoria, his team finished third. Edwardsville advanced to a Super-Sectional contest which would be held Tuesday on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena.