By Steve Robinson | March 25, 2016 - 10:10 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Steve RobinsonBy my count, there were 66 people who addressed Normal-based Unit 5 School Board on the issue of start time changes for the district’s Elementary, Middle, and High Schools over the course of the last few weeks.

Unit 5 was looking to change start times for the schools and insert either a two-tier or three-tier bus system. They were looking to erase a $1.3 million deficit of cash they should be but are not getting from the State as a result of the State not having a finalized budget – a situation which will be rolling into its 10th month once April gets here.

Currently, Unit 5 Elementary Schools start at 8:45a.m.; Junior high schools start the day at 7:45a.m.; and high school students get the earliest wake-up call for their day starting at 7:15a.m. However, as a result of the recent vote taken by school board members, that will change in August. At that time, Elementary students will be in class from 7:40a.m.-2:30p.m.; Junior high students will be in class from 7:45a.m.-3p.m.; and high school students will see their day shift to 8:45a.m.-3:30p.m.

There were a number of impassioned 3-minute speeches (and a few slightly longer) made by those who spoke sincerely about how they felt about the proposed change in time and bus scheduling. Some were urgent in their delivery. Some were downright angry, and in one of the cases of folks who spoke, decided to include a veiled threat of change come the next election.

But then, during the last session of public comments held during the Board’s last meeting at Parkside Junior High School on March 16, Kale Hart and his mother, Erika Hart, were ninth in a line of 25 people to address Board members.

Kale, Class of 2024, did most of the talking.

That’s right…at present, Kale is a fourth grader at Benjamin Elementary School and felt so strongly about the district needing to change the school starting times that, with his mom sitting alongside him, he did most of the talking.

Now because Kale was aligned with those wanting the time change, that seemed to put him in the minority from the way this debate had been going in the weeks preceding, and during those three consecutive weeks of Board meetings.

That fact didn’t even faze this young man. He stated his case, and in the process, even managed to bring a smile to the faces of even those who weren’t fond of the idea of the change being made. He stated his case his case quickly and exited back to his seat in the audience without doing any politicking. Today’s politicians could take a lesson from this future member of the Class of 2024.

Kale’s mother, Erika Hunt, said during a break in the meeting that Kale’s grandfather is part of ln politics, holding office, in Wisconsin. Could this appearance by Kale be the beginning of a family tradition? Who knows. We will have to wait a few years to get the answer.

All of the roughly 180 people who attended that meeting knew was, that without any assistance, this kid made his case without a case of nerves or putting across a questionable attitude.

This column is called “High School Highlights,” and it would be interesting to see if a highlight of Kale’s high school career would include his demonstrating leadership in a student council or other group. We may have to wait and see what he does, but based on Kale’s performance before the Unit 5 Board that night, that wait will be worth it.

By Steve Robinson | March 22, 2016 - 7:22 am
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members unanimously approved a two percent rate increase to be added to Town residents’ water bills. City Manager Mark Peterson said the increase will be reviewed in a year’s time to see if it needs to be continued.

In a memo to Council members from Town Finance Director Andrew Huhn, the Town is trying to maintain a consistent water operations fund balance of 20 percent. Under the increase, the cost to an average water customer will mean an average increase of 83 cents to their water bill. The increase means the cost of every 1,000 gallons used will go up from $6.07 to $6.19 and the accompanying monthly maintenance fee will go up from $5.55 to $5.65.

The Town had two options according to Huhn’s memo: Leave the fees untouched or enact the two percent increase. Without the increase, Huhn’s memo to Council explained, the Town’s water fund balance might not be able to stay at the level the Town wished to maintain.

Provided the increase is renewed over the next six fiscal years, Normal would be able to build up a four percent increase in its reserve, according to Huhn’s calculations.

Huhn’s memo said the Town conducted a review of the water fund for two reasons: To see if, within five years, the water fund balance was equal to 20 percent of expenses; and to make sure the Town could allocate at least an additional $1.5 million in annual funding to be applied toward water system infrastructure.

Although some conversation among Council members could have been anticipated on such a topic, there was none prior to the vote.

Annexation Agreement With Heartland Community College Approved: Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Town Staff to execute an amended annexation agreement with Community College District #540, which includes the counties of McLean, DeWitt, Ford, Livingston, Logan, and Tazewell in order to annex a near 2.6 acre parcel of land so that it and a right-of-way on Parkside Rd. can be annexed into the Town’s corporate limits. As a result, the land would be rezoned as Public Lands & Institutions.

In addition, Council members unanimously approved a pair of ordinances related to the annexation – one that formally annexed the land to the Town and a second one which included making the rezoning official. Two public hearings were held – one by the Normal Planning Commission on March 10 and one just before the Council session began. No one asked to speak to the issue at either meeting.

Proclamation Honoring Recently-Retired History Museum Director Issued: Prior to the meeting, Mayor Chris Koos honored the recently retired executive director of the McLean County Museum of History, his brother, Greg. Greg Koos retired from his position with the Museum having worked through the ranks there for 39 years, and said it was an honor to receive the proclamation from his brother.

Liquor Commission Approves Annual Renewals: Prior to the regular Council session, Council members, meeting as the Normal Local Liquor Commission, approved annual license renewals for all liquor-related business within the Town of Normal. That means a total of 67 licenses were renewed and broken down in the following categories: 31 Class A – Packaged Liquor; 1 Class B – Beer By The Drink; 7 Class C – Beer and Wine By The Drink; 17 Class D – All Liquor By The Drink; 3 Class E – Hotels; 1 Class M – Brewpub; 1 Class N – Stadium; and 6 Class O – Limit Hours Establishments.

There have been four cases of liquor sold to minors settled with the Town from now dating back to December. All cases have been settled and fines paid. Among the businesses cited and fined were: Casey’s Retail Co., doing business as Casey’s General Store #2934, 1301 S. Main St.; Uptown Circle, LLC doing business as Hyatt Place Hotel, 200 Broadway; and Mac’s Convenience Stores, LLC doing business as Circle K #21, 1701 Parkway Plaza Dr. All three of these establishments paid a fine of $250 for a first offense.

A fourth establishment, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., doing business as Wal-Mart Supercenter #1125, 300 Greenbriar Dr., was fined $3,000 as a result of the store’s citation history.

Commissioners also unanimously approved a new license renewal for Tony’s Tacos, Inc., doing business as Tony’s Tacos, 304 N. Main St., Suite C, Normal. In addition, Commissioners also voted unanimously to approve the minutes of two previous Liquor Commission meetings – a regular session held Jan. 19, 2016, and a special meeting held Feb. 15, 2016.

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

• Approval of minutes of public hearing pertaining to the CDBG Action Plan, held March 7, 2016.

• Approval of minutes of public hearing pertaining to the annual budget for FY 2016-17, held March 7, 2016.

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting held March 7, 2016.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Dec. 30, 2015.

• A resolution awarding the bid for concrete to the low bidder, Bloomington-based Stark Materials Co., Inc. at a price per cubic yard of $93.07 for high early mix and $87.40 for S. I. Mix.

• A resolution awarding a bid to Bloomington-based Diamond Vogel Paints for the purchase of pavement paint and beads for an estimated total of $37,075.

• A resolution approving an agreement with Carlock-based Boitnott’s Lawn & Landscaping for mowing and abatement services effective April 1, 2016 through March 31, 2019.

• A resolution waiving the formal bidding process and authorizing an agreement with Bloomington-based Henson Disposal for processing of recyclable residential construction, demolition, and bulky waste collection by the Town of Normal.

• A resolution authorizing the filing of the Town’s Community Block Development Grant (CDBG) 2016-17 Annual Action Plan.

• A resolution approving an agreement with T.J. Development of Bloomington Corp. for reimbursement in the amount of $202,481 for costs to construct approximately 500 feet of Shepard Rd. from east of Mondavi Lane East to Canyon Creek Rd. in the Vineyards subdivision.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a collective bargaining agreement with International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local #2442.

• A resolution to approve an amended final development plan for The Villas at Mercy Creek (Victory Lane).

• A resolution to approve a final plat for the resubdivision of Lot #5 of The Villas at Mercy Creek (Victory Lane).

• An ordinance authorizing the publication of zoning map.

• An ordinance rezoning land in the Town of Normal – 303 W. Willow St.; 409 W. Willow St.; 212 N. School St.; 211 N. University Ave.; 210 N. Main St.; 212 N. Main St.; 200 Kingsley; 202 Kingsley; 302 Kingsley; 609 W. College Ave.; 203 S. Main St.; 205 S. Main St.; 207 S. Main St.; 301 S. Main St./605 Dry Grove St.; 710 S. Main St.; and 213 W. Locust St. (ISU properties).

• Ordinance amending Chapter 1 of Division 21 of the Municipal Code of the Town of Normal regarding refuse collection and disposal service.

By Steve Robinson | March 18, 2016 - 10:11 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Local residents who have children attending schools operated by Normal-based Unit 5 School District have been having their say over the last three consecutive weeks at Board meetings concerning a proposed change in school start times and busing arrangements.

Board members have listened to a total of 66 impassioned pleas and requests – a few from the same parents at each session — concerning the proposed start time changes which would move Elementary school start times up one hour to 7:45a.m. ending their day at 2:30p.m, beginning their school day an hour earlier. Junior high students would see their school day run from 8:45a.m.-3:45p.m., and high school students would be in class from 8:30a.m.-3:30p.m.

A total of 25 parents addressed Board members one last time before the members of the governing body voted unanimously to make the time change a reality, effective when the 2016-17 school year begins in August.

“Your comments and suggestions have been heard,” Dr. Mark Daniel, district superintendent, said to the 180 residents who gathered in the cafeteria of Parkside Junior High School for the deciding moment held on March 16. “There’s no simple answer for this problem caused by the State budget problems now running on for seven years.”

The problem in question for the district was how to erase or reduce a $1.3 million budget deficit in the district’s transportation fund created due to a lack shortage of funds provided by Springfield. In deciding to try a plan which would eliminate buses, and change routes and start times, the district expects to save $1.5 million.

A committee focused on transportation has been part of a strategic planning group, consisting of a number of committees tackling separate issues facing the district. The strategic planning committee has been working since October.

In looking at the situation before Board members voted, Daniel told the gathering the district had to change the way its Transportation function operates. To his way of thinking, that meant, among other things, no longer renting buses from Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co.; looking at how much working cash the district had to accomplish the job of providing transportation, and talk to all constituents to find solutions to the issue.

“We know we have to do something different,” Daniel said. “We can’t be static. We must do something.”

The time change for the schools “will produce a positive impact at all grade levels,” Board Member Mike Trask told the gathering following the vote. He said he empathized with parents who will struggle on account of the change.

Unit 5 mapBoard Member John Puzauskas reminded attendees the current State budget issues and the district’s deficit to its Transportation fund is what caused this action to be needed to be taken. “We couldn’t look at it and blindly keep going,” he said. “We’ve taken two complex issues and stacked them on top of each other. This can be done but the details need to be worked down to in order for it to succeed.”

Board Member Denise Schuster reminded that, instead of the decision Board members came to, the governing body might as well have decided to use dollars from the district’s Education fund. But she said if Board members made that decision, parents would not have approved of it. “It’s imperative we get the most efficient transportation system possible,” Schuster said. “Putting money away for what might be down the road is also important.”

Board Member Barry Hitchins said he had heard from “200 people who said changing school start times would benefit kids.” Board Member Gail Ann Briggs said coming to and making the decision on the time change and transportation issue prior to the district’s spring break, which runs this week, “was paramount.”

“We’re making a decision in good faith and we want the community to accept the decision in good faith,” Board President Meta Mickens-Baker told the gathering. Board Member Jim Hayek, Jr. also explained this was the right choice for the district.

Family’s Move Prompts Schuster To Resign From Board: Schuster, the Board’s vice president, made it official toward the meeting’s close that this session would be her last as a Unit 5 Board member, the result of a job transfer to Dallas, Texas for her husband, Dave. The Schusters are both employed by State Farm Insurance, and are the parents of three children in district schools — two in high school and one in junior high.

Schuster thanked her husband publicly for “absolutely being the key to my being a part of Unit 5. He has been in charge of Wednesdays for the last two years at our house. He has truly supported everything I have done related to my work with the Board.” She also had individual compliments for her fellow Board members and Dr. Daniel. She said she started with a Parent-Teacher Organization as a volunteer 12 years ago.

Schuster was appointed to serve on the Board in April 2014 following the resignation of Todd Ferguson due to a job transfer. Unit 5 will post for a replacement for Schuster, anticipating seating her successor at the Board’s April 27 meeting.

Circle Your Calendars: As part of its omnibus agenda, Board members approved May 24 as the last day of the school year for students.

By Steve Robinson | March 14, 2016 - 10:47 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Normal-based Unit 5 School District Board members will approve a measure at their March 16 meeting to decide whether to go with a two-tier or three tier busing program as part of a further discussion being held concerning how to dissolve a $1.3 million deficit in the district’s Transportation fund, caused in part by a lack of payments from the State. The Board’s met on March 9 at Normal Community West High School.

Decisions on the busing change, as well as a change in school start times, is anticipated to have been made at the Board’s next session on March 16which would be held at Parkside Junior High School.

In comments to the Board concerning this issue, Dr. Mark Daniel, District Superintendent, explained to Board members, “We have spent a rather significant amount of time trying to analyze and calculate which system – be it a two-tier or three-tier system – will be the most efficient and cost effective.

To seek out the answer, Daniel explained, district officials spoke with representatives from their busing provider, Cincinnati-based First Student Bus Co., as well as the company that provides Unit 5 with their routing software.

Daniel said the conversations have led him to believe “we are pointing to a two-tier system being the most cost effective.” Daniel added Unit 5 is “very, very unique” in terms of its transportation issues because of the amount of territory its buses have to cover to get kids from home to school and back again. Unit 5 bus routes cover 214 square miles, he pointed out.

Because of such a vast amount of the area to cover, “that creates unique strains on a system,” Daniel said. The district is looking at many options, he explained, including combining routes and creating fixed student pick-up locations for students to get on and off of buses.

The district is also looking into leasing buses from student as opposed to taking outright ownership, Daniel said. He equated that kind of decision to renting a home versus owning one to put it in perspective for the roughly 175 who attended the meeting.

In terms of school start times needing to change, Daniel said he is recommending Elementary schools begin their day at 8:45a.m. ending at 3:30p.m. Currently, those students begin their day at 7:45a.m. and end their day at 2:30p.m. Daniel said he believes Unit 5 can help find “viable solutions” for parents for whom the change might not mesh with their current post-school day child care situations.

Should the new times be approved, Daniel said, the next step is to figure out how to adjust co-curricular activities, such as field trips, so that they fit together with the new busing scheme.

A total of 15 parents spoke on the subjects of start times and busing during the “public comment” portion of the meeting, suggesting everything from moving Elementary start time to 7:40a.m. to looking at actual bus ridership before making decisions regarding route changes.

Board member Barry Hinton asked if 15 minutes if adjusting the difference in start and end times for elementary schools and junior highs — 15 minutes – was enough. He said buses needing to go from Chiddix Junior High School to NormalCommunity High School might find that schedule really hard to accomplish due to the time change.

Board Member John Puzauskas said this proposed change “is a very complex and daunting project. It needs to be put together so that we know who will do what for it. If you don’t plan beforehand, it will not be successful.”

“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” Board Member Mike Trask said, referring to the title of a book written by former Secretary Of State and Democratic Party Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton. “To make this change happen will take a county.” He said he would like to wait to implement the proposed changes, but added, he has to rely on Daniel’s feeling the district can move forward with this plan.

Bids On Reroofing Projects Announced: Bids from companies wishing to perform reroofing work needed on four district facilities were publicly announced as being awarded by the district during the session by District Operations Manager Joe Adelman. First among the projects awarded was a reroofing project for Colene Hoose Elementary School awarded to Springfield-based Henson Robinson Co., which submitted a bid of $334,487, coming in with the lowest bid among eight companies. Henson Robinson Co. also submitted the winning bid for a reroofing project at ParksideElementary School, as well coming in with the lowest bid among 10 companies. Henson Robinson Co.’s bid on that project was $372,333.

Henson Robinson Co. also submitted the winning bid for a reroofing project at NormalCommunity West High School having submitted a winning bid of $486,311, coming in with the lowest bid among eight companies. A reroofing project atNorthpoint Elementary School was awarded to Urbana-based Advanced Commercial Roofing which submitted an accepted bid of $616,700, coming in with the lowest bid among eight companies.

Unit 5 map Citizen Advisory Council Recaps Annual Study Topics: The district’s Citizen Advisory Council presented Board members with the results of their annual reports on four subjects they researched for Study Topics over the past school year. Those subjects included: Career Academies; Generating Revenue; Student Assessment; and Community Partnerships. CAC vice president Joseph Cleary and Dayna Brown, director of communication and community relations for the district gave a brief presentation prior to Board members voting unanimously to accept the CAC reports.

Slight Enrollment Drop From A Year Ago: Unit 5’s total student population dropped in number from what it was at this time last year, reported Curt Richardson, the district’s director of human resources and its attorney. A same day enrollment count taken Feb. 29 showed Unit 5 had 13,465 students in class that day as opposed to 13,530 students on Feb. 28 last year, a drop of 65 students, or .48 percent.

NCHS’ “Good News”: Normal Community High School Principal David Bollman reported to Board member the school had been notified that seniors Zach Cheng and Paige Metz were selected as National Merit Scholarship Finalists. To qualify for this honor, a student must achieve one of the highest PSAT/NMSQT scores and have the results confirmed by a subsequent SAT score. In addition, applicants must write a personal essay, list activities/volunteer service, and any leadership positions they’ve held, and honors and employment on their application. Bollman explained to Board members the National Merit Scholarship Program selected just 16,000 seniors across the country for this honor, which represents less than one percent of all graduating seniors in the United States.

Evans Junior High’s “Good News”: Vivek Abraham, currently a sixth grader at George L.Evans Junior High School, has an I.Q. that is over 160. A person with an I. Q. above 145 is considered a genius, performing at an 11th grade level. EJHS Principal Trevor Chapman introduced Vivek to Board members for his most recent accomplishment: Having recently appeared as a contestant in the Lifetime Network show, “Child Genius: Battle Of The Brightest.” He was nine-years-old at the time he competed on the show.

Chapman said represented Unit 5 and the community well on the program When not in school, Vivek enjoys extracurricular activities such as weekend classes at Northwestern University, robotic leagues, playing viola, and practicing Tae Kwon Do. Chapman said Vivek, son of Anupama Chandrappa and Antony Abraham of Bloomington, would like to be an astrophysicist, like his heroes Dr. Stephen Hawking and Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, when he grows up.

Normal Community West High’s “Good News”: Dave Johnson, Principal at Normal Community West High School, introduced Board members to senior Aaron Manuel, who has earned recognition for being selected as a National Merit Scholarship finalist. Johnson said after scoring well on the test, Manuel also became a finalist for the honor after completing the application process that was involved. In the memo to Board members, Johnson explained that only 1.5 million students that take the test, or 1.5 percent of those who take it, get selected as a National Merit Scholarship Finalist.

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.