BLOOMINGTON – El Paso Gridley’s boys’ basketball team fought for every basket Saturday during the championship game at the 109th Heart Of Illinois Conference/McLean County Tournament, held at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus. They just ran into a Tremont Turks squad led by senior guard Landon Pflederer who was blazing a trail of his own while leading his team to the Turks’ 64-61 win over the Titans.

Pflederer scored six treys in the contest breaking the previous record of five treys, the last players to set a record for those shots in a championship contest included Ridgeview’s Tyler McCormick three years ago.

While that sounds like plenty going on in a championship, the action started slowly in the first quarter with a single free throw by senior guard Titus Thompson who only hit 1-of-2 free throws, giving the Turks a 1-0 lead. But Titans sophomore guard Asa Smith was fouled by Thompson, giving Smith the chance to go 2-for-2 from the free throw line, putting EPG up, 2-1. That was followed by the game’s first back-to-back field goals by Tremont senior forward Marco Falcon and senior guard Titus Thompson, pushing the Turks up, 5-2.

Smith was fouled a second time, sending him to the charity stripe, where he hit 1-of-2, closing the gap on the Turks, 5-3, at the 5:48 mark in the first quarter. That was followed by a deuce by Pflederer, putting the Turks up, 7-3. Senior guard Ethan Jeffreys’ deuce, reducing the Turks’ lead, 7-5, but a trey by sophomore guard Isaiah Eatock with 4:22 left in the quarter doubled Tremont’s score, 10-5.

EPG responded with back-to-back baskets, a deuce from senior forward Jack Weber and trey from Jeffreys, to tie the game 10-all with 3:36 remaining. A basket from Pflederer put the Turks up, 12-10, which EPG’s Weber was quick to respond to, tying the contest at 12-all at the 1:45 mark. A three-point play by a fouled Thompson put Tremont up, 15-12 while EPG senior Silas Steiner could only make an initial basket but fail to make the free throw after being fouled, giving Tremont a 15-14 lead with 1:11 left in the quarter. EPG did go into the second quarter with a one-point advantage, 16-15, thanks to Weber’s jumper toward the end of the quarter.

A seesaw battle began the second quarter, with Thompson and Smith exchanging baskets, keeping EPG up, 18-17, before Falcon hit another deuce, putting the Turks up, 19-18, with 5:36 until half. Rapid fire baskets from EPG’s Ihlenfeldt, Tremont’s Thompson, and then back-to-back unanswered shots from EPG senior forward Jack Weber and Smith pushed the Titans up by three, 24-21, with 4:05 until halftime.

Tremont (17-5) capitalized on a three point play for senior forward Ryan Wagenbach having been fouled by Steiner, allowing Wagenbach to tie the game, 24-all, with 3:49 until the half. Senior forward Dilynn Gray’s basket put EPG up, 26-24 and was countered by a free throw by Thompson, cutting the Titans’ lead to 26-25. Another Steiner basket gave EPG a 28-25 lead, but Titans fans only saw that lead become overtaken by a deuce by Wagenbach followed by a four-point play, including a trey by Pflederer, putting Tremont up, 31-28, at the quarter’s 1:37 mark.

A Ihlenfeldt free throw, reduced that lead, 31-29, but then the quarter closed as it had started, with both sides responding basket for basket, first from Tremont’s Wagenbach, followed by a pair of deuces from EPG’s Weber, ending with a basket by Jeffreys, giving the Turks a 35-33 halftime lead.

The skirmish of the two teams answering basket for basket continued into the third quarter starting with Weber opening the third quarter with a jumper to tie the game at 35-all. Tremont’s Wagenbach responded with a deuce of his own, putting the Turks up, 37-35. A deuce and free shot from Smith helped EPG tie, then go in front, 38-37, at the 5:10 mark. But a Pflederer bucket put Tremont back in front by one, 39-38, with 4:52 left. A Steiner basket put EPG in front, 40-39, only to see the game tied at 40-all by a free throw from a fouled Turks Pflederer at the 3:31 mark. The Titans did manage two straight unanswered baskets from there from Jeffreys followed by Weber to go up by four, 44-40, with 1:24 left in the quarter. But the Titans only owned a two point lead going into the fourth quarter, 46-44.

A trey by Pflederer followed by a deuce from Wagenbach opened the fourth quarter and put Tremont up, 49-46, but EPG’s Gray hitting a trey tied the contest at 49-all, and the teams exchanged deuces once more before EPG called a timeout with 5:36 remaining. Following the timeout, Pflederer hit a trey putting Tremont up, 54-51, at the 5:08 mark. Ihlenfeldt responded with a trey for the Titans, tying the game, 54-all, with 4:32 left.

Wagenbach hit jumper to put Tremont up by three, 57-54, but that lead was short following a deuce from Gray, cutting Tremont’s lead to one, 57-56, with 3:15 left in the contest. Coming out of the timeout, Wagenbach hit another trey, putting EPG up, 59-57 with 2:52 remaining. Pflederer responded with a trey seconds later putting Tremont up by one, 60-59, prompting Tremont head coach Troy Schmidt to call timeout with 2:01 remaining.

Both teams assumed defensive postures with no scoring until Tremont called their next timeout with 40.2 seconds left. Coming out of that timeout, the Turks did manage to increase their lead, courtesy of a free throw by Falcon, who only made 1-of-2 free throws, having been fouled by Steiner. That pushed Tremont up, 61-59, with 28.2 seconds left. But Weber fouled Tremont’s Thompson, sending him to the foul line where he sank two shots, putting Tremont up by four, 63-59. At that point, the Turks called time out with 10.7 seconds left.

Coming out of the timeout, Gray sank a deuce to bring EPG within two, 63-61, and prompting Tremont to call time. When play resumed, EPG’s Smith fouled Tremont’s Wagenbach whose free throws sealed the victory.

Pfelderer was high scorer for Tremont with 29 points, which included six treys. That number of treys broke the record for the most treys made during a championship game. Three players were tied for having made five during a championship game, the most recent player to have made that many in a championship game was Tyler McCormick playing for Ridgeview in 2017. Following Pfelderer in double figures was Wagenbach with 14. Weber had 16 for EPG, leading his team’s scoring. He was followed in double-figures by 12 from Gray, and 10 each from Ihlenfeldt and Smith.

“They did what we thought they were going to do,” said Tremont head coach Troy Schmidt about what his team anticipated seeing from EPG. “They got us a little bit with penetration early and we decided to go to zone in the second half to take the penetration away. That slowed them down a little bit.

EPG head coach Nathan Meiss admitted afterward, “Pflederer was the best player on the floor tonight, especially in the fourth quarter. He stepped up big from the three-point line tonight. We knew we could score. We weren’t very good defensively in the first half, but I thought in the second half, we came around. Hat’s off to them, they were better than us tonight.”

BLOOMINGTON – Ask El Paso Gridley girls’ head basketball coach Jeff Sinn and you get the feeling seeing his team seeded 9th prior to the 109th Heart Of Illinois Conference/McLean County Tournament was short-changing his team before they had an opportunity to prove their skills.

The Titans came into this tournament seeking to win the girls’ tourney’s crown but ended up carting home a third place award after beating sixth seed Fisher, 38-34, Saturday afternoon at Shirk Center on Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus.

EPG (10-12 after this game) jumped out to a fast 5-0 lead thanks to back-to-back baskets, a trey and a deuce, from senior guard Addison Benedict. Fisher responded with back-to-back shots from junior guard Morgan Coile and freshman guard Kallie Evans, reducing the Titans’ lead, 5-4, with 1:50 left in the quarter.

Fisher (11-11 following this game) owned a 7-5 lead as the opening quarter ended, courtesy of a free throw by senior guard Kylee Bishop and a deuce from senior forward Brianna Keeton, allowing the Bunnies to carry that lead into the second quarter.

EPG found themselves needing to respond to a pair of three-point shots to start the second quarter. Those came from Bunnies senior guard Daneigh Burk and junior forward Brianna Sommer, giving Fisher a 10-9 advantage with 5:35 left in the quarter. But Hood’s second trey, coming at the 4:23 mark, allowed Fisher the advantage of a four-point lead, 13-9. A pair of free throws by fouled sophomore guard Jordyn Cannon allowed EPG to close in on the Bunnies’ lead, 13-11, before a deuce from Hood help extend her team’s lead, 15-11.

At this point, Sinn called time out with 2:35 remaining until halftime, after which the Titans went on a 6-0 tear, starting with a Benedict firing a deuce and a trey, and a jumper from junior forward Rebecca Orns, allowing the Titans to jump over the Bunnies going into halftime, 18-15.

Third quarter scoring was back and forth, starting with senior guard Kylee Bishop’s deuce which opened the period, reducing EPG’s lead to one, 18-17. Orns responded with a deuce to give the Titans a 20-17 advantage. Senior forward Ashley Smith’s deuce at the 4:43 mark helped close the gap the Bunnies faced, trailing by one, 20-19, but Orns’ basket with 3:37 left put EPG up, 22-19. Bunnies junior forward Leah McCoy’s jumper sliced EPG’s lead to one, 22-21, with 3:20 left. But Cannon’s next basket extended her team’s lead, 24-21, with 2:55 left in the quarter.

Hood’s basket with 43.5 seconds in the third again closed the gap EPG tried to leave Fisher in, 24-23, before EPG sophomore guard Michaela Kelly’s deuce with 17.5 seconds left renewed the Titans’ three-point lead, 26-23. The quarter closed on Bunnies senior forward Ashley Smith’s bucket and foul shot attempt, which she missed, allowing EPG to hold on to a single-digit lead, 26-25, entering the fourth quarter.

Fisher retook the lead briefly, 27-26, thanks to a jumper from senior forward Brianna Keeton. It was replied to with one by EPG sophomore forward Devyn Hinthorne putting EPG up, 28-27. A basket by senior forward Ashley Smith allowed the Bunnies to hop in front briefly, 29-28. EPG stepped back in the lead, 30-29 with 5:41 left in the contest, starting a 6-0 run for the Titans which included a deuce and two free throws from Olivia Tipler. Keeton’s basket ended the streak, and pulled the Bunnies within three, 34-31 with 3:11 left in the game.

Two free throws by Kelly, having been fouled by Hood, pushed EPG’s lead up by five, 36-31 with 1:47 left, in the middle of which, Bunnies head coach Ken Ingold called time, but the tactic failed. A basket by Evans trimmed the Spartans’ lead back down to two, 36-34, prompting Bunnies head coach Ken Ingold to another call time out 30.2 seconds left.

Bishop fouled Cannon, putting EPG back on the free throw line with 29.1 seconds remaining, where she sank two baskets, putting the Titans up, 38-34. Following an EPG timeout, Cannon was fouled again, this time by McCoy, with 13.7 seconds left. Cannon missed the first of two shots. From there, Fisher inbounded the ball, getting it to Bishop, who launched a shot from just beyond half-court as the buzzer sounded, only to see the ball smack the backboard and fall to the floor.

Benedict led all scorers and EPG in double-figures with 14 points. Hood pocketed 10 for Fisher in leading her team’s effort. Ingold was not available for comment following the contest. Fisher holds a 12-11 record after this contest.

“We took home third place and starting from being 9th seed, that’s pretty darn good,” EPG’s Sinn admitted following the contest. “The girls didn’t let them distract them. We know we can play and we’re a tough team and we showed that during this tournament.” He added his team has shown improvement in their play offensively and defensively since the season began in November.

He added placing third after their seeding in the county tournament was a good thing and credited being in the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Classic last month as “good preparation for this.” The Titans finished the Classic with a 2-2 mark.

NORMAL – In recent months, the Town of Normal sought input at public forums concerning how the Town should spend Community Block Development Block Grant dollars. There were a wide range of ideas proposed by citizens in those events. On Monday night, at their regularly-scheduled session Tuesday in Council Chambers, Normal Town Council members unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the filing of the Town’s CDBG for 2020 through 2024 and the action plan for 2020 and 2021. The meeting was held Tuesday as a result of Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday.

Town Associate Planner Taylor Long informed Council members explained the CDBG is a five-year plan and that the funds anticipated for the Town should start coming in during the summer. He further explained that over the next five years, the Council will be consulted how they desire to spend CDBG dollars. In addition, most likely every January, the Council will receive an update on how CDBG money has been spent by the Town and will be asked for input concerning other needs the grant money could be used for.

In a memo Long wrote to Council members regarding CDBG, Long explained the grant is based on a formula from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and requires the Town to develop a five-year consolidation plan which acts as a guide for how the money would be spent.

Based on feedback from residents, Town Staff proposed the following objectives for the Consolidation Plan include, among other things: Youth education activities, down payment assistance, sidewalk and ADA ramp improvements, and job training/workforce development.

Long explained that Illinois State University students living off-campus in town will be counted as part of the 2020 census, which will help the Town in terms of counting residents and contribute to funds the Town can receive as a result.

Council Hears Presentation From Climate Action Campaign: A group seeking the Town’s help as well as help of other government entities in preparing for what they see as weather extremes which could affect the area in the future gave a brief presentation before Council adjourned. Members of the group Climate Action Campaign included retired Illinois State University Professor Bill Rau, who addressed Council members saying concerns about changes in extreme temperatures affecting the area are a direct result of climate change. Rau had support from four citizens who spoke in the meeting’s public comments section.

While Council members took no action on the matter, Council Member Stan Nord told the gathering the matter needs to be looked into by the Town.

Lawsuit Over Uptown Mural Dismissed: A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by artists who created the Uptown mural the artists filed against the Town and the developer of the Trail East project. City Manager Pam Reece said following Monday’s meeting that the judge did that, essentially because the judge ruled the artists have no case because the mural still exists and the Town has shown a willingness to move it from its current location at 104 E. Beaufort St.

A group of artists filed a lawsuit last spring concerned the mural would be demolished when construction begins on the $30 million Trail East project in Uptown. Normal officials have given reassurances to the artists the mural will be moved and not destroyed. Normal and Trail East developer Bush Construction sought a halt to the lawsuit asking the judge to end the suit in November. The future location of the mural is still unknown.

It’s still unclear where the mural will be moved. That delicate process will cost around $100,000.

The mural has served as the centerpiece in a larger discussion concerning the project versus preserving buildings which are part of the Town’s history.

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

• Approval of minutes of the rescheduled regular meeting held Jan. 6, 2020.

• Report to receive and file Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Jan. 15, 2020.

• A resolution authorizing an agreement for construction materials testing services for the 2020 construction season with Bloomington-based Ramsey Geotechnical Engineering, LLC (RGE).

• A resolution to appropriate $1,550,000 of Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) funds for resurfacing of various streets for the 2020 MFT Street Resurfacing Project.

• An ordinance accepting permanent easements in connection with the Glenn Ave. Bridge Reconstruction Project.

By Steve Robinson | January 20, 2020 - 10:32 pm
Posted in Category: St. Louis Cardinals, The Normalite

BLOOMINGTON – Central Illinois may be facing another winter at the moment, but St. Louis Cardinals fans got a jump on thinking about spring and summer thanks to a visit with a mix of veteran and newcomer players when the team’s annual St. Louis Cardinals Caravan rolled through town on Saturday, stopping at the Parke Regency Hotel and Conference Center.

Three Generations Of Rosendale Family Take In Event: For father and son Bob and Jake Rosendale, love of baseball was something that has been passed down. And Jake Rosendale is now watching as his daughter, Shelby, and son, Tyler, carry on the family tradition of rooting for the boys from St. Louis. Bob said he has been a Cardinals fan since he was a boy, when fans could find guys like pitchers Curt Simmons and Curt Flood, and outfielders Al Dark and Del Ennis on a lineup card. Jake Rosendale said he and his dad and kids have attended a number of Cards Caravan events since the team put the Twin Cities back in their rotation.

Tyler, a Northpoint Elementary School sixth grader said he likes the Cards because of the loyalty he sees players showing the team. “The team is just really cool,” Shelby, a Kingsley Junior High School eighth grader, added.

“Doing this and going to games teaches the kids about being a fan and to enjoy the athletes that are out there and the atmosphere when you’re at the ballpark,” Jake Rosendale explained.

The Rosendales, however, were missing one member of the family at this event who, clearly, does not share loyalty for the Cardinals the way the folks who came to this event do. That missing member would be Jake’s wife, Tricia. She was not at this event because, for you see, she is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, Jake explained.

Young Fans Begin The Questioning: Third baseman and outfielder Tommy Erdman, Pitchers Daniel Ponce De Leon and Matthew Libertore, and Cards minor league infielder Nolan Gorman appeared during this visit to whet baseball appetites of 300 Cards faithful, young and old alike. In addition to current players, fans also got visit and get autographs from Cardinals alums Kyle McClellan and Bernard Gilkey, who also came along for this leg of the trip. Players were introduced and asked follow-up questions by Cardinals broadcaster Mike Claibourne. Members of Illinois State University’s baseball team also were present for this event.

“How great was last season?,” asked the emcee for the event, WJBC personality Marc Strauss asked fans to begin the 90-minute session, reminding the crowd the Cards won the Central Division title last season, not to mention making the postseason for the fifth time in nine years. The crowd responded with applause having been witness to their favorite team winning the National League Divisional Series 3 games to 2 over Atlanta, but falling to Washington in the NL championship series.

Youthful fans sat on the floor in front of the dais the players gathered at as the questioning of players about the upcoming season began. The first question came from a young fan who wanted to know who the team thought would make the bigs first, either Matthew Rutherford or Gorman. Gorman diplomatically said he hoped both he and Rutherford would arrive to play for St. Louis “on the same day.” The diplomatic answer drew applause from the gathering.

Another young fan asked Erdman what it was like to hit his first major league grand slam, as he did at Cincinnati in July. “It was a great feeling to run around the bases after that hit,” Erdman responded. That hit was just one of 11 homers Erdman hit last season contributing to a season where he had 99 hits including 17 doubles and 35 extra base hits since getting promoted to the majors in early June. He started in 75 of 92 games last season and led the team with 32 hits.

Another fan asked about, upon finding out they were being called up to the majors, who did players call and break the news to first. Gorman said he contacted his wife. “It was a cool moment for me, but only thing was I found out when I was playing catch. And since it was the first day of spring training, I couldn’t to the locker room to call my wife or anybody. So I told my teammates and then my parents.”

To the same question, Ponce De Leon said he contacted his father. Upon hearing the news, he said, “My father just started screaming. He said, ‘Woooooooo.’ You could hear him drop the phone and run around the house. He told my mom and it was pretty cool because he was, like, my number one fan.”

“I called my wife and my parents,” explained Edman. “Fortunately, they were all able to come out to Chicago. We had a crew of 10 or 15 people there.”

Gilkey said the reaction to the news when he called his folks was his parents. “My mom answered the phone and she was who I told first. She was totally elated by the news,” he explained, adding that when his father got on the line, he renewed the feeling he had about his son being able to make the big leagues. “He said, instead of telling me how happy he was, he went into a long schpeel about when I started playing in little league and told me then he thought I could make it.”

McLellan admitted to being nervous when he first took the mound as a major leaguer with St. Louis in a game against Colorado in 2008. His career lasted six seasons, ending with his retirement from the game in 2013 playing for the Texas Rangers.

Libertore said his trade from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Cardinals took, in reality, 25 minutes to transpire. He said he was going through workouts when the call came and after checking with his agent, called his father to alert him to it. “I am super happy to be here,” he told attendees.

NORMAL – A Normal Community High School sophomore and a junior from Bloomington High School received honors as Youth Award Winners at the 44th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Banquet held Saturday in the Brown Ballroom of Illinois State University’s Bone Student Center. The event is co-sponsored by the Human Relations Commissions of the City of Bloomington and the Town of Normal.

Dhruv Rebba, son of Hari and Shailaja Rebba, attends NCHS and was honored by being awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Award for the Town of Normal. Kaylin Richards, daughter of Nikita Richards, was honored by being awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Award for the City of Bloomington.

About Dhruv Rebba: Rebba, an NCHS sophomore, is involved in a number of charitable causes, most notably founding a group called Universal Health Foundation. The mission of this not-for-profit organization is to find creative solutions to help improve peoples’ lives worldwide, he explained. The group, which he founded in December 2018 has raised funds and given textbooks to seven different schools in India, schools he explained are in rural areas and below that country’s poverty line.

In addition to the books, Rebba explained, the non-profit has been able to provide the school with digitalization, a projector, a computer, and, as Rebba describes it, “an unobstructed power supply.” Money from family, friends, and matching grants in India paid for what has been provided to the school thus far, Rebba added. He said he is doing this while still taking honors and advanced placement classes at NCHS. “I just have to manage my time,” he explained about being able to do this while still in school.

Rebba said he also helping with an after-school Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, or STEM program for elementary school students in the community as well. He said the goal of that program is to draw youngsters’ interest in STEM at an early age.

About Kaylin Richards: Kaylin Richards is a junior at Bloomington High School is a volunteer for Bloomington-based Project Oz, serving on the group’s youth action board as well as being involved with the West Bloomington Revitalization Project. “With the action board at Project Oz, I do a lot with substance abuse prevention activities,” Richards explained. She also helps with the Veggie Oasis Project, bringing vegetables into sections of Bloomington where groceries are not close at hand. The Veggie Oasis Project is another Project Oz operation.

She wants to attend either Tuskegee University or Arizona State University where she desires to major in history education to help her pursue her dream of becoming a history teacher. She said she reached that conclusion having been taught by some of her BHS history teachers. “All the history teachers I have had a BHS have inspired me,” Richards said.

“I read a lot when I was younger and I have always been interested in the deeper meaning of where things come from,” Richards added. “It has just kind of stayed with me.”

Elaine Hill Awarded Normal’s Adult “King” Honor: Normal and Bloomington each also presented an adult with a Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, also based on nominations, as were the teen honorees. Normal’s adult honoree is Elaine Hill. Hill is a long-time board member of the Cultural Festival, something she has been involved with almost from the beginning of her living in Normal, having been with the festival for 40 years. She also volunteers with the Coalescence Theatre Project, and is a member of the board for the McLean County Museum of History. In addition, she is also involved with the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project.

Karen Schmidt Awarded Bloomington’s Adult “King” Honor: Bloomington’s adult honoree is Karen Schmidt, a retired Illinois Wesleyan University librarian. Schmidt volunteers with the “Not In Our Town” initiative, West Bloomington Revitalization Project, and the Book Bike. Schmidt served five terms on Bloomington’s City Council, and was a YWCA Women of Distinction award recipient in 2002.

Author/Lecturer Aaron Vessup Delivers Keynote: After the award winners were announced and introduced to the gathering, those in attendance heard from Aaron A. Vessup, who served as the very first human relations coordinator for the City of Bloomington. Mixing personal experience stories with humor that added a lesson mined from such stories, Vessup spoke of the human experience young blacks often encountered when he was a coming-of-age youth during the turbulent days when blacks were fighting for equal rights in the 1960s.

“Today, I would like to tell you how we define friends or how we define enemies,” Vessup said. He encouraged those in attendance to keep in mind who they are and from where they have received their values. He added his home life as a youngster and young man shaped the individual he has become, and encouraged the youth in the audience as well as the adults to keep in mind those same things as they proceed on in this life.