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BLOOMINGTON – It was a basketball play that probably had even the fans wondering why players for teams from Normal Community High School and East St. Louis Senior High School weren’t wearing pads as they would on the gridiron.
With just nine seconds on the clock of the Large School Boys Championship game of the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Classic, and NCHS up, 39-38, East St. Louis 6 foot-5 senior guard Christian Jones received the in-bounds pass and looked determined to make a winning basket for the Flyers.
But there was just one man standing in his way: NCHS senior center Tyler Dwinal. Jones collided with Dwinal with 2.5 seconds remaining, sending the 6 foot-5 Ironmen player to the free throw line. His first shot missed the basket, but his second shot fell through, giving NCHS a two-point advantage, 40-38. A failed shot by East St. Louis junior guard Macaleab Rich missed its mark as the final buzzer sounded giving the Ironmen the victory.
Surrounded by local media following the victory, NCHS head coach Dave Witzig told reporters his team “was having fun and they care about each other. We have seven seniors, five play a lot and two don’t play very much. All seven are all in and care about the team and those seven seniors are all in and care about the right things.”
About playing and defeating the Flyers twice in the month of December, Witzig said he was really proud of his squad’s defense in having only allowed this opponent to score 38 points this time after NCHS only allowed them to score 37 on them in the earlier contest.
Witzig said the charge Dwinal took from an opponent was the 13th such body blow he has sustained from opponents this season. “He’s doing an incredible job on those things,” Witzig said of a 6 foot-5 senior who has been used to that kind of play from being a tight end on the Ironmen football team.
“I’m really proud of how our guys played defense,” Witzig said.
“I really don’t have anything to say,” stated East St. Louis head coach Mark Chambers following the contest. He mistakenly added NCHS was “on their home court.” His last assessment of the game was that “they beat us. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
“There was nothing they did special or anything different from what I expected,” he continued, adding about the Ironmen, “They were physical, they were tough. “We knew they were going to be physical; we knew they were going to bump us. We knew they were going to do a lot of things, but at the end of the day, we have to control what we can control and we didn’t do that.
Chambers recalled how his team did against the Ironmen at the Southern Illinois Shootout Tournament in Mount Vernon, Ill. last month, losing to NCHS, 50-37. Of that confrontation and adding this latest defeat to it, he said, “We didn’t play well the first game, and we feel like we didn’t play well this game.”
Game Recap: A trey by Jones aided the Flyers causing NCHS to trail East St. Louis after the first quarter by one, 11-10. Second quarter deuces by senior forward Zach Cleveland and sophomore forward Zaheem Webber topped by a trey from Cleveland at 1:02 before halftime pushed NCHS in front, 17-14, and the Ironmen stayed there the rest of the contest. By the end of the third quarter, NCHS owned a 27-22 lead.
With three field goals, one 3-pointer, and going 5-for-8 from the free throw line, senior forward Zach Cleveland was the only Ironmen player in double figures in the contest, pocketing 14 points. East St. Louis’ Jones ended the night with 12 points and was followed by junior forward Demarion Brown with 10 points.
E. St. Louis 11 3 8 16 38
Normal Comm. 10 7 10 13 40
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Normal West Girls Win, 55-50, Over Bloomington
By Steve Robinson
BLOOMINGTON – Normal Community West High School’s girls’ basketball team got halfway to .500 for the season following their 55-50 win in the girls’ semifinal in the consolation round of the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament. The Wildcats faced Bloomington High School on the Purple Raiders’ home court on Dec. 29.
Normal West (5-10), seeded 13th in the tourney, wound up in the consolation bracket after falling in their opening round game against Geneseo Dec. 27. From there, the Wildcats went straight to the consolation round where they defeated 12th seed Champaign Centennial before facing the Purple Raiders. On Dec. 30, the Wildcats tangled with 10th seed Wheaton Warrenville South and lost, 60-43.
Although Purple Raiders junior guard Katie Barger scored the opening basket giving Bloomington a fast 2-0 lead, Normal West reeled off 5 unanswered points, starting with fouled West junior guard Ashley Wilcox going 1-for-2 from the free throw line to give the Wildcats their first point of the game. That was quickly followed by a 6-0 slew with baskets from senior guard Monie Howard, junior guard Emily Kobel, and senior guard Megan Williams, giving West a quick 7-2 lead prompting BHS head coach Austin Myers to call timeout at 3:48 in the opening quarter.
Coming out of that timeout, a trey by junior guard Emily Kobel pushed Normal West up, 10-5, but senior forward Melissa Hilt’s bucket with just under two minutes left cut West’s lead, 10-7. West’s lead went up to 11-7 when Joselyn Gale went 1-for-2 from the free throw line increasing that lead to 11-7. BHS junior forward Makaya Phillips’ basket closed that lead to 11-9 but two more free throws from West junior guard Emily Kobel brought that lead back up again to 13-9 with 47.6 seconds left. A free throw by BHS senior guard Crissiana Rose cut that lead to 13-10 but a deuce by freshman guard Shelby Sennett allowed West to own a 15-10 lead going into the second quarter.
Kobel opened the second quarter with another trey at the 6:30 mark upping West’s lead, 18-10 and was responded to with a deuce by BHS’ Rose followed by a trey for the Wildcats by Sennett, pushing the Wildcats’ lead to nine, 21-12, with 3:56 left in the quarter, and prompting BHS’ Myers to call another timeout. An exchange of baskets following that by West’s Sennett and BHS’ Hilt gave West a 23-14 lead and had BHS’ Myers calling for another timeout with 2:05 until halftime.
Coming out of that timeout, Hilt would strike a layup for BHS and Sennett would score for West giving the Wildcats a 25-16 lead entering halftime.
After the break, BHS mounted an 8-0 attack beginning with a free throw from Hilt who was fouled to begin the quarter, and followed that up with a basket, closing West’s lead to six, 25-19, at 6:55 in the quarter. A deuce each from freshman forward Sosi Dadekian and Hilt cut West’s lead to two, 25-23 at 5:52 left in the quarter, prompting Wildcats head coach Darrellyn Dunn to call time.
Following the timeout, senior guard Megan Williams’ deuce added a basket increasing NCHS’ lead to 27-23. BHS quickly responded with a basket from Hilt during which she was fouled and added a free throw and after Normal West didn’t make a basket, junior guard Katie Barger added a jumper giving BHS its first lead of the game, 28-27, with 5:07 left in the third quarter. Wildcats senior guard Megan Williams responded with a trey with four minutes left in the quarter and Hilt responded with a basket, tying the game at 30-all, with 3:01 left in the quarter. From there, West went on a 6-0 run featuring baskets by West’s Gale, giving the Wildcats a 36-32 lead until a last basket in the quarter for BHS by Phillips. Going into the fourth quarter, West clinged to a 36-34 lead.
West’s Wilcox led off the scoring in the fourth quarter with a deuce while being fouled and followed up with a free throw, extending her team’s lead to 39-34. Hilt quickly responded with a trey and another basket, tying the score at 39-all with just under six minutes left in the contest. But Wildcat baskets, a trey and a deuce by Sennett, were unanswered except for two missed free throws by BHS senior forward Makenna Grisinger, aiding West to take a 46-39 lead.
Following an officials’ timeout, a basket by Barger, followed by West fouls that send Dadekian and Hilt to the free throw line for a combined 3-for-4, and reduced West’s lead to two, 46-44 with less than two minutes left in the game.
Sennett next hit a jumper for the Wildcats with 59.7 seconds left in the game prompting BHS to call timeout. Coming out of the timeout, a BHS foul sent Wilcox to the free throw line where she hit both shots, increasing West’s lead to 50-44 with 55.1 seconds left. BHS junior guard Marley Davis’ follow-up trey with 41.7 seconds left cut West’s lead to three, 50-47.
Following the timeout, Barger’s jumper as seconds ticked down cut West’s lead to two, 51-49, and a West foul sent BHS’ Hilt to the free throw line where she made 1-of-2, reducing West’s lead to one, 51-50. BHS immediately was called for committing a foul on Kobel with 13 seconds left, who sank two free throws, giving West a 53-50 advantage with 11.4 seconds left, where West called timeout.
When West players set foot on the court again, BHS immediately called timout themselves. As action resumed, West’s Kobel was immediately fouled and went to the free throw line with 3.2 seconds left where she hit both shots resulting in the final score.
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