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High School Highlights

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by
Steve Robinson

Students Pick Up More Than Victories At Chess Championship

Regardless of your age, chess is not the easiest game to pick up. There is plenty of strategy one needs to consider to play it, even casually. So to learn the game and then engage in playing it at a competitive level takes every ounce of one’s concentration.
Kids of junior high age and younger don’t develop that kind of concentration when they come into the world, and therefore, they need a coach to help them hone it.
As head coach of Parkside Junior High School’s Chess team, Garrett Scott, the former member of the Normal Town Council, tries to impart such strategic thinking into young minds and has been doing so for a number of years.
One of those young minds belongs to Drake Walter, a seventh grader at PJHS, who made it to the event held this past weekend and organized by Bloomington-Normal Area Scholastic Chess, or BNASC. BNASC hosted the Illinois Chess Championship at the Carol A. Reitan Convention Center, part of the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel in Uptown Normal. A total of 60 teams, totaling 571 kids ranging in age from kindergarten to junior high age participated in the event. Another 1,500 people passed through the hotel as a result, including parents, grandparents, friends, and coaches.
Scott brought five of the eight players from his PJHS team to the event, each of whom qualified to participate through previous events. Walter, 13, first started playing while in second grade after seeing other kids being involved with the game and said he thought “it would be something good for me to do.” He’s been playing ever since, and now competitively under the watchful eyes of Scott.
Walter said Chess has taught him to “look for good moves” when facing an opponent, something he said can carry over to other aspects of his life. “In school, I take the time to think things through on tests,” explained Walter, son of Katie Walter, Normal. “I take time to make moves when I play. I think I’m going to do well and try my best here.”
Each player at this tournament played seven games to rack up points, one point per match and a half-point for a draw, to become a victor. But after winning his first match, Walter faltered as the weekend went on, losing the remaining six.
“He just couldn’t find a rhythm as he did at State Chess in January,” Scott reported. “He’s an interesting young man and I’ve enjoyed having him on our team.” Scott said Walter needs for what he’s taught about the game to stick with him when he faces an opponent. Sometimes at that point in life, we all need that same lesson.
Scott and his players go through each game afterward with their coaches, assessing strengths and weaknesses. Players chart each move they make during a game in a ledger they bring with them to all of their tournaments. Scott equates his going over that individual player’s ledger with them to a football coach reviewing game film with players.
Chess Helps Other Studies: Helen Reedy, mother of two boys – fifth grader Ryan, who attends Benjamin Elementary School; and seventh grader Colin, who attends George L. Evans Junior High School – said playing chess has helped her boys with their concentration and, in Ryan’s case, specifically, helped improve his grades in Math.
Event Served As Preparation For Super Nationals Event In Tennessee: Players at this event were grouped by grade level: Kindergarten through 3rd grade; Fourth and 5th grade; and 6th grade through 8th grade.
Amy Green, a co-organizer of the event with Jeff Sinn, said students who participated in the event received experience at the game while playing “kids you don’t normally play.” She said the event also served as preparation for kids who would compete in a Super National Tournament in July in Nashville, Tenn.
Green said Chess helps students with analytical and thinking skills, confirming the game’s contribution to assisting with improving math and science capabilities.
A high school classmate of mine, John Crew, taught me the game of Chess when we were fifth graders at Thomas Metcalf Elementary School. I admit I struggled with the game but I kept trying. We have to admire these young people for giving the game of Chess a chance to improve their analytical and social skills.
And I’m certain that, despite the setback he experienced at this event, Drake Walter will be back at a Chess board soon to continue sharpening his skills.


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New Experimental Rules Approved For Use In 2017 NIT Tournament
Basketball fans watching NIT games will notice a few differences, as the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel has approved experimental rules for the upcoming 2017 NIT postseason tournament.
The most notable changes that will be noticed is a reset of the team fouls to zero at the end of 10-minute segments of each half, and rules that will reset the shot clock to 20 seconds instead of 30 seconds at times when the ball is inbounded in the front court during games in the NIT.
In the experimental rule regarding resetting the team fouls, the one-and-one free throw bonus will not occur. Instead, teams will shoot two free throws in the following examples:
• Each team is limited to a team total of four personal and technical fouls during each 10-minute segment of each half and each team’s foul total will reset to zero when any 10-minute segment has ended.
• The first 10-minute segment of each half will begin when the ball becomes live to begin the half and will end when the game clock reads 10:00. The second segment will begin when the game clock reads 9:59 and ends when the half ends.
• When a team has reached the four-foul limitation, all subsequent personal and technical fouls will be penalized by two free throw attempts.
• The rules regarding penalties for fouls in the act of shooting, flagrant fouls or technical fouls will not be affected and will always result in two free throws unless the rules specifically say otherwise.
• In any overtime period, when a team has reached a total of three personal and technical fouls, all subsequent personal and technical fouls will be penalized by two free throw attempts.
 In the other experimental rule, the shot clock will remain the same as when play was interrupted or reset to 20 seconds, whichever is greater, at any time any of the following occurs:
• A personal foul by the defense, which results in no free throws, and the ball is inbounded in the front court.
• Any technical foul assessed against the defense, and the ball is inbounded in the front court.
• The game is stopped for a bleeding player or blood on a uniform and the ball is inbounded in the front court.
 Experimenting with these rules changes during the 31 games played in the 2017 NIT will provide valuable information for the Men’s Basketball Rules Committee to review during its May 2017 meeting. The committee will allow other postseason tournaments to use the experimental rules as well, if the tournaments agree to gather the appropriate data for review by the committee.





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Redbirds Shoot Past UC Irvine, Advance to NIT Second Round
Deontae Hawkins reached a career-high in 3-pointers (6) to lead Illinois State (28-6) to an 85-71 victory over UC Irvine (21-15) in the First Round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) Wednesday night on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena.
 Hawkins was just two points shy of tying his career high, scoring 22 points thanks to a perfect 6-for-6 effort from behind the arc and added five rebounds to lead the Redbirds to the victory.  He was joined in double figures by fellow senior and 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Paris Lee, who scored 13 points and added seven assists while committing no turnovers.  MiKyle McIntosh also netted 13 points for ISU and finished with a team-best eight rebounds against the Anteaters.
After UC Irvine won the tipoff, Illinois State’s Phil Fayne blocked a shot by Ioannis Dimakopoulos, and Hawkins netted a 3-pointer on the other end as ISU took a 5-0 lead. However, the Anteaters scored five-straight to tie the game at 5-5, before the Redbirds responded with a 10-3 run to take a 15-8 advantage on a Lee jumper at the 15-minute mark. UC Irvine manufactured a 6-2 run to pull within 17-14, but Illinois State scored seven-unanswered to lead by 10 points, 24-14, on a Fayne layup at the 10:38 mark. An 8-3 run by the Anteaters cut the Redbird lead to five point, 27-22, as Spencer Rivers netted a 3-pointer with 9:07 remaining in the first half.
The Redbirds proceeded to outscore UC Irvine, 14-3, over the next six minutes to build a 16-point advantage, 41-25, at the 3:07 mark. Lee netted a pair of 3-pointers during the scoring stretch. The Anteaters ended the half on a 9-2 run, including a buzzer-beating trifecta by Jaron Martin to trim Illinois State’s halftime lead to 43-34. ISU shot 17-for-34 (50.0 percent) in the first half compared to a 12-for-31 (38.7 percent) effort by UC Irvine. The Redbirds also committed just one first-half turnover.
Both teams exchanged baskets to start the second half, before Illinois State went on an 11-2 run to lead, 58-40, on a Lee 3-pointer with 15:46 remaining. However, UCI once again responded, this time by manufacturing a 12-1 run to pull within seven points at 59-52 with 12:05 remaining. UC Irvine further cut its deficit to six points at the 11:13 mark. But, seven-unanswered Redbird points established a double-digit advantage which the Redbirds never relinquished en route to the 85-71 victory.
Illinois State will now host Central Florida in the second round of the NIT on Monday, March 20, at 6 p.m. at Redbird Arena.




Women’s Basketball Battles to the End in Loss to No. 20/19 Drake
The Illinois State women’s basketball team saw its season come to an end Friday, March 10 in the quarterfinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, as the Redbirds (8-23) fell to No. 20/19 Drake, 64-40, inside the iWireless Center. The No. 1 seed Bulldogs (26-4) increased their win streak to 20 games and advanced to Saturday’s semifinals against either No. 4 seed Southern Illinois or No. 5 seed Wichita State.
Illinois State played one of its most-inspired games on the defensive end all season. The Redbirds held Drake, who entered the game averaging 83.9 points per game, to their third-lowest total of the season, as the Bulldogs scoring averaging ranks seventh in the country. Illinois State also held Drake to its lowest first-half scoring output of the season (20), with the nine points allowed in the second quarter and the 11 points allowed in the opening stanza becoming the second and third lowest-scoring quarters in the Bulldogs’ season.
The Redbirds, however, could not take advantage on offense, shooting 25 percent (12-of-48) for the game, including 24.0 percent (6-of-25) from 3-point range. Illinois State did win the rebounding battle, 36-33, and used a 13-8 lead in offensive rebounds to hold a 10-3 advantage in second-chance points. But the Redbirds committed 21 turnovers, and Drake took advantage by outscoring Illinois State, 31-6, in points off turnovers. The Redbird defense forced the Bulldogs into 14 miscues.
Beck paced the Redbirds with 13 points, while Beachum and Stewart tallied 10 points in their final collegiate game. Stewart also handed out a team-high three assists, while Green pulled down a game-high seven caroms to go along with a team-best two steals.

Barb Smith Not Retained As Redbird Women’s Basketball Coach
After four seasons, Illinois State women’s basketball coach Barb Smith will not return next season, ISU Director of Athletics Larry Lyons announced Saturday.
“After evaluating our women’s basketball program, we believe a change in direction of the program is necessary, thus Barb Smith will not be retained as our head coach,” Lyons said. “Decisions such as this are very difficult, and we do not make them without very thoughtful consideration.
“Our expectations for our women’s basketball program are to compete for Missouri Valley Conference championships and postseason opportunities. We will continue to excel in the classroom and will be leaders on campus and in our community. We will honor all terms of Barb’s contract and thank her for everything she has done for our women’s basketball student-athletes. We wish her the best moving forward, and we will begin the process to find our next head coach immediately.”
“I would like to thank Larry Lyons, Leanna Bordner and Illinois State University for an extraordinary experience,” Smith said. “I fell in love with Illinois State and the Bloomington/Normal community. This is a great institution, with genuine people and a community that really supports ISU. I would like to thank all the coaches, players and support staff that worked so hard. I will always be grateful.”
In her four seasons at Illinois State, Smith’s teams accumulated an overall record of 28-93 and a 20-52 in MVC play.






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