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High School Highlights

Steve Robinson Photo
by
Steve Robinson

West’s Higgins, U-High’s Blythe Named Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Award Winners

On Saturday, the Twin Cities honored two young people whose time has been spent not just helping others but also foster tolerance, understanding, exclusivity, and showing a dedication to service – ideals promoted and lived by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The 42nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards Luncheon was held at the Carol A. Reitan Conference Center of the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel in Uptown Normal. Roughly 800 people attended the event which was emceed by Normal Town Council Member Chemberly Cummings.
This year’s   Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Awards went to two young people who both attend high schools in Normal. The honoree for the Town of Normal is Xavier Higgins, a senior at Normal Community West High School. The City of Bloomington’s honoree is Jordyn Blythe, a senior at University High School.
Xavier Higgins: While at Normal West, Xavier Higgins has volunteered with the Best Buddies Program, working his way to serving on the group’s Board. According to the group’s website, the organization was founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver which has grown from one original chapter at Georgetown University to more than 2,300 chapters worldwide, positively impacting the lives of over 1.1 million people with and without intellectual disabilities. Higgins works with other students involved in the program to help foster meaningful friendships between students and assist students who have physical and intellectual disabilities.
In doing so, the program helps those students Best Buddies benefit from by being able to develop life skills. As a leader within the program, Higgins has dedicated himself to increasing student participation and volunteerism in the program among the students at Normal West.
Higgins admitted that prior to joining Best Buddies, he hadn’t had much exposure to students with disabilities. “One day, sitting at lunch, I saw this poster for Best Buddies, and I felt something in my heart that said, ‘Hey – why don’t you just go and try it out and see how it goes,’ and I ended up loving it.”
“I have learned from this experience that no matter who they are or where they are from that everyone’s the same because we all have dreams and aspirations, and we all want to have a good time,” Higgins explained. Xavier is the son of Andrew and Naiomi Higgins. Higgins said he’s a fan of technology and wants to help others learn how they can benefit from it.
  Jordyn Blythe: A senior at University High School, Jordyn Blythe’s efforts have involved activities which look at changing others’ lives for the better. That included co-founding an organization called Serve Plus One which offers teens opportunities for service to others. In addition, the members discuss and reflect on their work being done. Jordyn has also helped found the Black Student Union at the school, where the members address social justice issues.
Jordyn is also the teen legislative chair for Jack And Jill of America. According to its website, Jack and Jill of America, Inc., “is a membership organization of mothers with children ages 2 – 19, dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty.”
She has also been involved with efforts concerning the Home Sweet Home Mission and BroMenn Medical Center. She said she has been participating in public service since she was small but her first formal effort was with the local March of Dimes Walk at age 10.
“I love working with the March of Dimes, and I love working with kids,” Jordyn said. Even with all she has listed being involved with, she also finds time to volunteer at the Children’s Discovery Museum in Uptown Normal. She does these things she said, because “being able to make a difference in people’s lives is really important.”
Blythe credits her parents, Marcel and Kia Blythe for instilling the volunteering instinct within her.
Higgins and Blythe don’t just have volunteering and being honored for it in common. When asked about their college plans, both say they are still mulling options as to where they will attend classes after high school.
Knecht Advises “Vote For Hope”:  James A. Knecht, a Justice of the Appellate Court, Fourth District, who has been a judicial officer for 42 years, was the guest speaker at the luncheon. Judge Knecht won the Town of Normal’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award in 2000. Knecht encouraged attendees, among other things, to not abstain from being involved in the political process if their goal is to make things better for their fellow citizens.
He asked attendees “to cast aside fear and vote for hope.”
It would appear that even though they aren’t of voting age yet, Xavier Higgins and Jordyn Blythe have been doing just that – by their actions voting for hope that what they are doing through their work will not just benefit the members of the groups they belong and serve. But that what they have been doing will continue to help fellow and future students, and by extension of their actions, help their community as a whole.

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NCHS Stays Undefeated After Week 2, Beating BHS, 54-30

by Steve Robinson
NORMAL – Prior to the start of Normal Community High School’s game against Bloomington High School at Ironmen Field Friday, both teams were notched on top of the Big 12 Conference standings having won their individual Week 1 games. But after their head-to head showdown, it was the Ironmen who remained undefeated, having thrilled a home crowd with a 54-30 victory. The win gave the Ironmen a 2-0 record overall, which included in the Big 12 Conference standings.
The first half was highlighted by three key NCHS drives for the scores. The first being junior quarterback Daylen Boddie’s dash for a 73 yard touchdown followed by an extra point try by junior kicker Josue Nsukami, giving the Ironmen a quick 7-0 lead. That was followed by a 45 yard scoring run by senior running back Varshaun Dixon after which Nsukami missed the extra point, upping the lead to 13-0.
Later in the same quarter, Bloomington got on the scoreboard with an 85 yard kickoff return by junior wide receiver Drew Crooks, but missed the point after, cutting NCHS’ lead, 13-6. Boddie would counter with a 43 yard scoring dash to complete the Ironmen’s next possession, putting NCHS up, 20-6, after Nsukami’s next extra point. There would be one more score before another large scoring march took place courtesy of Dixon, dashing 53 yards for a touchdown, followed by another Nsukami kick, putting NCHS up, 34-6 at 8:48 in the second quarter.
Senior running back C. J. Chastain’s 94 yard interception return for a touchdown at 3:37 in the second quarter, followed up by a missed Nsukami extra point would give NCHS a 40-6 lead with 3:30 left until halftime.
A 10-yard scoring pass from senior quarterback Colton Sandage to junior wide receiver Griffen Kolic cut NCHS’ lead, 40-12 by halftime, following a failed BHS 2-point scoring run try.
NCHS senior wide receiver Jalen Coleman’s 43 yard scoring dash four plays into the third quarter, followed by junior Camron Hinman’s extra point, pushed NCHS up, 47-12 with 11:31 left in the quarter. As a result of their being a 30-point difference in the score, game officials were required to employ a continuously running clock, stopping it only for team timeouts or injury timeouts.
An interception halted the next drive for BHS (1-1 overall and Big 12 Conference), and placed the ball on the Purple Raiders’ 13 yard line. From there, Boddie ran for NCHS’ next score at 9:26 in the third quarter followed by Nuskami’s next extra point. That allowed NCHS’s lead to climb to 54-12.
But that turned out to be the final points the Ironmen would score in the game. The Purple Raiders would score once to close out the third quarter as Sandage scored from one yard out, 54-18, followed by a failed 2-point attempt at the 1:03 mark. 
Sandage scored from 7 yards out at 4:35 in the fourth quarter, but a 2-point conversion failed, although it did slice NCHS’ lead to 54-24. The Purple Raiders’ last score of the night was a 47 yard touchdown pass from Sandage to senior wide receiver James Ellis in the closing minutes of the contest, followed by a failed 2-point try, resulting in the final score.
“There was a really good first half on both sides of the ball,” said NCHS head coach Wes Temples. “Our kids were locked in early and did well.”
“Our kids were excited for the opportunity,” Temples added. “I think our kids came to play with a different mindset than they had in a while, so it was fun to watch.”
“What hurts the most is the feeling you could have beat them,” lamented BHS head coach Joe Walters. He added interceptions Sandage threw early in the game may have rattled the 6 foot-2, 195 pound senior quarterback.





Redbird Women Lose to Sycamores in Fourth Quarter Battle
 Illinois State Women’s Basketball fell 52-49 in a thrilling fourth quarter fight at Indiana State University on Sunday, Jan. 21.
Redbirds won possession and quickly put up two in the first minute of the game. Indiana State responded with an eight-point run to take the lead. Katrina Beck tightened the gap for the Redbirds as she netted a 3-pointer with 5:15 on the clock. Illinois State faced difficulty from the field and the Sycamores took advantage. Illinois State trailed 16-8 at the conclusion of the first quarter.
Redbirds tightened the gap to 16-13 with a jump shot from Megan Talbot and a 3-pointer from Paige Saylor to open the second quarter. The Sycamores were held up by the Illinois State defense and were only able to put in nine points, compared to Illinois State’s 15. Redbirds closed out the first half strong, scoring six points in the last two minutes to trail 25-23.
The Redbirds were on a relentless pursuit in the third quarter and tied the game for the first time since the start of the game with 7:52 on the clock. The teams battled it out in back-and-forth style throughout the third, but the Redbirds powered through, outscoring the Sycamores 18-13. Illinois State led 41-38 at the end of the third.
Katrina Beck was fouled and scored two at the charity stripe to open the final quarter of the game. Sycamores responded with a jump shot to trail 43-40. The Redbirds held a lead over the Sycamores until the final three minutes. Ashley Taia sunk a 3-pointer to put the Sycamores ahead 45-43.Redbirds tied it up 45-45 with a layup by Beck with 3:05 on the clock. The Sycamores closed out the game with a five-point run to capture a 52-49 victory.


MVC Tournament Tickets and Hotel Fan Blocks Now Available
The 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament tickets and hotel packages are now on sale for men’s and women’s basketball.
ARCH MADNESS
MVC MEN’S TOURNAMENT
March 1-4, 2018                                          
Scottrade Center – St. Louis, MO
All-session tickets to the 2018 MVC Men’s Basketball Tournament are available through the Illinois State Athletics ticket office by either calling (309) 438-8000, or by visiting GoRedbirds.com/Tickets, with all-session seating available for a special early bird rate of $155 before Jan.15. Seats will be located in the Illinois State fan section.
The Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch will once again serve as Illinois State’s official home base during 2018 Arch Madness. A limited number of discounted rooms are available for fans who stay at the Hyatt Regency while cheering on the Redbirds. Price is $162/night based on single and double occupancy; $187/night based on triple and quadruple occupancy. Deadline is Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 or while available. Call 1-888-421-1442 and ask for the “ISU Basketball Fan Block” or click here. Two-night minimum length of stay. Each reservation will need a valid credit card for a reservation to be made. At the time of making their reservation the guest will be charged a two (2) night, refundable deposit. Standard 24-hour cancellation will apply to each reservation. If a guest cancels within 24 hours, they will forfeit their deposit.
HOOPS IN THE HEARTLAND MVC WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT
March 8-11, 2018
Taxslayer Center – Moline, IL
All-session tickets to the 2018 MVC Women’s Basketball Tournament are available through the Illinois State Athletics ticket office by either calling (309) 438-8000, or by visiting GoRedbirds.com/Tickets, with all-session seating available for a special rate of $40.
Hotel Blackhawk, Autograph Collection in Davenport, Iowa, will serve as the Illinois State home base during the 2018 Hoops in the Heartland tournament. Price: $139/night. Deadline is Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018 or while available. To make a reservation: Call Samantha Ott at (563) 484-5906 and ask for “Illinois State University MVC Fan Block.” All reservations must be accompanied by a first-night room deposit or guaranteed with a major credit card. Any reservations made must be cancelled no later than 48 hours prior to arrival.

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Steve Robinson

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Lady Redbirds Defeat Valparaiso 63-55

Illinois State Women’s Basketball prevailed over the Crusaders in the final minutes to capture their second-
straight MVC game on Sunday, Feb. 4 at Redbird Arena.

Valpo opened up the game with shot in the paint, but Megan Talbot responded quickly for the Birds with a three-
point play. Talbot was fouled on her take to the basket and went 1-for-1 at the charity stripe to put the Birds up 3-2

with 8:52 on the clock in the first. Both teams flirted with the lead, but the Birds would finish ahead 10-9 at the
conclusion of the first quarter.
The teams continued to battle throughout the entirety of the first half and would end tied at 24-24 at the halftime
buzzer. Talbot led all scorers at the half with 10 points.
Valparaiso opened the second half with a 5-0 run to pull a 29-24 lead. Hannah Green was fouled and went to the
line, going 2-for-2 to trail 29-26. Simone Goods put in another two to tighten the deficit, but the Crusaders fired back
with another 5-point streak to lead 34-29. The Redbirds responded with a 7-0 run with shots by Goods, Green and
a 3-pointer from Paige Saylor. This would give the Birds their first lead of the second half, and they would carry it to
the end of the third. The Redbirds entered the final quarter ahead 39-38.
The back-and-forth theme remained consistent in the fourth, but the Redbirds prevailed over the Crusaders to
earn their first conference weekend sweep since the 2013-14 season.

Lady Redbirds Roll Past Ramblers 57-49
Illinois State Women’s Basketball took a lead in the second quarter of the Friday, Feb 2nd home contest and
never looked back, defeating the Loyola Ramblers 57-49 to split the series.
Hannah Green won the tip for the Redbirds and drove for a layup to start the game up 2-0. The Ramblers
responded with a 7-0 run to pull the lead with 7:21 on the clock in the first. The Birds fired back with an 8-0 streak
and the teams battled it out. At the conclusion of the first quarter, the teams were tied with 13 each.
The Redbirds outscored the Ramblers 17-6 in the second quarter to find themselves up 30-19 at halftime. The
Birds opened the second quarter with four points from Paige Saylor and never looked back. Loyola could not find a
way around the Redbird defense and Illinois State took advantage.
The Ramblers trailed by as little as nine points in the third, but the Redbirds remained on top and finished the
third 48-38.
Katrina Beck came out on fire for the Redbirds netting eight straight to push the Redbirds up 46-31. The
Ramblers battled for a comeback and trailed 47-40 with 4:38 to play in the game. The game came down to the wire
as Loyola put in two 3-pointers back-to-back to trail by two points with a minute to play. Beck came through for the
Birds and finished strong sinking a three with 42 seconds on the clock to put the Birds up 54-49. Loyola tried to buy
time and sent the Birds to the line, Redbirds finished the game victorious, capturing a 57-49 victory.

Redbirds Use Balanced Effort to Hold Off Aces
Three players scored in double-figures, and all 10 players that saw action scored at least two points as the
Illinois State Redbirds out-lasted the Evansville Aces, led by star Ryan Taylor who scored a game-high 32 points,
by a 75-71 score on Saturday, February 3rd at Redbird Arena.
The Redbirds jumped out quickly, scoring the first seven points of the game on a lay-in by Phil Fayne, two free
throws from Daouda N’Diaye, and a three-pointer from Madison Williams, and the Illinois State lead grew to as
many as 13 in the opening half after a Keyshawn Evans three-pointer pushed Illinois State’s advantage to 25-12,
halfway through the first half. The Aces fought back, and closed the half strong, shrinking the deficit to one at 34-33
at the halftime horn.
Evansville jumped out quickly out of the halftime break, taking its first lead of the game on a Taylor made a
jumper eight seconds into the half, giving Illinois State its first deficit over the last three games – a streak of 100
minutes played without trailing. The Aces’ advantage grew to as many as three, and the game was tied at 45 with
12:54 to play before Illinois State ran off seven consecutive points on a Taylor Bruninga three-pointer, an Elijah
Clarance jumper, and a Fayne dunk. That two-minute run helped propel Illinois State into an advantage it would not
give up for the remainder of the game. Despite the Illinois State lead standing as high as seven, Evansville fought
back, climbing to within as few as two; however, the Redbirds iced the game at the free throw line, the final coming
from Matt Hein with four seconds left, securing the Redbirds’ third consecutive win.
Key Moment of the Game

Leading by three points with 15 seconds to play, Williams blocked a potentially-game-tying three-point attempt
from Taylor, as Hein came down with the rebound, where he made a free throw to put the game out of reach for the
visitors.

Inside the Box Score

• Hein scored a career-high 13 points, making 3-of-9 shots from the field, 2-of-5 from long range, and 5-of-6 from
the charity stripe.
• Fayne recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds, which snapped a streak
of four consecutive games of which he missed a double-double by a combined six rebounds.
• Milik Yarbrough also tied for the team-high with 13 points, while pulling down seven rebounds and dishing out a
game-high-tying five assists.
• Daouda N’Diaye scored eight points with five rebounds, and a career-high-tying six blocked shots in 25 minutes
of action. The six blocks tied his previous career high, which was set last season on January 29 against Evansville.
• As a team, Illinois State’s eight blocked shots are the highest this season.
• The team made 21 free throws in the game.
• Evansville’s Ryan Taylor scored 32 points, the most scored by an individual against the Redbirds since Sterling
Gibbs scored 40 for Seton Hall on November 24, 2014.
• ISU has trailed for just 4:50 over the team’s last three games

MVC Tournament Tickets and Hotel Fan Blocks Now Available
The 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament tickets and hotel packages are now on sale for men’s and
women’s basketball.

ARCH MADNESS
MVC MEN’S TOURNAMENT
March 1-4, 2018
Scottrade Center – St. Louis, MO

All-session tickets to the 2018 MVC Men’s Basketball Tournament are available through the Illinois State
Athletics ticket office by either calling (309) 438-8000, or by visiting GoRedbirds.com/Tickets, with all-session
seating available for a special early bird rate of $155 before Jan.15. Seats will be located in the Illinois State fan
section.
The Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch will once again serve as Illinois State’s official home base during 2018
Arch Madness. A limited number of discounted rooms are available for fans who stay at the Hyatt Regency while

cheering on the Redbirds. Price is $162/night based on single and double occupancy; $187/night based on triple
and quadruple occupancy. Deadline is Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 or while available. Call 1-888-421-1442 and ask for the
“ISU Basketball Fan Block” or click here. Two-night minimum length of stay. Each reservation will need a valid
credit card for a reservation to be made. At the time of making their reservation the guest will be charged a two (2)
night, refundable deposit. Standard 24-hour cancellation will apply to each reservation. If a guest cancels within 24
hours, they will forfeit their deposit.

HOOPS IN THE HEARTLAND MVC WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT

March 8-11, 2018
Taxslayer Center – Moline, IL

All-session tickets to the 2018 MVC Women’s Basketball Tournament are available through the Illinois State
Athletics ticket office by either calling (309) 438-8000, or by visiting GoRedbirds.com/Tickets, with all-session
seating available for a special rate of $40.
Hotel Blackhawk, Autograph Collection in Davenport, Iowa, will serve as the Illinois State home base during the
2018 Hoops in the Heartland tournament. Price: $139/night. Deadline is Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018 or while available.
To make a reservation: Call Samantha Ott at (563) 484-5906 and ask for “Illinois State University MVC Fan Block.”
All reservations must be accompanied by a first-night room deposit or guaranteed with a major credit card. Any
reservations made must be cancelled no later than 48 hours prior to arrival.



  

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