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High School Highlights

Steve Robinson Photo
by
Steve Robinson

Unit 5 Boys’ Rivalry Game Doubles As Heart Association Fundraiser

The last of the regular season basketball games between Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School, during which a charity benefitted, was played on Jan. 16 at Normal West. The American Heart Association was the charity receiving the donations through the sales of  T-Shirts at this event and many of the students were decked out in red in some form if they did not buy the ones on sale.
There was an annual “Pink Game” event at the girls’ basketball game between the Unit 5 rivals on Jan. 10 that benefited the American Cancer Society.
But getting back to the “Red Out” game, the sophomore boards of both schools pooled efforts, thus making this fundraising event possible. West teacher Peg Modglin is the Sophomore Board advisor at her school and Christy Engel is the Sophomore Board advisor at NCHS.
“I think the kids enjoy having games that are theme-based, like this one,” Modglin said of how successful efforts like this one have become over its five-year history. “I think the kids enjoy supporting a cause along with supporting the intercity competition.”
“We sold T-shirts in the week leading up to the game and tried to spread the word about what the American Heart Association does,” Engel added, in describing the efforts that went on at NCHS.
Being the visiting team for this game this year, NCHS mainly sold T-Shirts in the week leading up to this event, Engle said, while Normal West had some basketball-related games for students to take part in during their lunch hours in the school’s atrium. Modglin said one of the AHA’s themes, “Life Is Why…” was also incorporated for kids to get involved, taking goofy pictures of themselves wearing big hats and sunglasses, or Hawaiian leis or other such novelties.
If that tagline needed an explanation, Amy McKuhen, youth market director for AHA, provides it. “We need to pay attention to how we’re living our lives, making sure we’re exercising and eating healthy, and taking care of our bodies because it’s our life.”
“The theme was meant to help talk to kids about celebrating life and being healthy,” Modglin said. She said the T-shirts sold out for the first time this year at Normal West, an indication to her “that the interest is growing by the T-Shirt sales alone,” she said. When Normal West sold out of the $10 T-Shirts, they had raised $590, which is just a chunk of the money this event normally brings in for AHA. Modglin said this was the first year the school had completely sold all of their T-shirts in the five-year history of this event.
Over the course of the five years that this charity event has gone on with the two high schools being involved, a total of nearly $5,000 has been raised for AHA, explained McKuhen. McKuhen said she felt as though there was a larger crowd for the event this year than in past years. She said that could be an indication that “There’s more awareness of the event. More people are talking about it. I think, this year, we collaborated that much more with the Sophomore Boards from both schools. I think that’s really making a difference this year.”
“Keeping the students aware of unfortunate things that can affect their lives and the lives of their family members, such as heart attacks, congestive heart failure, and other such things is important to be aware of, and know that both of the high schools work as a community to support causes like this and try to bring awareness to our students so that they can grow up to be healthy adults,” Modglin said.
And clearly, it’s never too early to start. Just ask Normal West Special Education teacher Tonya Stillwell and her daughter, Myah, a sixth grader at George L. Evans Junior High School, both of whom were volunteering to help sell T-shirts during the game.
“I try to bring to the kids’ attention the importance of staying healthy and to exercise, and to bring awareness to what it means to have a healthy heart,” Tonya Stillwell said. Her son, Trey, is a sophomore at Normal West.
By my guess, I would say there were 2,200 people who turned out for the game, which meant they made a donation as they came through the door. “I’m ecstatic at the turnout we have tonight,” McKuhen said. “It’s also great to see the people coming in to the game who are already wearing red and black in support of this event, as well as seeing people making donations.”
On another subject, it may be winter, but I think we are all, already, itching for some outdoor activity, namely Normal CornBelters baseball. On Thursday, Jan. 22, the CornBelters will hold their 2nd Annual Hot Stove Dinner at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel & Carol A. Reitan Conference Center. The keynote speaker for the event is Lee Smith. A seven-time Major League Baseball All-Star, Smith has spent time with both the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals. It ought to be a fun evening.


Thompson, Oltman Lead NCHS Boys To Outpace Normal West, 49-41
by Steve Robinson
From the start, the 2014-15 basketball season has been one Normal Community West High School has had to struggle through. But for one- half of the contest against cross-town Unit 5 rival Normal Community High School, signs the struggle were easing showed themselves before the Ironmen regrouped toward a 49-41 victory. The win completes a season sweep of the Wildcats for NCHS, who beat Normal West during the season-opening Intercity Tournament, 47-27, on Dec. 1.
Visiting NCHS, ranked 6th in Class 4A), jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead on unanswered back-to-back baskets by senior forward Alex Peacock and senior forward David Boyd. A pair of free throws by West junior guard Josh Robinson cut that lead, 4-2. a layup by Peacock gave NCHS a 6-2 lead before Normal West junior guard Tim O’Brien single-handedly exchanged threes with Ironmen senior guard Duane Farrington and senior forward Tyler Seibring, to help West keep pace, as NCHS took a 12-8 lead at the 3:33 mark. West senior forward Austin Zobrist closed out the quarter hitting two unanswered baskets, a deuce and a trey, to close out the quarter, giving the Wildcats a 13-12 lead.
Senior guard Zach Thompson hit a trey at 3:18 in the second quarter to put NCHS up, 15-13. A free throw by West junior center Kyle Stork cut the lead to one, 15-14, before Thompson reeled off five unanswered points, including a three, to put NCHS up, 20-14, with 2:09 until halftime. West’s Stork and NCHS senior guard Connor Oltman exchanged deuces before Zobrist sank a trey for West with 30.1 seconds left in the half, cutting NCHS’ lead, 22-19, to start the third quarter.
NCHS’ Peacock and West’s Robinson exchanged buckets to open the third quarter, allowing NCHS to maintain a 24-19 advantage before Seibring hit another trey for NCHS, giving the Ironmen a 27-21 edge at the 5:48 mark in the quarter. Robinson, having been fouled by NCHS’ Boyd, sank two free throws to pull West within four, 27-23, before Thompson and Seibring hit back-to-back threes, giving the Ironmen a 33-23 lead with 2:32 left in the quarter. Robinson would hit a trey, followed by a deuce from Peacock, giving NCHS a 35-26 lead going into the fourth quarter.
 Robinson converted a three-point play after being fouled by Seibring, and sank a deuce to allow West (7-8 and 1-3 in Big 12 Conference after this game) to come within four, 35-31, with 6:11 remaining in the game. But a trey by Farrington gave NCHS a 38-31 lead, at the 5:36 mark. Following a deuce by West’s Robinson, Thompson and Robinson exchanged treys, keeping NCHS out front, 41-35 at the 2:54 mark. Robinson would sink 1-of-2 free throws after being fouled by NCHS senior guard Tyler Vance, before West would get into foul trouble late in the contest.
That foul trouble would send Seibring and Thompson to the line for NCHS where they would convert a combined 3-of-4, giving the Ironmen a 44-36 lead with 1:06 left. Boyd would foul West’s Robinson, again sending him to the line, sinking both foul shots, cutting the Ironmen lead to six, 44-38, with 50.6 seconds remaining. But Peacock and Seibring would both each be fouled, allowing them to go the line where they would make a combined 3-of-4, pushing NCHS up, 47-38.
Thompson and Seibring led the Ironmen with double-digits, scoring 16 points and 14, respectfully. Robinson was the lone double-digit scorer for the Wildcats, pocketing 24.
To NCHS head coach Dave Witzig, this contest was another example of a very competitive Ironmen-Wildcats showdown. “They are very intense, very physical. Thompson had a great game tonight. I thought we did just enough on defense to stop them, but it was just a very tough, physical game. West plays great defense, and on offense, they are very patient. We knew it was going to be tough and very physical, and we saw West was improving.”
Wildcats head coach Brian Cupples admitted he “thought we had a bad start in the second half, we struggled to score, and were playing from a deeper hole there. I love the kids we have, and we’ve gotten a lot better. In the last two weeks, our togetherness and our effort has really come a long way. I’m proud of my kids and I hope that we can keep getting better.”
Normal West’s junior varsity squad needed overtime to defeat NCHS, 38-33, in the preliminary game that preceded this game.


Pregame Reception planned for Redbird game at Loyola

Redbird fans are invited to take part in a pregame reception at Bar 63 in Chicago when the Illinois State men’s basketball team plays at instate Missouri Valley Conference rival Loyola on Saturday, Jan. 31.
The reception will take place from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 31 at Bar 63, located at 6341 N. Broadway in Chicago. For $10 per person, fans can enjoy a heavy appetizer buffet and soft drinks or order something from the cash bar. The ISU at Loyola game will tip off at 1 p.m.
Parking is available on the street in front of the restaurant or in the Loyola parking structure on Kenmore. Game tickets and transportation to the game are not included in event pricing. Loyola’s Gentile Arena is a five-minute walk from Bar 63.
Fans can register for the pregame reception until Jan. 27 by navigating to Alumni.IllinoisState.edu/Loyola, or by calling Illinois State Alumni Relations at (309) 438-2586.
Tickets to the game can be purchased on GoRedbirds.com, or by visiting or calling the Illinois State Athletics Ticket Office at 309-438-8000.


Redbird Women's Basketball Report
Women’s Hoops Can’t Slow Down Evansville
The Illinois State women’s basketball team fell to Evansville, 62-50, Friday, January 16 inside Redbird Arena despite a season-best shooting performance from three-point range.
Katy Winge knocked in three 3-pointers en route to her 20-point performance against the Purple Aces (9-7, 4-1 MVC). Winge also led the team in assists, dishing out five. Taylor Stewart was the only other Redbird in double-digits, netting 10 points on 2-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc. The Redbirds (0-15, 0-4) shot 31 percent from the floor and 40 percent from three-point territory. ISU’s eight treys were the most in a game this season. Evansville had the slight advantage on the boards, pulling down 38 just two more than the Redbirds’ 36.
Winge started the game on fire from the floor, as she scored ISU’s first four field goals. In the opening half, the Redbirds were connecting from three-point range, as they had four 3-pointers. Evansville led through most of the first half, but Illinois State tied the game, 14-14, on a Stewart three at the 9:34 mark of the half.
ISU shot 7-of-20 (35 percent) from the field and 4-of-9 (44 percent) from beyond the arc in the opening half. Despite the strong shooting, ISU went into the locker room trailing Evansville, 30-25.
Octavia Crump hit a jumper, and Stekara Hall was fouled on a three-point shot and made two of three free throws to pull ISU within three points of Evansville early in the second half. The Aces answered with a 7-0 run to extend their lead to 10 points.
The Redbirds hit a dry patch in the middle of the second half, as they went scoreless over a four-minute stretch. Winge then regained momentum, as she drained back-to-back threes to bring ISU within nine points. Colleene Smith connected on a jumper, pulling the Redbirds within six points, 49-43, with five minutes left to play. 
Evansville’s Khristian Hart put the Redbirds away with her fourth 3-pointer of the game, which gave the Aces a 55-43 lead with just 2:22 to play in regulation. ISU ran out of time, as Evansville went on to win the game, 62-50.
Hart led the Purple Aces with 24 points and four assists, while Sara Dickey contributed 14 points for the Aces.



Embassy Suites Offers ISU Arch Madness Packages
Embassy Suites St. Louis-Downtown will once again serve as Illinois State’s official home base during the 2015 Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament to be held March 5 through 8, in St. Louis.
A limited number of discounted rooms are available for fans who stay at the Embassy while cheering on the Redbirds.
For just $189 a night, fans can choose either a room with one king bed or two queen beds. The special rate includes complimentary, signature cooked-to-order breakfast and an evening manager’s reception. Embassy Suites St. Louis-Downtown is located at 610 North 7th Street in St. Louis, only one mile from Scottrade Center, the home of Arch Madness.
Rates are for single or double occupancy, all reservations are subject to a two-night minimum stay, and reservations may be made until Feb. 11, 2015, or until the block sells out. To make a reservation online, please click here. Or, to make a reservation by phone, please call 1-800-EMBASSY or (314) 269-5900, and ask for the Illinois State Fan Block.
All-session tickets to the 2015 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament are on sale now through the Illinois State Athletics ticket office by either calling (309) 438-8000, or by visiting GoRedbirds.com, with all-session seating available for a special rate of $135, now through Jan. 10. After Jan. 10, the all-session price increases to $155.



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Redbird Mens Basketball Report

Redbirds Never Give Up Lead in 82-72 Win Over Rival Braves
A career-best five three-pointers led to 20 points for Illinois State senior Daishon Knight, as he led the way for Illinois State (11-7, 3-3 MVC) in a wire-to-wire 82-72 win for the Redbirds over Bradley (6-13, 1-5 MVC) Saturday afternoon on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena in front of a raucous crowd of 9,627 fans.
The Redbirds shot 51 percent (26-of-51) from the field, including a season-best 13-for-25 effort from three-point range and featured four players in double figures.  Knight was joined in double figures by Bobby Hunter with 14 points and Tony Wills and Paris Lee each added 12 points in the win.
The Redbirds jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead, after Wills nailed back-to-back three pointers that forced Bradley head coach Geno Ford to call a quick timeout. Bradley battled back to cut the lead to two points at 14-12, after a Josh Cunningham three-pointer from the top of the key five minutes into the contest.
The two teams went back-and-forth, with Illinois State eventually widening the lead back out to six points at 22-16 on an ally-oop dunk by Reggie Lynch with a great assist from Lee. A three-pointer from Tramique Sutherland from the top of the key cut the ISU lead back to three points at 22-19, and Knight connected on his third three-point basket of the half to extend the lead back out to 25-19 with just over 10 minutes left in the first half. 
ISU kept its foot on the pedal and went on a quick 9-2 run, capped off on an ally-oop dunk by Will Ransom, to increase the lead to 34-21 with 5:40 left in the first half.  Hunter’s third three-pointer of the half later gave the Redbirds a 38-24 advantage at the under four minute time out. A fourth three-pointer from Knight gave ISU its largest lead of the half at 44-29 with under two minutes left.
Bradley connected on a pair of free throws with 34 seconds remaining in the half, and the Redbirds held for the last shot of the half.  A three-point attempt by Justin McCloud missed, but Hunter was able to corral the rebound and put back the layup as time expired to give the Redbirds a 46-31 lead at the break.  The Redbirds shot 59 percent from the field (16-of-27) and 56 percent from three-point range (9-of-16) in the first 20 minutes of action.
The Braves came out of the locker room and quickly put together a 7-2 run to cut the ISU lead to 10 points at 48-38. The Redbirds answered and scored five-consecutive points, as Wills capped off the run with his third three-point bucket of the game to give the ‘Birds a 15-point lead at 53-38.
Once again, Bradley chipped away at the Illinois State lead as back-to-back three-pointers from Warren Jones and Cunningham cut the margin to single digits at 59-52 with 11:05 left in the game.  After the media timeout, a Lee three-pointer from the top of the key  extended the Redbird lead back to double digits at 62-52.
As the shot clock expired, another three-pointer from Lee at the 4:47 mark put the Redbirds up 74-60, before Bradley answered with a three-pointer of its own from Jones to trim the score back to 74-63.  On the next Redbird possession, Knight connected on his fifth three-point basket of the game to take the lead back to 77-63 and force a timeout from Bradley with just over four minutes left in the game.
 
A three-pointer from Auston Barnes from the top of the key with 48 seconds left in the game cut the Redbird lead back to single digits at 77-68.  A free throw by Knight gave him 20 points for the game and widened the ISU lead to 78-68, before a tip-in by Ka’Darryl Bell cut the ISU margin to 78-70.  Two free throws from Hunter put the Redbirds back up 80-70, before a jumper by Sutherland trimmed the score back to 80-72 with 21 seconds left.  Two free throws from Lee capped off the Redbird win and moved ISU back to .500 in league play.


Illinois State Earns MVC Road Win at Drake
Daishon Knight reached 20 points for the third-consecutive game to lead Illinois State in a 64-56 Missouri Valley Conference road victory over Drake Tuesday night at the Knapp Center.
Reggie Lynch joined Knight in double-figures with 13 points and a game-best nine rebounds. He also blocked three shots to tie Illinois State’s sophomore blocks record with 48, matching Joe Galvin’s 1977-78 mark. The Redbirds have now won four-of-their-last-five games, including three-straight contests over the last three years in Des Moines, Iowa.
ISU (12-7, 4-3 MVC) shot 50.0 percent from the field compared to Drake’s (4-15, 1-6 MVC) 38.2 percent shooting clip. Illinois State also outrebounded the Bulldogs, 36-30. Gary Ricks Jr., and C.J. Rivers both scored 10 points to lead DU.
Illinois State held Drake to 0-for-5 from the field to start the game before Drake took an 8-4 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers. Bobby Hunter answered with a 3-pointer which sparked a 7-0 run – including a layup and two free throws by Tony Wills – to build an 11-8 Redbird advantage. A 3-pointer by Ore Arogundade lifted the Bulldogs back in front, 15-13, at the 8:18 mark. However, DU’s advantage was short-lived, as Lynch responded with a two-handed rebound-dunk.
After Drake regained the lead, Knight netted back-to-back jumpers, pushing ISU back in front, 19-18. A 7-2 Redbird run, capped by a Hunter 3-pointer, increased Illinois State’s margin to 26-24 with 2:14 remaining in the opening half, and Illinois State outscored DU, 10-5, over the final 4:15 to take a 29-27 halftime advantage.  Knight led all scorers with 11 first-half points on 4-for-6 shooting as the Redbirds shot 47.8 percent from the field while holding the Bulldogs to 33.3 percent.
Lynch netted ISU’s first three points of the second half with a layup and a free throw, and Illinois State started the second half on a 7-2 run to build a 36-29 lead at the 17:14 mark. Drake once again answered, this time by outscoring ISU, 8-2, to pull within 38-37 on a Rivers layup with 15:35 to play. Illinois State’s 8-2 run pushed the Redbird advantage to 46-39 at the 12:16 mark.
Drake pulled as close as 46-44 with 9:49 remaining, but ISU responded with a 9-2 run, to establish a 55-46 lead. The Bulldogs trimmed their deficit to seven with 19 seconds to play, but the Redbirds never trailed in the second half and held off Drake, 64-56.
After playing four games in the last 10 days, Illinois State does not play again until Sunday, Jan. 25 when the Redbirds return to Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena to host No. 19 Northern Iowa at 3 p.m. Tickets are available on GoRedbirds.com, or by visiting or calling the Illinois State Athletics Ticket Office at (309) 438-8000.


llinois Wesleyan University Athletic Director Dennie Bridges to retire
by Stewart Salowitz
IWU Sports Information Director
Illinois Wesleyan University athletic director Dennie Bridges, whose association with the school dates back to enrolling as a freshman in 1957, has announced he will retire on July 31, 2015, the end of his current contract with the University.
A national search will begin immediately to find a replacement for Bridges.
Bridges, who will be 76 next month, took over as athletic director in 1981 and served a dual role as men’s basketball coach and athletic director until 2001.
“I’ve been told that you should retire when you no longer enjoy what you are doing - that won’t work because, in my case, it would be never,” said Bridges. “Retirement age is traditionally 65 and I’m a bit past that. I have been thinking about when to retire for a while and decided a couple of years ago that in 2014 I would have completed 50 years here and that might be a good time. I delayed a year to be closely involved in getting the Shirk Center expansion project going, so it will turn out to be 51 years.”
During Bridges’ tenure as athletic director, the Shirk Center and Fort Natatorium have been constructed, varsity swimming returned for men and was added for women, while men’s and women’s soccer, women’s cross country, women’s golf and men’s and women’s lacrosse have been added as varsity sports.
“Dennie Bridges has provided extraordinary leadership and service to Illinois Wesleyan over a long career, first as men’s basketball coach and then as athletic director,” said IWU President Richard Wilson, who announced his own retirement last month, also effective July 31. “Dennie and I have worked together for the past decade and I could not have been better served by an athletic director.  We share the same philosophy when it comes to the role of intercollegiate athletics on a campus like Illinois Wesleyan.”
 “I’m proud that Coach (Jack) Horenberger and I have been in charge of Illinois Wesleyan athletics for over 70 years,” said Bridges, referring to his predecessor who held the post from 1942 to 1981. “I often rely on his wisdom to deal with today’s issues. In a way, President Wilson’s decision to retire makes my own decision easier because we’ve always had such a great working relationship.”
As the Titans’ basketball coach for 36 seasons, one of Bridges’ strengths was to recruit great players, a trait he feels carried over in his hiring of coaches. “As an accomplishment, I see my treatment of all sports in a championship manner with a special emphasis on raising the level of women’s athletics. And the results of this special emphasis are evident as Illinois Wesleyan is a national player in many sports with the women’s teams right with the men’s teams.”
After coaching the men’s basketball team to the Division III national title in 1997, Bridges has seen IWU teams win national championships in women’s indoor track (2008), women’s outdoor track (2008 and 2010), baseball (2010) and women’s basketball (2012).
“I reflect on the days of Coach Horenberger, Don Larson, Bob Keck and myself pretty much doing it all – coaching multiple sports, teaching the classes, taping the ankles, doing the laundry, driving the teams to games and caring for the fields, while Barb Cothren was doing it all for women’s athletics,” Bridges said. “I refer to those days on occasion in making certain our current coaches understand what the expectations of a Division III coach should be – more often than I suspect they want to hear.”
Bridges cites as another of his top accomplishments the hiring of coaches and personnel who have been successful and have wanted to stay at Illinois Wesleyan like those who preceded them.
“The infrastructure I have built here is as good as any I know of in Division III,” he said. “I feel that over the years have hired good people, supported them and trusted them to do their jobs.”
Bridges says that he and his wife, Rita, are proud that their children – Angie, Steve and Eric – were able to get Illinois Wesleyan educations and adds he is happy to have maintained the same level of trust and friendship with Jim Shirk that Horenberger had with Russell Shirk, saying it is “the backbone of our truly outstanding facilities.
“I’m proud that I wrote the planning document for the Shirk Center and was involved in the planning for the Jack Horenberger baseball field and all of our outdoor venues,” he said. “I’m also proud that, from the start, we have shared our facilities with the community.”
The Shirk family and the Shirk Foundation have been generous in their support of the Shirk Center and Shirk Athletic Complex.
“With significant help from the Shirk family and the Shirk Foundation, Dennie has created one of the finest athletic complexes in Division III,” said Wilson. “He has managed these facilities in a way that benefits not only our students and student athletes but also the community. The philosophy that guides the operation of the Shirk Center and Athletic Complex is unique in higher education.”
A native of Anchor, Ill. Bridges was a star athlete at Octavia High School. At IWU Bridges was a four-year letterman and starter in basketball and baseball and a three-year football letterman, where he was an all-conference quarterback. In basketball, he was a two-year captain, most valuable player and all-conference once.
After graduating in 1961, Bridges coached at Plainfield (Ill.) High School three years before returning to IWU in 1964 as Horenberger’s basketball assistant and head tennis coach with the understanding that he would become head basketball coach for the 1965-66 season. With four starters back from a championship team, the rookie coach led the Titans to a sixth conference title in seven years.
Bridges retired with a record of 667-319 and his win total still ranks No. 5 among all Division III coaches and No. 38 regardless of division.
Bridges was awarded Division III “Coach of the Year” honors when his 1997 team won the Division III national championship, and his teams in 1996 and 2001 placed third in the national tournament. His teams reached the Division III tournament 14 times in 18 years of NCAA association (1983-2001) with a 30-14 record and five trips to the quarterfinals.
He coached teams into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national tourney seven times with a 23-11 record and two quarterfinal appearances in NAIA postseason competition.
Bridges coached in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin longer and won more league championships than any other coach in CCIW history, finishing with a CCIW mark of 421-129 and 17 titles, a total twice as many as any other CCIW team in that period.
One of Bridges’ greatest recruiting classes came in 1973, when his freshman class included Jack Sikma of St. Anne (Ill.) High School. Sikma is IWU’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder and played 14 seasons in the National Basketball Association for the Seattle SuperSonics and Milwaukee Bucks.


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