Live from Class 1A boys' basketball state championship game

PEORIA -- We're courtside, and we're 30 minutes away from tipoff for the Class 1A state championship boys' basketball game, featuring a Salt Fork Storm team with 26 consecutive victories and a Sessier-Valier team which endured a stretch starting in early January when it lost seven of 10 games.
Sessier brings a 26-9 record into the finals. Salt Fork is 32-1, a school record for wins for the Catlin and Jamaica all-sports cooperative.

The 15-minute warmup clock has not yet started. Numerous area coaches are in attendance, including Westville's Jeff Millis and Watseka's Barry Bauer.

Bauer, incidentally, also coaches softball at Watseka and his school is scheduled to open its season on Monday against Salt Fork.
Madison captured the third-place trophy 75-56 over Lanark Eastland, which fell behind early 14-4 and never caught up. Eastland was without its scoring lader, Tony Dunlap, who dislocated his left shoulder in Friday's semifinal loss to Salt Fork.

Delandus Farrar scored 22 points for Madison and Brad Dunlap had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Eastland.

Kudos to Bismarck-Henning's Stephen Krout, who placed in a tie for eighth in the Class 2A three-point shooting contest. He hit 9 of 15 attempts and was one basket away from joining a shootout for the final four spots.

In the 2A slam-dunbk competition, Paxton-Buckley-Loda's Brandon Heyen placed fourth, four points behind the winner.

 

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Fred Kroner wrote on March 13, 2010 at 1:03 pm
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Sessier-Valier starts an all-senior lineup, though just one starter averages in double figures.
This could be a day when Salt Fork's top reserves, David Keenan and Jake Manning, play instrumental roles; more so than usual.
You can't tell much from warmups, but both teams seem sharp.
As the teams prepare for the opening-game center jump, 5-foot-10 senior Josh Chandler again takes his turn going for the opening tip.
Chandler is joined in the lineup by the usuals: guards Nathan Fathauer and Joe Pratt, forwards Ryan Anderson and Joel Learnard.
Chris Holman, from St. Thomas More, using crutches to reach the court, provided a nice rendition of the National Anthem. His right foot was heavily wrapped.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm
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Sessier-Valier scored the first four points, both times taking Salt Fork players one-one-one to the basket. The Storm settled for three-point shots on its first two attempts before Nathan Fathauer -- who didn't shoot in the semifinals -- scored on a drive to the basket at 6:02 to cut the Red Devils' lead to 4-2.
That's the way it stands at 4:24, for the first media timeout.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm
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After one quarter, Salt Fork leads 8-6.
The Storm broke a tei with eight-tenths of a second to play when Joe Pratt rebounded his own missed shot from the left side and scored.
Salt Fork is 0-for-4 on three-point tries. Pratt has four of the team's rebounds.
The Storm's defense has held Sessier all-stater Justin Matyi scoreless on five attempts, one of which David Keenan blocked. Keenan made a nice shot on an inbounds play following a timeout.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm
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Salt Fork is holding its own, leading 16-12 with 3:22 left in the first half, despite no points from either Joel Learnard or Ryan Anderson (0-for-6 combined). David Keenan has come off the bench to score six points, two on a nice hook from the right baseline.
Salt Fork has just one turnover and one foul in the first 12 1/2 minutes.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm
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Halftime!
Salt Fork is 16 minutes closer to its first ever state championship.
The Storm leads 20-12, the biggest advantage in the game either way thus far.
Sessier's all-stater, 6-foot-5 Justin Matyi is 1-for-9 at the break and has four points. He's 2-of-2 from the free throw line. Learnard and Keenan have shared the defensive duty on the Red Devils' center.
The Storm showed their determination in a sequence which resulted in Learnard's first basket, at 3:49 before intermission. After a shot was missed, the Storm put up three rebound efforts, with Learnard scoring on his third attempt.
Keenan leads the team in scoring at halftime (six points). Learnard leads in rebounding (six). The Storm have not been to the free throw line.
Coach Aaron Hird's squad has only two fouls and two turnovers at the break, an impressive total considering the Red Devils' full-court pressure.
Eight Salt Fork athletes have played. In addition to the starters and Keenan and Manning, senior Ryan McCord was summoned for the final minute of the second quarter.
Sessier has connected on 5 of 19 first-half shots.
You would think the IHSA, by the second day of a tournament, could get names right. They still list Josh Chandler as John Chandler on the official statistics sheet.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm
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Salt Fork was the first team to return to the court after halftime break, arriving to shoot with 5:07 left on the clock. Sessier-Valier, which was scoreless the final 3:46 of the second period, followed, but not until the 4:02 mark.
Each team is 0-for-6 on three-pointers at halftime.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 13, 2010 at 2:03 pm
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With 4:42 left in the third quarter, Salt Fork still has an eight-point lead, 25-17. Learnard is getting untracked offensively. He has four of the five third-quarter points for the Storm. Sesser's Justin Matyi still has just one field goal.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm
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Salt Fork, which built its lead to 11 points (30-19) on a layup by Jake Manning, leads after three quarters 35-25 with only the fourth quarter left to play. Learnard scored seven points in the period for the Storm, including a baseline jumper off an inbounds pass.
sessier is turning up its defensive pressure. Salt Fork has three turnovers, one ore than it had in the whole first half.
Learnard has another postseason double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) with 8 minutes to go. Keenan has scored eight points and Pratt has seven, including a three-pointer in the third stanza.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm
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Sessier-Valier pulled within five points (36-31), before the Storm responded, going on a 5-0 run that was started by Joel Learnard's three-pointer. That was followed by two Nathan Fathauer free throws.
With 4:24 left, at the final media timeout, Salt Fork leads 41-31. Learnard has 14 points and 13 rebounds, demonstrating that he is clearly one of the state's top Class 1A players.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm
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Nathan Fathauer has made 8 of 9 fourth-quarter free throws and salt Fork holds a commanding 49-35 edge with 3:11 to play. Sessier's scoring leader, Kendall Gibson (15 points) has fouled out.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm
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STATE CHAMPIONS!
The celebration can start in Catlin and Jamaica.
Salt Fork won the program's first ever boys' basketball state championship on Saturday at Carver Arena, handing Sessier-Valier a 55-42 loss.
The Storm (33-1) hit 14 of their first 17 fourth-period free throws.Coach Aaron Hird's squad ends the year with a 27-game winning streak.
Hird cleared his bench with 1:08 left and his team holding a 55-40 cushion.By game's end all 15 varsity players had seen time on the court.