Playing in Peoria

PEORIA -- Nine minutes until tip-off of Salt Fork's first boys' basketball state semifinal game.

Carver Arena is about half full. The Salt Fork cheering contingent is loud -- as usual -- and could be the proverbial sixth man.

The Storm left the floor for their final words of wisdom from coach Aaron Hird before tipoff. Warmups looked good. No obvious signs of tension.

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Fred Kroner wrote on March 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm
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Game time!
Salt Fork is starting its usual lineup of seniors Joe Pratt and Josh Chandler along with juniors Ryan Anderson, Nathan Fathauer and Joel learnard.
Anderson learned he has a broken bone in his wrist. He'll get a cast put on for 10 weeks, but not until next week.
Hard to believe it has been 16 years since the IHSA state tournament was in Champaign. Sixteen years!!!

Fred Kroner wrote on March 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm
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6 for 6. For the sixth straight postseason game, Salt Fork scored first. Joel Learnard got the points on a drive to the hoop.
It's neat how every player gets introduced prior to their team's first game at state. I'm sure it's another of the memories these teen-agers will retain decades from now.
Eastland's center is Collin Macomber.His dad, Mark, played at state for Pearl City back in the '80s...when the event was still at the UI Assembly Hall.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm
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First media timeout. 4:38 left in first period.
Salt Fork defense is getting the job done. Eastland is 0-for-6 with one turnovers as the Storm lead, 7-0. Learnard has five of the points and Anderson the other two, on free throws.
Salt Fork fans have plenty of reason to cheer, and they are.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm
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First Salt Fork sub is David Keenan. He came in for Nathan Fathauer, after the guard picked up his second foul at 4:16 of the opening period. Keenan has the potential to add scoring punch, both inside and from the perimeter.
After going scoreless for 3:58, Eastland breaks its drought with a basket.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm
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The first quarter is over.
After a fast start, the Storm went more than six minutes without a point and trail Eastland, 11-7. Tony Dunlap has nine of the Cougars' points.
Salt Fork hasn't made a basket since the 7:10 mark, when Learnard made his second.The team has missed its last five shots and committed three turnovers, one of which led to a direct layup by Eastland.
Ryan McCord in for the Storm in the second period.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm
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Halftime.
Ryan Anderson had a terrific second quarter for the Storm. Two three-pointers among the eight he scored in the period as the Storm take a lead at intermission, 25-21.
The final three points came from Learnard on a tree-point play three-tenths of a second before the break.He has 12 points at halftime and Anderson has 10.
That duo has attmpted all but four shot the team has taken to this point.
Referees are really calling a close game. Many hand-checks have been called. Fathauer has three fouls for the Storm. Josh Chandler and Joe Pratt have each been whistled for two.
During the final 2:12 of the half, Salt Fork went on a 9-2 run to take command again.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm
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Just wondering: How can Eastland's Tony Dunlap not be an All-State first-teamer in 1A? He has 19 of his team's 21 points and that's with Salt Fork putting up good defensive pressure on him.
Learnard's final second basket to the end half was set up by a nifty pass from Pratt.
Third quarter is ready to go. The first 5 minutes will be instrumental. It's Eastland ball.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm
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Salt Fork was whistled for three fouls in the first 57 seconds of the third quarter, including the third for both Pratt and Chandler.
At media timeout (4:32 left in the third), Storm leads 29-25.
Neither Pratt nor Chandler had a shot in the first half, but they've combined for three of the Storm's first four points this quarter.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm
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One more quarter to go before we know which team will play for a state championship on Saturday.
Salt Fork has to play catchup. The Storm trails 34-33 and went without a field goal from the 4:49 of the third quarter until Learnard scored from the lane with 1.2 seconds remaining on an out-of-bounds play.
The Dunlap brothers are tearing up the Storm. Brad and Tony have hit 3-of-3 three-pointers in a 90-second span as a 29-25 Salt Fork lead turned into a 34-29 deficit. Tony has 22 points.
With less than 1 minute to go in the quarter, neither Anderson nor Learnard had a basket in the second half.
Learnard has 17 points after three quarters.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm
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Salt Fork has scored the first nine points of the fourth period and holds a 42-34 lead with 4:37 to play, at the final media tmeout. Anderson hit a three-pointer and made two free throws to lead the surge. Both Learnard and Pratt have scored on rebound baskets.
Eastland is 0-for-3 thus far in the quarter, with a turnover.
The pressure is on.

Fred Kroner wrote on March 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm
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Salt Fork wins. the first semifinal game over Lanark Eastland 48-38 at Carver Arena.
The Storm will play for the class 1A state title Saturday at 2 p.m.
Eastland pulled its starters with 1:37 left, trailing by 12.
Learnard had a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Anderson added 17 points.
The storm has a 26-game winning streak and is 32-1 for the season.