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STANFORD – Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley coach Ryan Birt instructs his wrestlers to practice as if they are competing in a meet.
The intensity in the practice room paid off for the Falcons as GCMS will send four grapplers to the IHSA state finals next weekend at the Assembly Hall after a successful day Saturday at the Class 1A Olympia Sectional.
It snowed enough to close the schools. But nobody dared cancel the biggest game of the season: Central vs. Centennial. Cars circle the streets around Central High, looking for a parking spot as the junior varsity game gets under way.
Fans walk past the snow piled up alongside the streets and sidewalks, heading into Seely Hall to buy their tickets. The game isn't yet sold out, but by tipoff of the varsity game, the gym's wooden bleachers will be full.
DANVILLE – Toward the end of Friday night's Big 12 matchup against Normal West, Danville coach Gary Tidwell undoubtedly was feeling a little of the same pain Illinois coach Bruce Weber has been subjected to all season.
With his Vikings within striking distance of the Wildcats throughout the final eight minutes, Tidwell watched helplessly as his team went to the free throw line and missed. The Vikings clanked six freebies in the final three minutes and eight overall before falling 65-62.
CHAMPAIGN – Long before tipoff of Friday night's Class 2A girls' basketball regional championship game at St. Thomas More, Unity High School's status as an underdog was well-confirmed.
The Rockets, with a sub-.500 season record, were facing a 23-win Monticello squad that had beaten Unity twice previously by a total of 18 points.
URBANA – The last time the Urbana Tigers faced Mattoon, Terrence Gray's team lost a one-point heartbreaker.
In the rematch Friday night, the pain was felt early and often.
PAXTON – Still smarting from losing in the Sangamon Valley Conference tournament championship game, the Paxton-Buckley-Loda boys were seeking to redeem themselves.
Winning the conference's regular season for the first time since 2001 certainly helps.
MONTICELLO – Quality depth and excellent free throw shooting usually leads to victory at any level in basketball.
Monticello's Sages showed an affinity for both in Friday's 78-64 Okaw Valley Conference victory against Decatur St. Teresa.
WARRENSBURG – Nine area girls' basketball teams have won at least 19 games this season. None have achieved that mark in the same manner as Tuscola.
The Warriors (19-8) have had every point, every rebound, every assist and every defensive stop come from an underclassmen. There's not a senior on the 10-player varsity roster.
CHAMPAIGN – Playing in hostile territory against a tough opponent meant nothing to Unity coach Kelly Gallick.
"Our players really believed tonight," Gallick said, "if we play our game, we can beat anybody on any court."
CHAMPAIGN – Ever since Brandon Smith, a Champaign Central senior, started wrestling, his parents have been his biggest fans.
They have been at every meet he has wrestled since seventh grade, and stood proudly beside him when he was honored during the Maroons' last regular season home meet.