Jan. 11 high school sports chat

Jan. 11 high school sports chat

Thursday, January 11, 2018 - 12:30pm

What does Colin Likas think about the area prep scene? Ask The News-Gazette's new prep sports coordinator in his first-ever chat at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday. Can the Danville boys' basketball team make a run to Peoria? How much does Champaign Central's boys' basketball team's challenging schedule benefit the Maroons? Or does it hurt them? What's the key to success for girls' basketball programs like Monticello and Schlarman? What area wrestlers could win state titles next month at State Farm Center? How is the area boys' swim scene faring? Anything is fair game in Likas' weekly chat, so feel free to submit questions ahead of time. 

Colin Likas wrote on January 11, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the first prep sports podcast under new leadership. We're in the thick of the winter sports season, so there's plenty to talk about.

Boys' basketball. Girls' basketball. Wrestling. Swimming and diving. And even out-of-season activities aren't off limits. Any local high school sports topic you're interested in hearing my take about, toss it my way.

We have some great questions today for my first Q&A, so let's get started.

Former Maroon wrote on January 11, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Think coach Finke stays at Central when his son leaves after this year?

Colin Likas wrote on January 11, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Thanks for the question, Former Maroon.

This is an interesting topic. In addition to Finke's time leading the Champaign Central boys' basketball team, which is in its third season, he's worked in the real estate field for many years. He has longstanding ties to the Champaign area, dating back to his time as an Illinois basketball and football athlete.

If Finke were to depart Central after his son, Tim, graduates and heads to Grand Canyon later this year, I don't think it would be for another local prep coaching position. Of course, that doesn't rule out another option — helping out at GCU as Tim starts his college career there.

There's no rumors or rumblings to back up that idea, but it'd be hard to ignore the possibility. Jeff Finke is leading an Associated Press top-10 ranked team this season and steadily expanding his prep hoops ties and scope by scheduling increasingly difficulty opponents for the Maroons. He gets to travel all around the state — Central has been to Decatur, Chicago, Centralia and Highland already, and will hit Belleville soon — and speak with those in the know in those locations about up-and-coming prospects.

This could be a useful tool for GCU coach Dan Majerle's staff. After making the transition to Division I play earlier this decade, Majerle is extending his recruiting scope. Tim Finke, Majerle posited, was his highest-level get in the United States since GCU went D-I. So Majerle and his staff are making strides, but no doubt would want to make more. And what better way to do that than hire someone connected to the Chicago/Illinois area, like Jeff Finke is becoming?

There's also the Jerry Colangelo tie to GCU. The former Illinois coach, who is well-respected by both Finke and Majerle, is a sort of overarching presence around the Antelope program. Colangelo's name is on GCU's business school, even.

The big questions, of course, are whether such an offer would be on the table from Majerle to Finke, and if Finke would be genuinely interested. That all remains to be seen.

AnonymousDan wrote on January 11, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Was wondering if you knew if Champaign Cental hired a football coach yet?

Colin Likas wrote on January 11, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Thanks for the question, AnonymousDan.

I do not know of any news regarding Champaign Central's search for a football coach. That's something I'll bring up with athletic director John Woods in the near future to see if any strides are being made.

For those unaware, Nate Albaugh resigned as the Maroons' leader after five seasons following the 2017 campaign. He then made the surprise decision to run Judah Christian's first team, which was announced in December.

Whoever takes over the Central program will inheret a squad that finished 2-7 last season and missed the playoffs. Albaugh finished with a 26-24 ledger as the Maroon head, including two Class 5A postseason appearances and an 11-2 mark in 2015.

Bill from Buckley wrote on January 11, 2018 at 12:01 pm

When does the ihsa announce the pairings for the boys tournament? Do they know the regional hosts yet?

Colin Likas wrote on January 11, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Thanks for the question, Bill from Buckley.

The IHSA has released the site assignments and regional hosts for the 2017-18 boys' basketball postseason. Here are the area teams, by assignment, with brackets due out in early February:


Normal (Illinois State) Super-Sectional > Schlarman Sectional

Sub-Sectional A: Armstrong-Potomac, Cerro Gordo/Bement, Cissna Park, Judah Christian, DeLand-Weldon, Schlarman, Blue Ridge, Fisher, LeRoy, Milford, Uni High (Milford and Decatur Lutheran are regional hosts)

Sub-Sectional B: Ridgeview (St. Anne and Streator Woodland are regional hosts)

Carbondale (Southern Illinois) Super-Sectional > Central A&M Sectional

Sub-Sectional A: Arcola, Chrisman, Tri-County (Nokomis and Windsor/Stew/Stras are regional hosts)



Carbondale (Southern Illinois) Super-Sectional > Robinson Sectional

Sub-Sectional A: Sullivan (Casey Westfield and Vandalia are regional hosts)

DeKalb (Northern Illinois) Super-Sectional > Clifton Central Sectional

Sub-Sectional B: Iroquois West, Watseka (Watseka and Chicago Carver Military Academy are regional hosts)

Springfield (U of I at Springfield) Super-Sectional > Maroa-Forsyth Sectional

Sub-Sectional A: Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin, St. Thomas More, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Hoopeston Area, Monticello, Paxton-Buckley-Loda (Hoopeston Area and Bloomington Central Catholic are regional hosts)

Sub-Sectional B: Argenta-Oreana, Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond, Villa Grove/Heritage, Salt Fork, Oakwood, Georgetown-Ridge Farm, St. Joseph-Ogden, Tuscola, Westville (Salt Fork and Tuscola are regional hosts)



DeKalb (Northern Illinois) Super-Sectional > Pontiac Sectional

Sub-Sectional B: Prairie Central (Herscher and Morris are regional hosts)

Springfield (Bank of Springfield Center) Super-Sectional > Decatur Eisenhower Sectional

Sub-Sectional A: Champaign Central, Mahomet-Seymour, Rantoul, Unity, Urbana (Mahomet-Seymour and Paris are regional hosts)

Sub-Sectional B: Clinton (Decatur MacArthur and Rochester are regional hosts)



Normal (Illinois State) Super-Sectional > Pekin Sectional

Sub-Sectional A: Centennial, Danville (Danville and Rock Island are regional hosts)

STMfan wrote on January 11, 2018 at 1:01 pm

What's been your favorite place to cover an event so far

Colin Likas wrote on January 11, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Thanks for the question, STMfan.

This is another good one. Also a tough one. But I think I have to go with a dual answer here: the two state-final football games I covered the day after Thanksgiving.

It's really difficult to beat the atmosphere created by two squads fighting for the top prize in their class, and I got to witness two extremely tight battles at Northern Illinois' Huskie Stadium.

Tuscola and Lena-Winslow rocked each other in a game that started a little jittery and wound up being an instant classic. Those on the sidelines and in the stands swung on every play in the fourth quarter, especially as the defenses kept forcing quick takeaways.

It led to an odd last-minute situation where Tuscola was stalled on 4th and 1 in Lena territory, closing out a 21-20 loss for the Warriors. Though there were some tears in the aftermath, Tuscola's players and staff seemed genuinely proud and upbeat afterward about their accomplishment.

I figured nothing could top that game, but then Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley took on Maroa-Forsyth in the 2A tilt. And, naturally, I was incorrect.

Instead of the defensive strife that had gone hand in hand with the Falcons' season to that point, these teams engaged in a brutal "anything you can do I can do better" offensive assault.

GCMS trailed by three points entering the fourth quarter, but quickly went ahead 30-26. Maroa responded with 6:26 to play, pulling ahead 32-30 on a thrilling 52-yard run from Aaron Inda.

That just set the stage for some Falcon heroics, as quarterback Nathan Garard hit a leaping Bryce Barnes on a 23-yard strike in the back of the end zone with 1:08 left in regulation. After GCMS' defense made a successful final stand, the Falcons had their first-ever state title.

Two fantastic games back-to-back with amazing atmosphere and gameplay. It's been hard to top that, for my money, so far.

Colin Likas wrote on January 11, 2018 at 1:01 pm

I'm going to wrap up the chat for today. Thanks again for all the great questions. I'm looking forward to even more of them moving forward.

We've got plenty of great content coming up in The News-Gazette and at news-gazette.com. I'll be covering the Champaign Central-Urbana boys' basketball game Friday, and I'll have a great story coming up Sunday offering behind-the-scenes look at the Schlarman girls' hoops program.

In addition, there will be our weekly Locker Room video due out Friday, as well as a highlights package from the Maroons-Tigers showdown, and a video from my day spent with the Hilltoppers traveling to Lisle for a matchup with Simeon.

Until next time, prep sports fans.