ST. JOSEPH — Coach Brian Brooks has grown accustomed to putting a starting five on the court that wasn’t the same as the one he projected in the preseason. Injuries have enabled the Spartans (17-2) to create depth.
“We’ve only started what I considered the first five twice all year,” Brooks said.
Forward Hunter Hart has missed two games with an ankle injury but could return to the lineup this weekend for the finals of the Sangamon Valley Conference tournament.
“He’s progressing,” Brooks said, “but we’re trying to keep the big picture in mind. We want to make sure he’s healthy for the postseason.”
Teammate Jake Stewart, who missed the first half of the season with a back injury, sat out against Tuscola with back spasms.
“We’re gradually working him back in,” Brooks said.
Big 12 swimming meet
CHAMPAIGN — Unit 4 Pool will be the site for Saturday’s Big 12 Conference swimming meet. Diving will begin at 9 a.m. The swimming portion will start at 1 p.m.
Twin City champion Central will have contenders in numerous events. Teamwise, the Maroons have only lost to one Big 12 school (Normal West) during the regular season.
“Conference is always a meet our guys get up for, especially this year in our home pool,” Central co-coach Tom Lockman said. “One of the things we focus on is how each of the 28 guys contributes to the team’s success. It will be the last meet of the season for the majority of them, and we are looking forward to seeing the results of all the hard work the guys have put in throughout the season.”
Centennial’s top prospects include Evan Peirce (200- and 500-yard freestyles), Logan Starks (200 individual medley and 100 backstroke) and Heath Rogers (50 freestyle and 100 backstroke).
“The conference meet is really the main focus for our JV, who are rested and tapered for the meet,” Centennial coach Jason Maddux said. “Our varsity squad’s main focus is always the sectional meet.”
The sectional is Feb. 22, also at Unit 4 Pool.
Final tuneup for Sabers
CHAMPAIGN — Regional competition starts next week for Class 1A and 2A girls’ basketball teams. St. Thomas More is the No. 1 seed for the Bismarck-Henning Regional and draws a bye Monday.
The Sabers, however, won’t be idle that day. The school rescheduled a home game against Chicago Mother McAuley for Feb. 10, the day before the state’s top-rated 2A team plays its regional opener.
“It is a little unconventional playing a nonconference game during regional week,” STM coach Chris Mennig said, “but it’s one last chance for our team to see where we are at heading into the playoffs. Too good of an opportunity to pass up, and we are just thankful McAuley was willing to travel on a weekday.”
The McAuley game will be varsity only and will start at 4 p.m. A day later, at 6 p.m., St. Thomas More will play either Oakwood or Westville in the regional semifinals.
Tigers’ record deceiving
URBANA — Urbana’s Tigers were the only school to go 0-3 in last week’s Twin City wrestling meet. However, the team result doesn’t indicate the quality of wrestlers in the Tigers’ program, just the quantity.
Against eventual meet runner-up Central, seven bouts were contested. Urbana wrestlers won five of them. However, by forfeiting seven weight classes, there was little hope of Urbana winning the dual meet. Against meet champion Centennial, the Tigers won three of seven contested bouts.
“We’re competing really well, putting seven weights out there,” Urbana coach Charles Trabaris said. “It goes to show what we’re doing in the practice room is working. The dual-meet scores are not indicative of how we’re wrestling.”
Trabaris hopes to have some injured wrestlers back in the lineup for Saturday’s individual regional competition.
Busy Saturday at Parkland
CHAMPAIGN — Parkland College will be the site of almost 12 hours of basketball Saturday. In the 11 a.m. opener, the women’s teams from Parkland and Danville Area Community College will square off. That will be followed by the men’s teams from the same schools.
The gymnasium will then be the site of the Sangamon Valley Conference tournament trophy games. The seventh-place game will start at 3:30 p.m., followed by the fifth-place game at 5 p.m., the third-place game at 6:30 p.m. and the championship game at 8 p.m.
PBL’s Rubarts picks college
PAXTON — First, Augustana College. Now, Tyler Rubarts.
Prior to its relocation to Rock Island in 1875, Augustana College resided in Paxton for 12 years. Nearly 140 years later, the Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School senior has announced that he was going to Rock Island to study and run track at the campus.
“It’s pretty cool knowing that I kind of have a piece of home when I’m going to college knowing that it originated in Paxton,” Rubarts said. “That’ll be nice.”
The 5-foot-11, 155-pound Rubarts is set to earn his 10th varsity letter as he enters a senior season of track for PBL that is filled with high expectations. He was one of six 110-meter hurdlers to gain recognition from il.milesplit.com as key returners in Class A in that event.
This comes a year after finishing eighth in the 110 hurdles at the IHSA state meet.
Rubarts said he plans on majoring in communication sciences and disorders at Augustana. He also considered Illinois Wesleyan University and Wabash College.
Wrestling postseason to start
Regional wrestling meets will take place throughout the state Saturday. In Class 1A, area teams were assigned to Shelbyville and St. Joseph-Ogden (sessions at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at both sites). A third site involving some area teams, Deer Creek-Mackinaw, has sessions scheduled for 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. In 2A, area teams will compete at Bloomington (sessions at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.).
At all locations, the top three placers in each of the 14 weight classes will advance to the individual sectional, which will start Feb. 14.
In the latest Class 1A state rankings, compiled by illinoismatman, eight area athletes were rated among the top four in their weight classes: GCMS/Fisher’s Cameron Schwing (fourth at 120); Argenta-Oreana’s Nate Jozsa (second at 138); St. Joseph-Ogden’s Austin Hedrick (second at 152); Monticello’s Dylan Knisley (third at 152); Monticello’s Brendan Menacher (first at 182); Monticello’s Zach Armstrong (third at 220); LeRoy’s Ty Sandy (fourth at 220) and GCMS/Fisher’s Josh Wallick (first at 285).
Hedrick could earn his 100th career win this weekend in the regionals. He has 98 victories thus far.
No area athletes in Class 2A were ranked among the top four.
Area kids on campus ...
— Senior Dani Bunch, from Mahomet-Seymour, broke the Purdue University women’s shot put record (56 feet, 43/4 inches) with a toss that is 1-03/4 behind the nation’s leader. She ranks second among NCAA Division I throwers in the event. Also Saturday, she set a fieldhouse record at the University of Findlay in the weight toss (72-11/4). The toss was the third best of her career and ranks her first nationally. Bunch has won every event she has competed in this season.
— Junior Adrianne Bishop, from Rantoul, placed fourth among 13 competitors in the weight throw (41-9) for Northwestern College (in Orange City, Iowa) at last weekend’s Buena Vista Open in Storm Lake, Iowa.
— Freshman Kristen Belyea, from Mahomet-Seymour, leads the 8-11 Rose-Hulman team with 23 three-pointers and an 86.1 free throw percentage (31 of 36). She is second on the team with a 7.9 scoring average. She has started 12 games this season and played in 17.
— Senior Ian Wells, from Champaign Central, finished fourth in the Division I 400 meters for Drake at the Jack Jennett Invitational hosted by the University of Northern Iowa at Cedar Falls. His time was 49.78 seconds. At the same meet, Eastern Illinois University redshirt sophomore Brock Ramos, from Hoopeston Area, finished sixth in the Division I 800 (1:58.40). Western Illinois University senior Davin Dollison, from Centennial, won the triple jump with a leap of 46-101/4.
— Senior Alex Berry, from Judah Christian, posted a winning time for the second week in a row for Butler University. At the IPFW Quad on Jan. 25, he won the 200 meters in 22.59. Last weekend, he won the 600 meters (1:19.60) at the Indiana Relays in Bloomington, Ind.
Fred Kroner and Andrew Rosten