BISMARCK — Champions of the Vermilion County tournament (Bismarck-Henning) and Sangamon Valley Conference (St. Joseph-Ogden) met Tuesday in Bismarck. The Blue Devils posted a 39-28 win. They could be paired up again Feb. 9 in a Class 2A regional semifinal at St. Thomas More. Each school would need to beat a lower seed in the first round to make the rematch a reality. B-H coach Mike Stephens doesn't subscribe to the theory that this week's losing team would have more incentive if the schools meet again. "You can out-think yourself on those things," Stephens said. "You've got to play the game hard. We can't go into a game thinking we don't want to play this particular game well. Our best bet is to try and play every possession as well as we can." In four days, B-H will play a home game against St. Thomas More. The Sabers are the No. 1 seeds in their own regional and likely opponents if either B-H or SJ-O reaches the championship game.
Congrats, Uni High
URBANA — It has taken 34 years, but Urbana Uni High reached the 20-win mark in a season for the first time Thursday. Coach Allie Lindemann's team kept Decatur Christian winless with a 67-17 victory that improved the Illineks' record to 20-3.
This season's squad had been tied with the 1985-86 team coached by current athletic director Sally Walker, which closed with a 19-5 record, and also Lindemann's first team, which was 19-9 last season. Thus far, Walker's '85-86 squad is the only one with a regional title since the program was implemented in 1978-79.
Uni High is the No. 1 seed for the Schlarman Class 1A Regional and will play the winner between Salt Fork and CPCI in its Feb. 8 tournament opener in Danville.
The Illineks are also the top seeds for the East Central Illinois Conference tournament, which starts Saturday at Decatur Lutheran. With each additional win, the school will not only add to its single-season record total but the current senior group will add to its total as the winningest class in school history. To date, seniors Jamie Blue, Abby Radnitzer and Sarah Sutter have been a part of 68 wins.
Help's on the way
ARGENTA — The athletes who have accounted for nearly 75 percent of the scoring for Argenta-Oreana, Kandie Bloch and Hannah Millington, are also the Bombers' primary ball handlers and have teamed up for nearly half of A-O's assists.
Coach Ryan Sosamon recently promoted freshman point guard Kassidy Meador, and she has started the last three games. "She does a majority of the ball handling, and that takes a lot of pressure off our two main scorers," Sosamon said. "She does a good job of pushing the tempo."
Area scoring leader Bloch (21.8 average) doesn't have much of a reduced role. In a Wednesday win against Shelbyville, Bloch matched her season high with 36 points. "When she got defensive rebounds, she pushed the tempo and took it up the floor herself," Sosamon said. "We're comfortable with her doing that. She was super-aggressive, which is what we've been looking for her to do."
Block party continues
CERRO GORDO — Junior forward Arionna Gant has added two more records to her collection. When she blocked nine shots against Heritage on Jan. 19, it shattered her previous single-game mark of seven. Four days later, Gant blocked six Shiloh shots, sending her past the Broncos' previous career record-holder, Jackie Pflum. Pflum, a 1981 graduate, blocked 151 shots in her career. Gant had 154 after the Shiloh game and has since blocked 10 more shots, giving her 73 for the season, and tying the single-season mark she set last year. Gant is averaging 10.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
Where is the logic?
Area schools have been assigned to six sites in Class 1A and four in 2A. In exactly half of them, there is a day's break between the semifinals and the finals. Sites that allowed for schools to have a practice session in preparation for their most important game of the season are Clinton (2A), Fisher (1A), Lexington (1A), Martinsville (1A) and Shiloh (1A).
Sites that are forcing the winning schools to play back-to-back are Arcola (1A), Schlarman (1A), Meridian (2A), St. Thomas More (2A) and Watseka (2A).
One school of thought might be that after 25 to 30 games, teams should be prepared for anything they will face in the postseason, but another view is that for coaches who truly take one game at a time, it would be nice to have a practice in advance of playing an opponent that might offer unique challenges on either offense or defense.
Top scorers gone
Three area schools have lost the person who was the team's top scorer at the time of their departure. No longer playing for their respective schools are Heritage's Hilary Smith, Urbana's Tiffany Walthour and Villa Grove's Lizzy Smith. Walthour was an All-Area second-teamer as a junior. Each of the three were sporting double-figure scoring averages when they left their teams.
Another area school, Argenta-Oreana, had a starter drop off last week for personal reasons. Joelle Gentzyl was the Bombers' third-leading rebounder.
During the final two weeks of the regular season, B-H will participate in three girl-boy doubleheaders. Tuesday's games against SJ-O started with the girls' varsity teams playing at 6 p.m., followed by the boys at 7:30 p.m. Next Tuesday, the same pattern will be followed, though the B-H teams will have different opponents. The girls will play a 20-win St. Thomas More team at home at 6, with the boys taking on Georgetown-Ridge Farm at 7:30 in a rematch of last week's Vermilion County tournament finals. On Feb. 3, both B-H teams will play at Schlarman, with the girls' opening the action at 6 p.m. B-H's Stephens has no objection to the early starts. "I live in Indiana (which is on Eastern time)," he said, "and I can get home sooner." ... A-O has back-to-back home games next week, starting with Clinton (the No. 1 seed in the regional both schools are at) and concluding with Tuscola, which played in the Okaw Conference championship game Thursday night. Sosamon likes the way the schedule has worked out at season's end. "I would rather play the tough teams now," he said. ... The state's second-ranked Class 1A team, Cowden-Herrick/Beecher City, will play in Tuscola on Saturday night. The junior varsity teams will play at 6 p.m.
News-Gazette Top 10
TEAM (PREVIOUS) RECORD COMMENT
1. Centennial (1) 22-4 Next: Saturday, home vs. Rich South
2. Central (3) 17-6 Next: Saturday at Urbana
3. Bismarck-Henning (8) 20-5 Next: Monday, home vs. Salt Fork
4. Shiloh (4) 22-4 Next: Monday at Villa Grove
5. St. Joseph-Ogden (5) 20-4 Next: Saturday, home vs. Danville
6. St. Thomas More (2) 21-5 Next: Monday at Ridgeview
7. Tuscola (6) 17-3 Next: Saturday, home vs. Cowden-Herrick/Beecher City
8. LeRoy (7) 21-2 Next: Monday, home vs. El Paso/Gridley
9. Urbana Uni High (9) 20-3 Next: Saturday TBA in ECIC tournament
10. Arcola (10) 17-6 Next: Monday at Heritage