Prairie Central's Crane nears decision

Prairie Central's Crane nears decision

CHAMPAIGN — Laura Crane’s decisions are getting tougher.

The Prairie Central senior was the only player in Saturday’s third Parkland College/News-Gazette girls’ all-star game who hasn’t settled on a college.

“I have to decide between basketball and the major I want,” Crane said.

She could have helped sort things out by not playing well in the seniors-only game.

Instead, the 5-foot-11 forward scored a game-high 20 points. She grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds and shot 80 percent from the field and the free throw line.

“And she played great defense,” said Arcola’s Nancy Stiff, who coached Crane on the Team Gold squad, “and she didn’t act like she was winded.”

Crane was selected as the game’s Most Valuable Player after leading the Gold to a come-from-behind 79-74 triumph at Parkland.

“This was my first all-star game, and I had a lot of fun,” said Crane, who earlier in the day competed in a track meet for the Hawks. “This (performance) definitely made it tougher.”

If she goes with basketball, Crane will head to Loras College. If the 4.0 student decides to pursue a major in radiology, she’ll go to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

“Playing basketball, in general, is so fun much,” Crane said. “Being in track has helped keep me in shape.”

Behind the prolific early three-point shooting of Armstrong-Potomac’s Morgan Zindars (four first-half three-pointers in five attempts), Team Black built a 19-8 lead. Team Gold didn’t take the lead for good until the final minute.

Most of the players were ones Stiff had never seen until Saturday night. The veteran coach had a plan for the lineup.

“We needed a point guard and a post for each unit,” Stiff said, “but I let them pick. They knew each other better than I did.”

She also let the players have some input in another aspect of the coaching.

“When group two came out, they said, ‘Why don’t you put this group back in with about 1:30 to go? We’ll have fresh legs,’” Stiff said.
She listened and made the five-player substitution with 90 seconds to go. Watseka’s Devin Curry hit 4 of 4 free throws in the last 49 seconds, including two that put Team Gold ahead to stay, 75-74.

Overall, Team Gold was 19 of 26 from the line, including 7 of 9 by Centennial’s Jaki Vipond. Chargers teammate Jasmine Kyler had 11 rebounds and eight points for the winners.

Stiff, who has only coached two 6-footers during her 41 years at Arcola, had two on her Saturday roster. Besides Kyler, Fisher’s Caitlin Cole had 11 points and nine rebounds.

Zindars led Team Black with 16 points. St. Thomas More’s Randa Harshbarger had 12 points. Effingham’s Josie Zerrusen and Judah Christian’s Leslee Chambers were the top rebounders for the Black with seven and six, respectively.

“There were so many quality kids here,” Stiff said. “You could tell basketball meant something to them. It was wonderful to see the good kids out here doing so many things well.”