Macomb High School has officially named Tony Westen as the new Head Football Coach. Westen, who has served as an assistant coach on Kelly Sears’ staff for several years, takes over following Sears’ resignation after a 21 year run at the helm of the Bombers program.
Westen has head coaching experience with the Macomb High Wrestling Team, as well as additional assistant coaching mileage with the Bombers Baseball Team. He works for the West Central Illinois Special Education Co-Op, meaning he will be on-site at MHS throughout the day as well.
At his opening press conference, Westen touched on energy being something he’ll expect his players to bring to the field on Friday nights.
"Energy, fun, we're going to do some things where we're flying around,” Westen said (via the McDonough Voice). "We're going to try to get the crowd to their feet, try to utilize the athleticism that is in our building.”
The new head coach will have the task of taking over a team that finished 2-7 last season, but will bring back many of its starters.
Leo Durocher is one of the more interesting characters in the complex history of the game of baseball. His MLB career as a player started in 1925, playing on the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig "Murderer's Row," Yankees, and extended all of the way to 1973, his last year as a manager for the Houston Astros.
In between, the 1994 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee found himself right in the middle of the rich history of the game. He was a key cog at shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals "Gashouse Gang," team that won the World Series in 1934, the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, and the manager of the Cubs during the end of Ernie Banks' time in the majors, in addition to many other stops over the nearly half a century he was involved in the MLB.
Paul Dickson delved deep into the history of Durocher in his new book, Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son. The book is available in stores and online now. Below you can listen to my interview with Paul, as he dives into his process of writing the book, some of the more memorable anecdotes about Durocher, and specifically details about the hall of famer during his stops in St. Louis and Chicago.
The MHS Baseball (2-1) and Softball (1-3) teams came away with wins Monday afternoon. Baseball picked up a 6-5 victory in the home opener vs Havana. Softball notched its first win of the season, topping United High School 10-3 on the road.
Both teams will be up in the Quad Cities to face Alleman Wednesday afternoon. Bombers Baseball participates in the Galesburg Early Tournament on Friday and Saturday. MHS Softball plays its home opener against South Fulton on Friday, followed by a road contest at Washington on Saturday.
Western Illinois Baseball has started its home and Summit League schedules with a 2-1 record. The Leathernecks did so by taking down Fort Wayne in 2 out of 3 games over the weekend. The team's record now improves to 3-14 overall.
On Friday afternoon the Leathernecks took a 6-5 victory to start off the weekend. The game was tied at 3 through the top half of the 5th, but a 3 run 6th inning from Western propeled the home team to the win.
First it was Roman Visintine who batted in a run with an RBI single. Then Drue Galassi hit his team leading third home run, crushing a pitch over the right field fence for a 2-run shot and a 6-3 Leatherneck lead. Fort Wayne responded with a run in the 7th and 8th innings, but junior Sam Cottingham-Beard came on to notch a 1.1 inning save, striking out 3 batters in the process.
Saturday did not go Western's way, with the Mastadons winning 5-1. The game was tied heading into the 7th, but a 3-run 7th and 2-run 8th evened the series up. Only 3 of the Fort Wayne runs were earned, with WIU commiting 2 errors in the game.
For the Sunday rubber-match, the Leathernecks took care of business on their home field, winning 4-1. Western led 2-0 going into the 5th, but allowed a solo shot to Fort Wayne left fielder Jacob Dickson. That did not phase Western, as the team responded with a Visintine 2-run double in the bottom of that inning. Javin Drake pitched 7.1 innings of one-run ball and Nate Westfahl came in to close out the rest of the game.
The Leathernecks have a quick turnaround, with St. Ambrose coming to town for a game Wednesday afternoon. This will be the 4th game of a 8 game homestand for Western Illinois, which also includes a series with North Dakota State this weekend and a matchup with Bradley next Wednesday.
Western Illinois Softball went 0-4 during a weekend slate at Tennessee-Martin. These defeats bring Western's record down to 9-19 on the regular season.
Saturday morning WIU suffered a 6-0 loss to Samford. 5 of those 6 runs were given up in the final 2 innings. Western only recorded 2 hits in the contest.
Saturday afternoon the Leathernecks retook the field to face UT-Martin. That game went 4-1 in favor of the Skyhawks. The game was 2-0 heading into the 6th inning, where Western scored a run on a Kelsey Marlow RBI single. This was the lone Leatherneck hit of the game.
That was followed up by 2 runs going to the home team in the bottom of the inning. WIU could not respond in the 7th, losing that game.
On Sunday WIU returned to the field for two more games. The first was a 8-4 loss to Samford. The teams were tied up at 3 after the first 3 innings, but a 4 run Samford inning put the bulldogs on top for good. Another run in the 6th capped off the Samford scoring effort.
The final game of the day went 4-3 to UT-Martin. The Skyhawks needed extra innings to surpass the Leathernecks, with a throwing error ultimately brining around the game winning run in the bottom of the 8th.
Western is home for the first time on Saturday. The Leathernecks will play South Dakota in a three game series, which is kicked off by a Saturday doubleheader.
(Photo of sophomore Taylor Higginbotham via WIU Athletic Communications)
Despite leading early and hanging with a nationally ranked Florida State team on their home court, Western Illinois Women's Basketball lost 87-66 in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.
The 14th seeded Leathernecks held a 19-12 lead after the 1st quarter of play, with sophomore Taylor Higginbotham scoring 12 of the teams first 14 points. Western got hot from beyond the arc early, stroking 7 three pointers in the first half. The 3rd seeded Seminoles went on a few runs in the second quarter, but WIU stuck with FSU, only trailing 36-34 at halftime.
The second half was a different story, as Florida State slowly but surely pulled away. Western could not contain Seminoles star player Shakayla Thomas, who finished the night with 23 points and 14 boards. The defecit was still manageable for Western Illinois after the third quarter, with Florida State up 67-56.
In the 4th quarter the Leathernecks ran out of gas. With Higginbotham on the bench after an inadvertant elbow from a FSU player required her to get stiches, the WIU offense could not get going in that final frame. The Seminoles quickly expanded their lead and walked away with a 21 point victory.
WIU finished this historic season with a 26-7 record, a program best. The team made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995. This was the final game for seniors Mallory Boyle and Jasmine Patrick.
Taylor Higginbotham: 20 Points (8-16 FG) (3-5 3FG), 3 Rebounds
Morgan Blumer: 12 Points (4-10 FG) (3-6 3FG), 6 Rebounds
Western Illinois Women's Basketball plays its first round game of the NCAA Tournament tonight at Florida State. The Leathernecks (26-6) come into the game as a 14 seed, earning an automatic bid as the Summit League Champions. The Seminoles (25-7), a 3 seed, scooped up an at-large bid from the ACC.
The game will take place at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, FSU's home floor. The Seminoles are 13-3 at home this year, but come in losing 4 of their last 6 games. Western on the other hand, has won 11 straight games, including an overtime thriller over IUPUI 77-69 to capture the Summit League crown. The winner of tonight's game plays the winner of Missouri and South Florida on Monday in Tallahassee.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN2, with radio coverage on 102.7 FM. Tip-off is slated for 6:30 PM.
The Western Illinois Women's Basketball Team heads down to Tallahassee this morning with their NCAA Tournament First Round Game vs Florida State two days away.
The 26-6 Summit League Champions come in having won 11 straight games, most recently topping IUPUI 77-69 in overtime in that league championship game. Florida State, which is ranked 10th in the most recent AP Top 25 Poll and 13th in the USA Today Coaches Poll, bring in their 25-6 record this game. The Seminoles have struggled down the stretch though, losing 4 of their last 6 games, includng falling 58-56 to Miami in an ACC Quarterfinal game.
A 14 seed has never defeated a 3 seed in the women's tournament, going 0-88 since 1994 when the NCAA expanded the field to 64 teams. At a press conference at Western Hall yesterday, Leathernecks players and Head Coach JD Gravina stressed yesterday that the tall task of facing a tough power five conference team does not worry them. Listen below to what WIU Athletic Director Matt Tanney, Coach Gravina, senior Mallory Boyle, as well as juniors Morgan Blumer, Taylor Hanneman, and Emily Clemens had to say as the team heads down to the tournament.
The Macomb 7th grade volleyball team came out victorious last night vs Homer Glen, winning 25-16, 25-19 in the Class 4A State Title Game at Normal Kingsley Junior High. The Bombers win their first state title in program history, finishing the season with a 28-1 record.
In the first game of last night's title, Macomb trailed 9-6 early. From there the team got rolling, going on a 19-7 run to control the first game. From there the team took care of business in the second game, closing out their title run. Sydney Rhoads and Avery Rexroat led the Bombers in aces, with 7 apeice. Rhoads, along with Lauren McClure and Samantha Urch, all had 4 service points in the contest.
The road certainly was not easy for Macomb. The Bombers had to navigate past a one loss Rochester team in the first round of the state tournament, only to meet another one loss team in the semifinals in that of Edwardsville Lincoln. Macomb had to go to three games in the Rochester win, taking that one 25-22 23-25 25-20. The Lincoln game went 25-21 25-21 in Macomb's favor.
The Western Illinois Women’s basketball team has been given a 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Summit League Champions will play 3rd seeded Florida State in Tallahassee on Friday. The winner of that game will play the victor of the game between 6th seeded Missouri and 11th seeded South Florida Sunday.
The game is scheduled for 6:30 PM Friday on ESPN2. We’ll have coverage Leatherneck Sports Network coverage on 102.7 FM beginning at 6:15 PM from the Donald L. Tucker Center.
FSU comes in ranked number 13 in the nation in the most recent USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll. The Seminoles have a 25-6 record on the year, having lost 4 of their last 6 games, including a 56-54 result vs Miami in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals.
The Leathernecks come in at 26-6. They earned the Summit League’s automatic bid, winning the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls by beating IUPUI 77-69 in overtime. WIU has won 11 consecutive games.
This is the first meeting between both of these teams in program history.
Western Illinois Softball picked up 3 wins in Memphis over the weekend, playing a variety of five different teams. With the results, Western improved to 9-13 on the season.
WIU started off the weekend with two games on Friday morning. A 3-1 win over Lipscomb and a 1-0 loss to Indiana both went to extra innings.
In the victory, sophomore Payton Abbott pitched all eight innings, striking out seven batters and giving up three walks. Nina Maggio knocked in the go-ahead run in the 8th with a RBI single. Teammate Hailey Duwa tacked on another RBI, singling to centerfield to make it 3-1. Abbott of course came back on the hill to close it out.
In the loss, Western had runner on third in the bottom of the 8th down 1-0. The Leathernecks were unable to bring around the tying run, dropping that game.
Western shutout Oakland University 2-0. A RBI triple from Kelsey Marlow in the 4th and a Holly Hoelting RBI double in the 6th gave the Leathernecks their scoring output in that one.
The story of that game was sophomore pitcher Emily Ira. She only gave up 1 hit in a full 7 innings of action, recording a program record 19 strikeouts in the process.
In the second Saturday game for Western Illinois, the Leathernecks took a 3-2 loss to Buffalo. The Bulls were ahead 3-0 heading into the 7th, but WIU scored two runs on a Duwa single up the middle with one out. The team had a runner on third with two outs, but could not bring her across, ultimately falling 3-2.
The final game of Western’s Memphis slate came Sunday against the Tigers of the University of Memphis. The Leathernecks won that one 4-2 in another 8 inning game. The Tigers tied the game up at two in the bottom of the 7th on a one run double.
In extras Western wasted no time to pull ahead, utilizing a Marlow RBI double and Hoelting RBI single to make it 4-2. Ira was on the hill again, and she closed it down for Western. Ira struck out 11 this time out, including 2 in the 8th.
The Leathernecks now head to Murray, Kentucky, where they’ll meet the Murray State Racers for a Wednesday doubleheader.
Western Illinois Baseball moves to 1-12 on the season after this weekend's three game set vs Dayton. During the front end of a doubleheader Sunday, Western defeated Dayton 7-5 in 10 innings. This marked the first win of the season for the Leathernecks, who have come close on a number of occasions in the early-going, but had yet to close one out until Sunday.
The Leathernecks were coming in off a tough 6-0 beating from the Flyers on Friday. In that one Dayton touched Western for 3 runs in the 1st and 3 more in the 7th.
On Sunday, Western was down 4-0 heading into the 6th inning, but a Roman Visintine 2-run double and a Johnathan Fleek 2-run single evened the score. The Leathernecks then found themselves down in the top of the 9th, but tied it up on a Conner Currier RBI double. Sam Cottingham-Beard, who struck out 7 and did not allow an earned run in 3.2 innings of work, struck out the side in the bottom of the 9th to send it to extra innings.
In the top of the 10th, Western finally got ahead. A Chris Tschida fielder's choice scored CJ Schaffer as the go-ahead run. Tchida then stole second, forcing an error by the Dayton catcher, scoring another Leatherneck run. Cottingham-Beard closed out the game, to earn the win.
The second game of the Sunday doubleheader went 4-1 to Dayton. A 3-run 4th inning gave the Flyers a cushion that they never let slip out of their grasp. The lone WIU run came when senior outfielder Cord Church drew a walk in the top of the 6th with the bases loaded.
Western has a quick turnaround, playing at Butler this afternoon. Following the Butler matchup, WIU heads back west to meet Robert Morris for a Wednesday affair. The Leathernecks follow that up with their innagural homestand of the season, playing three games against Summit League foe Fort Wayne in Macomb this coming weekend.
WIU Women’s Basketball’s Emily Clemens has earned the Summit League Athlete of the Month Award for the month of February. The junior point guard helped lead her team to a 7-0 record during that stretch, clinching the Summit League Regular Season Title on February 26 vs South Dakota.
For the month, Clemens averaged 20.7 points, 8.0 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 2.0 steals and a 3.7 assist/turnover ratio. She was named Summit League Player of the Week twice during that month. This is the first time Clemens has earned a Player of the Month award.
(Western receives its Summit League Championship Trophy. Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)
Western Illinois Women's Basketball continued their improbable late season run on Tuesday afternoon, defeating IUPUI 77-69 in overtime to win the Summit League Title and claim the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. This will be the team's first trip to the tournament since 1995.
The Leathernecks found themselves down three points with 2.2 seconds remaining, but junior guard Taylor Hanneman hit the game tying shot, nailing a long 3 at the buzzer to extend the game into overtime. Hanneman, who finished the game with 12 points in 15 minutes, had played sparingly up to that point, but had her number called when her team needed results the most.
"The fact that my teammates had enough confidence in me, the fact that me coaches had enough confidence in me, whenever I let it go I had confidence that it would go in," Hanneman said.
After that shot the Leathernecks closed things out handidly in overtime, outscoring the Jags 13-5 in those additional five minutes. Western opened up overtime on a 9-0 run and closed out the game to win the conference crown.
Junior point guard Emily Clemens led the Leathernecks yet again, scoring 20 points along with 9 assists and 5 steals, earning a well deserved tournament MVP distinction. With her 9 dimes, Clemens has set a new Summit League single season assists mark with 234, and has also moved to second place on the program's all-time assists list, passing Michelle Maher.
(Emily Clemens put up a 20 point, 9 assist, 5 steal statline Tuesday. Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)
Teammates Morgan Blumer (18 points), Taylor Higginbotham (15 points), and Hanneman all reached double figures as well. Blumer was also named to the All Tournament Team, along with Clemens. The team hung with IUPUI in large part due to its stingy defense, forcing a whopping 25 turnovers, while only giving the ball away 12 times themselves.
The game was back and forth throughout, with the pendulum swaying the Leathernecks way for a majority of the contest. There were 8 ties and 11 lead changes, but WIU maintained a lead in this one by nearly triple the amount of time as IUPUI. Even with that being the case, it was Western Illinois who found itself needing a miraculous play at the end to keep its title hopes alive.
"I can't imagine so much thinking you have something, losing it, then getting it back," said WIU Head Coach JD Gravina. "With the way this team has believed, especially during this 11 game winning streak, it almost had a little bit of a fate destiny type of feel."
Western was unable to close things out up 4 with 2:29 remaining. The team went 2-6 from the foul line during that stretch, something uncharacteristic of a team that strokes it at a 77% clip from the stripe. This is something that came into play yesterday against Omaha though, as the Mavs were in position to tie or take the lead down 2 on the final posession after WIU went 1-4 on free throws late.
A wild bank shot three pulled the Jags to within 1 at 61-60 with 11 seconds remaining. Clemens then was intentionally fouled, but could not cash in on either of her free throws. From there, Jags guard Holly Hoopingarner drew a foul, and with Western over the limit sank both freebies. This gave IUPUI a 62-61 lead with 4 seconds remaining, its first lead since the 9:14 mark of the third quarter.
Western failed to execute the ensuing inbounds play, with Higginbotham throwing the cross court lob right to Alex Brown, who connected on both of her foul shots. Gravina then used his final timeout to draw up the play for Hanneman, who just about everyone in the gym outside of that huddle would not have expected the ball to go to.
(Hanneman pulls up for the game-tying three pointer as time expired. Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)
"It would be easy to sulk and to be sad in that moment and kind of think the game's over, but that's the type of player she (Hanneman) is." Clemens said. "She's a gamer and I think that shows a lot of character in our team."
Gravina also noted his strategic reasoning for deciding to draw up the play for Hanneman on the final possession.
"She can get a good shot off," said Gravina. "If you noticed, it was a faily good play to get her some space, but she shot faked and I believe took a dribble, and then knocked down that shot. And I think she's faily unique in that she can shoot that shot off the dribble."
The Leathernecks now play the waiting game, with decision Monday ahead. Monday night will be when Western finds out who it will face in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, and where they will be playing. As of Tuesday morning, ESPNW's Bracketology page had Western pegged as a 13 seed, set to play 4th seeded UCLA in Los Angeles.
Of course there are a ton of variables between now and then. Until that point, the team plans to enjoy this monumental victory, while also preparing to make a run in March Madness.
"We're not just there," Clemens said. "It doesn't matter who we get. We want to work hard, get in the gym, and start preparing for them."
(Gravina cuts down the net as the Leathernecks win the Summit League Finals)
WIU Postgame Pressconference
Gravina Opening Statement and Players Taylor Hanneman, Emily Clemens, and Morgan Blumer
(Photo of WIU's Michelle Farrow by Dave Eggen/Inertia)
The top seeded Western Illinois Women's Basketball team took down number five Omaha 84-82 Monday afternoon to advance to the Summit League Tournament Finals. Western moves on to its first Summit League Championship Game since 2006, and have the chance to win the league for the first time since 1995.
In the win, Leathernecks junior point guard Emily Clemens recorded a triple-double of 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. This marks the first triple-double of Clemens' career, and the first for any Summit League player since 2015. Teammate Morgan Blumer dropped a team high 22 points (6-9 3FG), and hit a pair of late game 3's to give Western a four point lead with under two minutes to play.
Western came out hot, gaining a 7-0 lead in the opening two minutes. From there Omaha regrouped and neither team really gained momentum for the first quarter and change. Western led 28-27 with 7:11 left in the first half, but would not retake that lead until the aforementioned pair of Blumer late game treys.
From there Omaha closed the quarter on a 17-11 run to lead 47-39 at the half. The Mavericks read the Leathernecks matchup zone extremely well, working the ball down low to their scorers and hitting outside shots. Omaha shot 58% in the first half to Western's 35%. The three point discrepency went 50% for Omaha to 25% for WIU, which is unfamiliar territory for a Western Illinois team that is known to shoot teams out of the gym.
(WIU's Emily Clemens. Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)
Omaha's Mikaela Shaw scored 17 first half points and continuously found ways to knife through the Leatherneck zone. Head Coach JD Gravina mentioned postgame how the team tried mixing things up on Shaw by double teaming her at certain points, but nothing seemed to slow her down. Shaw finished the game with 29 points, tying an individual season high for her and setting a new mark for the most individual points for an opposing player versus Western this season. Fellow Mavericks big Michaela Dapprich was also impressive down low, dropping 24 points.
Early in the third quarter Omaha built its lead up to as much as nine. Despite continued shooting struggles Western traded blows after that, and ultimately climbed back into it to tie the score at 59. Shaw hit a three pointer with 6 seconds left in the quarter to give the lead back to Omaha.
A major reason for Western sticking around was it's 5'4 point guard. Clemens did what she's done all season long, find a way to impact games. She always seems to fill up the box score in such a deceptive way. She's pretty much a lock to finish somewhere in the high teens or low to mid twenties in scoring, regardless of how well she's shooting the ball. She took a clear grasp of the game in the third and into the fourth, shooting 4-9 from the field in the second half, in which she scored 12 of her 21.
In the fourth quarter WIU's potent shooting was on full display for the largely South Dakota State affiliated contingent on hand at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center. Western shot 69% from the field in the fourth, including 6-9 on triples. Blumer hit those two late threes, but Michelle Farrow also hit some timely shots, nailing two three's with under five minutes to play. Omaha still kept pace though, with the game coming down to the final possession.
WIU's Taylor Higginbotham missed a pair of free throws, putting the ball in the hands of the Mavericks with the score 84-82 Western. The Leathernecks got the stop playing sufficating defense on Shaw, forcing the ball into the hands of guard Amber Vidal, who had only taken one shot that game. She got flusterd and ultimately the Mavs did not get a clean look up, with WIU surviving the near 1-5 upset.
Western moves on to play IUPUI tomorrow at 1 PM in the Summit League Championship Game. Western Illinois is 0-2 vs the Jaguars this season. The IUPUI 76-72 victory at Western Hall on 1/25 was the last time the Leathernecks have lost a game, going 10-0 since then.
Leathernecks Head Coach JD Gravina and players Emily Clemens and Morgan Blumer:
Omaha Head Coach Brittany Lange and players Mikaela Shaw and Michaela Dappich
(Photo of WIU's Garret Covington by Dick Carlson/Inertia)
Despite an impressive effort in the Summit League Tournament Quarterfinals, the 8th seeded Western Illinois Men's Basketball Team fell 78-69 in overtime to South Dakota. Western was down as much as 9 in the second half, but scratched and clawed their way back, forcing overtime at 68 all. In the extra five minutes the Leathernecks went ice cold from the field, shooting 0-9 en route to the season ending loss.
Western Illinois came into this game losing four straight contests to close the regular season, but all of those losses were close. Two of their last three games heading into tonight went to overtime, including a double-overtime contest at North Dakota State two weeks ago. However, the trend ultimately continued of the Leathernecks sticking with a talented opponent, but ultimately coming up on the short end of the stick.
The first half was deceptive. When watching the game it was one that looked like South Dakota had clear control. The Coyotes didn't shoot well by any stretch, but seemed to have an easier time getting clean looks at the hoop than Western did. Even so, the defecit never hit double digits, and the teams went into halftime tied at 37 following a CJ Duff buzzer-beater three.
Much of the same transpired early in the second. Western remained close but South Dakota seemed to have a response for every Leatherneck answer. Midway into the second half though, that changed.
First there was the 7-0 WIU run that trimmed a nine point defecit to two at 54-52. Then Western closed within one at 61-60 with 5:45 remaining. It no longer felt like a game that was in the grasp of the one seed. It was anybody's ballgame.
WIU managed to take a 65-63 lead on a Brandon Gilbeck dunk with 3:18 remaining. Both teams went cold for a couple of minutes following that, but USD managed to take the lead with 32 seconds remaining on a Matt Mooney step back trey.
(Photo of WIU sophomore forward Brandon Gilbeck by Dick Carlson/Inertia)
Western of course responded. With 12 seconds left on the clock, Duff splashed home another big outside shot, canning a three from the left wing to knot it up at 68. The Leathernecks got the ensuing stop and nearly had the halfcourt prayer of junior guard Dalan Ancrum answered. The ball did not fall in though and it went to overtime, where the wheels fell off.
(Photo of South Dakota bench celebration by Dick Carlson/Inertia)
Senior Garret Covington finished his storybook career at Western Illinois with 25 points and 6 assists. Fellow senior Mike Miklusak struggled offensively (3-15 FG), but managed to cap off his career with a 10 point 10 rebound effort. Duff compiled 12 points, and sophomore forward Jalen Morgan played an efficient 15 minutes off the bench, finishing with 8 points on 4-5 shooting.
While it certainly doesn't make any of the players or coaches feel better, it truly was a captivating environment. With a large contingent of South Dakota fans on hand, there was that tough road environment that Western was prepared for. On the other hand, there were many South Dakota State fans in attendance as well, with the Jacks faithful vying for a purple and gold upset over the one seed.
Western Illinois finishes the season at 8-20, ending the year losing their final five games.
WIU Head Coach Billy Wright Postgame:
South Dakota Head Coach Craig Smith and Players Matt Mooney and Tyler Flack:
(WIU point guard Emily Clemens. Photo courtesy of David Eggen, Dakota Press)
Western opened up day one of the 2017 Summit League Basketball Tournament in style, smoking Denver 82-39. The win moves WIU to 24-6 on the season, breaking the program's all-time single season wins mark. The Leathernecks now advance to the Semifinals, where they'll play either South Dakota or Omaha on Monday.
WIU led the entire game, despite missing their first five shots of the game. After Western scored its first points of the game on a Mallory Boyle layup, the team went on a 10-0 run, and wound up leading 19-2 after the first quarter of play. The team didn't allow a single field goal in that first quarter.
The Leathernecks built their lead up to 22 points early in the second quarter, but an 11-0 run for the Pioneers trimmed that figure to 11. WIU Head Coach JD Gravina called a timeout and from there the game was all Western.
Junior point guard and Summit League Player of the Year, Emily Clemens, finished the game with 17 points, 9 assists, and 4 steals. A total of five Leathernecks reached double figures, with Clemens, Morgan Blumer (15 points), Taylor Hanneman (11 Points), Olivia Braun (10 points, 10 rebounds), and Mallory Boyle (10 points) hitting that mark.
(WIU's Olivia Braun spots up from behind the arc. Photo courtesy of David Eggen, Dakota Press)
The game really was won on the defensive end. The Leatherneck's matchup zone caused all sorts of trouble for the Pioneers. Western swiped 15 steals, forced 23 turnovers, and held Denver to 25 percent shooting on the game, including 22 percent from downtown. 39 points is the lowest amount that Western has yielded to a Division 1 opponent all season. The only team at any level to score less against WIU this year is Division 3 foe Monmouth College, with 29 in the season opener.
With the amount of time WIU had to prepare for this game and it being the third time that these teams have met this season, Western knew Denver's offense so well that at time's it looked like the team knew exactly what the Pioneers were running and when they were going to do it.
The 43 point win is the largest margin of victory in a Summit League Tournament Women's Basketball game since 1993. Western faces the winner of South Dakota and Omaha Monday at Noon in Sioux Falls. Those two teams face off Sunday at noon.
(WIU's Morgan Blumer sizing up her defender. Photo courtesy of David Eggen, Dakota Press)
WIU Postgame Press Conference (Head Coach JD Gravina & Players Emily Clemens & Morgan Blumer):
To preview this weekend's tournament, I spoke with WIU Women's Basketball broadcaster Danny Frey, and Men's Basketball broadcaster Scott Kornberg. Here's what they had to say as the teams get ready for Saturday's games. The Women's team plays Denver at noon, and the Men's team faces South Dakota at 6.
Garret Covington has been named to the Summit League's All Second Team. The 6'5 Senior guard finished second in the league in scoring this year with 19.7 points per game. He also led the team in assists with 3.1 per game, and finished third on the Leathernecks in rebounding with 3.6 per game.
Western (8-19) (5-11 Summit League), comes into Saturday's Summit League Tournament as the 8 seed. They'll meet top seeded South Dakota Saturday at 6. Coverage can be heard on 102.7 FM.
The WIU Women's Basketball Team (23-6) (13-3 Summit League) cleaned up with the Summit League awards. Western had players capture a Player of the Year award, Newcomer of the Year award, two first-team players, one second-team player, and two all-newcomer team players. Head Coach JD Gravina also took home Coach of the Year honors.
Player of the Year: Emily Clemens (19.2 PPG, 7.1 APG, 3.9 RPG, 2.5 SPG)
-The junior point guard was also named an All Summit League First Team selection
-Clemens becomes the 5th player in Western history to earn the award, joining Oberon Pitterson (1994-95), Tiffany Cornelius (2003-04), Zane Teilane (2004-05, 2005-06) and Ashley Luke (2014-15).
-Her points per game, assists per game, steals per game, minutes per game (37), assist/turnover ratio (2.5) and free throw percentage (87.9%) marks all led the Summit League
-She was named Summit League Player of the Week 5 times during the year (Nov. 21, Nov. 28, Dec. 12, Feb. 6 and Feb. 27)
Coach of the Year: JD Gravina
-Western has tied a program record with 23 wins this year (this can be surpassed in postseason play) with the '05-06 team.
-WIU led the Summit League in points (80.4), rebounds (38.3), assists (18.1), steals (11.4), blocks (4.7) and fewest turnovers (13.0) per game.
Newcomer/Transfer of the Year: Morgan Blumer (16.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG)
-The junior forward was also named to Summit League All Newcomer Team
-Her scoring average was the 2nd best on the team and 3rd best in the Summit League
-She set a new program record for three-pointers made in a season with 75
-Played her first year for Western as a transfer from Florida Gulf Coast
All-Second Team Player: Taylor Higginbotham (14.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.0 SPG)
-The Sophomore was 8th in the Summit League in points and 3rd in steals per game
-Higginbotham earned Summit League Player of the Week January 9
All Newcomer Team Player: Olivia Braun (8.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.3 APG, 2.9 BPG)
Macomb's late season winning streak came to an end last night in the 3A Regional Semifinals at Peoria High School. MHS lost the game 73-39 to Normal University High, ending the Bombers season. Macomb had won 6 straight and 8 of their last 9 coming into the contest, including a 46-45 Regional Quarterfinal victory over Galesburg Monday night.
Playing their 3rd game in 6 days and without having a real opportunity to scout U-High, Macomb fell handidly against the long and athletic Pioneers squad. MHS took a 3-0 lead to start the game on a Carter Fayhee contested three-pointer, but did not hold the lead again after that. The score was 33-19 at halftime, but in the 3rd quarter Macomb got blown out of the water, en route to the 34 point defeat.
The Bombers finish the year with a 13-15 record. Macomb returns a majority of its core group, including 4 of its 5 starters as well as numerous contributors off the bench. Sophomore point guard Ben Higgins led Macomb in scoring in this game, accounting for 11 points. Senior Quintin Adler was second on the team in this one, finishing with 8 points in his final game in a Bombers uniform.
The WIU Women's Basketball team heads into the Summit League Tournament as the 1 seed and the outright Regular Season Champions. JD Gravina's squad finished the season at 23-6 and 13-3 in Summit League play. They'll match up with 8th seeded Denver Saturday at Noon for their first round matchup.
The team held Media Day yesterday at Western Hall as they get ready to travel to Sioux Falls. Coach Gravina and players Emily Clemens, Taylor Higginbotham, and Morgan Blumer discussed sat down with the local media to discuss a number of storylines heading into tournament play.
The Macomb Boys Basketball team pulled out a 46-45 win over Galesburg Monday night in the 3A Regional Quarterfinals at Peoria High School. The Bombers were down by as much as 6 points in the 4th quarter, but closed the game on a 9-2 run to get the win and advance to a Regional Semifinal Game. The win sets up a meeting with Normal University High Wednesday at 7 PM back in Peoria.
Junior forward Carter Fayhee scored the go-ahead bucket for MHS with 6.8 seconds left after a putback layup on his own miss. The Bombers then got the neccessary stop to hold on and move on. Fayhee finished the game with 17 points. Teammate Kavon Johnson made a major impact off the bench, dropping 12 points (all in the second half) in the victory.
Listen below to the radio broadcast of the final 3 minutes of play:
Macomb utilized a 3-2 zone for a majority of the game, something that the team does not typically do. The zone counteracted the athletic advantage that Galesburg held over Macomb, and forced the Silver Streak to become a jump shooting team. The Bombers only allowed 13 first half points, including a mere 2 in the second quarter.
Jeremy Anderson Postgame Interview:
Macomb has hit it's stride late in the season, winning 8 of its last 9 games, and 6 straight. Wednesday's foe will certainly put that streak to the test, as Normal U High is the 3 seed in the regional. The Pioneers finished 3rd in a very tough Corn Belt Conference. They're 15-11 on the year and 7-4 in conference play.
I spoke with WIU Head Men's Basketball Coach Billy Wright following the end of the team's regular season slate. Western fell 92-81 to South Dakota Thursday night, then took a 96-92 overtime loss at the hands of Fort Wayne Saturday night. Prior to the Fort Wayne game, seniors Garret Covington, Mike Miklusak, and Jabari Sandifer were honored as part of Senior Night.
The Leathernecks finished the regular season with an 8-19 record overall and 5-11 in Summit League play. Western heads to Sioux Falls, South Dakota later this week to take part in the Summit League Basketball Championships.
The 8th seeded Leathernecks will match up with top seeded South Dakota Saturday at 6 PM. Should Western win that game, they'll move on to play the winner of South Dakota State and Denver. That game will take place Monday at 6 PM.
Listen below to my conversation with Coach Wright as he and the team get ready for Sioux Falls.
In front of a packed house at Western Hall, WIU Women's Basketball notched a 81-75 win over South Dakota Saturday afternoon. The win gave Western, who had already clinched a share of the league title, the outright Summit League crown.
WIU was down by as much as ten early in the 1st quarter, but closed the gap in the 2nd. The score was tied 40-40 at halftime. Western gained control in the 3rd quarter, leading 59-52 at the end of the 3rd. The Leathernecks went up by as much as 12 in the 4th, ultimately wrapping things up with the final 6 point margain of victory.
Taylor Higginbotham led all scorers with 25 points. Emily Clemens scored 24 (16-16 FT) and dished out 10 assists.
Western finishes the regular season 23-6 (13-3 Summit), having won 8 consecutive games to close the season out. They'll be the number one seed at the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, SD next weekend. They'll face 8th seeded Denver Saturday at Noon.
Players Emily Clemens, Taylor Higginbotham, and Michelle Farrow postgame:
(Photo of WIU's Mike Miklusak Courtesy of WIU Athletic Communications)
Western Illinois Men's Basketball lost 92-81 at home to South Dakota Thursday Night. Leathernecks drop to 8-18 on the year and 5-10 in Summit League play.
Western was only down three at halftime and hung around for a good portion of the second half. The free throw disparity hurt WIU, with South Dakota getting to the line 34 times to western's 19. The Coyotes also won the battle on the board, outrebounding the Leathernecks 42-33.
Senior Mike Miklusak led Western with 24 points and 13 rebounds. Fellow classmate Garret Covington also produced with 21 points and 7 assists. Sophomore center Brandon Gilbeck scored 15 points and pulled down 6 boards.
Western will wrap up regular season play Saturday night at 7 vs Fort Wayne. You can catch that game on 102.7 FM.
The 4th seeded Bushnell-Prairie City Spartans took down 11th seeded Peoria Christian 53-36 in the 1A Regional Semifinals at Quest Charter Academy in Peoria last night. The Spartans were led by Junior center Jason Housenga's 17 points, with Devin Yocum (14 points) and Draven Martin (10 Points) also reaching double figures.
This moves Bushnell-PC to tonight's 1A Regional Finals game against top seeded Peoria Quest. That will be played tonight back in Peoria. Coverage begins at 6:45 on 104.7 FM.
(Photo of WIU's Emily Clemens Courtesy of WIU Athletic Communications)
The Western Illinois Women's Basketball team took down Fort Wayne 77-51 at Western Hall last night. With the win the 22-6 (12-3 Summit League) Leathernecks have clinched at least a share of the league's regular season title. This was also the 12th regular season home victory, which ties program marks set in 2002-03 and 2004-05.
The Leathernecks led in this one for all but 1:39 of gametime. That being said, the 5-23 Mastadons hung around until the 4th quarter, with the game remaining in single digits until that point. A 24-6 advantage in the 4th quarter for Western cemented this one, with the stingy WIU defense limiting Fort Wayne to 37.9% from the field and a putrid 13.3% from three point range.
Emily Clemens made another strong claim for Summit League Player of the Year honors, dropping 25 points and dishing out 12 assists in this one. Morgan Blumer also put together a strong performance with 18 points (3-4 3FG) and 7 rebounds. Olivia Braun finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 blocks.
At 12-3 in the Summit League, Western sits one game in front of South Dakota, IUPUI, and South Dakota State. With the Leathernecks playing the Coyotes of South Dakota at Western Hall Saturday afternoon, sole possession of the top spot in the league will be on the line. IUPUI and South Dakota State still have to play the teams with the worst and second to worst records in the Summit League respectively, so a 4-team tie could be in place should Western not get the win Saturday.
Tip off from Western Hall is set for 4:30 Saturday, with a pregame ceremony honoring seniors Mallory Boyle and Jasmine Patrick taking place prior. Coverage begins at 4:15 on 104.1 FM and the Leatherneck Sports Network.