The Illinois stars who never made it to the state finals

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The Illinois stars who never made it to the state finals

The state high school basketball tournament has begun, Illinois' signature event, the original March Madness. For decades, it has been the dream of every kid who began shooting hoops in a playground or at a rim nailed to a garage or a tree to play in the state finals in Huff Gym or Assembly Hall or Carver Arena.

It has been a showcase for some of the best players in state history...Lou Boudreau, Johnny Orr, Ron Bontemps, Max Hooper, Walt Moore, Deacon Davis, Ted Caiazza, Nolden Gentry, Mannie Jackson, George Wilson, Bogie Redmon, Cazzie Russell, LaMarr Thomas, Bob Lackey, Jim Brewer, Owen Brown, Quinn Buckner, Rickey Green, Russell Cross, Marcus Liberty, LaPhonso Ellis, Jamie Brandon, Rashard Griffith, Sergio McClain, Darius Miles, Eddy Curry, Jon Scheyer, Derrick Rose.

But the list of elite players who didn't play in the state finals is just as long and distinguished, Hall of Famers who went on to stardom in college and the NBA but never realized the dream of every high school player in Illinois--to play in the finals of the state tournament.

How about this five? Proviso East's Glenn "Doc" Rivers, Batavia's Dan Issel, McLeansboro's Jerry Sloan, Du Sable's Maurice Cheeks, Carver's Terry Cummings.

Or this five? Centralia's Bobby Joe Mason, East Leyden's Glen Grunwald, Richards' Dwyane Wade, Mount Carmel's Antoine Walker, Springfield Lanphier's Andre Iguodala.

These players from the pre-1970s era? Mount Carmel's Archie Dees, Collinsville's Rodger Bohnenstiehl, Marshall's Rich Bradshaw, Madison's Don Freeman, Dunbar's Billy Harris, Lockport's Jeff Hickman, Canton's Dave Downey, Peoria Manual's Al Smith, Tamms' Chico Vaughn.

These Public Leaguers? Parker's Tom Hawkins, Crane's Eugene Ford, Dunbar's Ronnie Lester, Simeon's Bobby Simmons, King's Efrem Winters, Westinghouse's Eddie Johnson and Hersey Hawkins.

These suburban stars? Thornton's Lloyd Batts, Maine South's Pete Boesen, St. Joseph's Evan Turner, Homewood-Flossmoor's Julian Wright, Glenbrook North's Chris Collins, Proviso East's Shannon Brown, Downers Grove North's Rick Howat, Proviso West's Michael Ingram.

Talk about frustration.

Rivers, now coach of the Boston Celtics, was an All-Stater in 1978, 1979 and 1980. His teams were 23-5, 26-2 and 26-2 and won regional titles. But they never won a sectional.

Grunwald, now interim vice-president of the New York Knicks, was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the nation in 1976, ahead of future Louisville star Darrell Griffith. In four years at East Leyden, his teams were 20-3, 21-4, 28-1 and 25-1. They won 108 games in a row in the regular season but never qualified for the Elite Eight. They lost three times in the regional. In 1975, they lost to Proviso East in the supersectional.

Mason, whose No. 14 jersey hangs next to Dike Eddleman's No. 40 in Centralia's Hall of Fame, was a two-time All-Stater in 1954 and 1955. His teams finished 25-7 and 29-3 and were ranked No. 3 in the state but lost twice to Pinckneyville in the sectional final.

Issel was a 1966 All-Stater at Batavia in Chicago's far western suburbs. He and future NFL quarterback Ken Anderson were boyhood friends and teammates. Issel was recruited by Adolph Rupp and became an all-time standout at Kentucky and an ABANBA Hall of Famer.

Batts was the leading scorer in Thornton history. He averaged 29 points as a junior and 35 as a senior for teams that won 47 of 56 games. As a junior, he starred on a team that was ranked No. 4 in the state after the regular season. He had 20 points and 13 rebounds in a 63-61 loss to Waukegan in the supersectional. As a senior, his team lost to Joliet Central and Roger Powell in the sectional final.

Smith wasn't rated among the top five players in Peoria history according to a 2000 survey in the Peoria Journal-Star. But legendary coach Dick Van Scyoc and former Bradley coach Joe Stowell insist that Smith was best of all, even better than 2004 NBA lottery pick Shaun Livingston. A three-sport star, he pitched Peoria Manual to the 1965 state baseball championship. He played basketball and baseball at Bradley.

Boesen was Player of the Year in the Chicago area in 1975. His team was 23-4 but lost in the supersectional.

Ingram was Player of the Year in the Chicago area in 1985. His Proviso West team was 25-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state at the end of the regular season. But the Panthers lost to East Leyden in the sectional final.

Downey was a two-time All-Stater at Canton and went on to become one of the greatest players in University of Illinois history. As a junior, his team started 13-1 and was ranked among the top five in the state. But he suffered a broken ankle and missed eight games. Despite his 33-point performance, his team lost a one-pointer to Kewanee in the sectional. As a senior, his team again lost in the sectional and finished 18-8.

Freeman, who also became an all-time performer at Illinois, led Madison to a 29-1 record as a senior in 1962. The team was 24-0 and ranked No. 3 in the state at the end of the regular season but lost to Collinsville in the regional final.

Vaughn, a 5-foot-11 guard, is the state's all-time leading scorer. From 1954 to 1958, he scored 3,358 points, averaging 32.3 points in 104 games. He attempted more shots (2,583) and made more (1,282) than anyone else before or since. His 1958 team at tiny Tamms was 26-4 but lost to defending state champion Herrin in overtime in the sectional. He played for eight years in the NBA and ABA before retiring in 1970.

Sub-.500 Hawkeyes on four-game losing streak after home loss to Omaha

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Sub-.500 Hawkeyes on four-game losing streak after home loss to Omaha

Things are not going too well in Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes saw their losing streak stretch to four games Saturday with an upsetting 98-89 home loss to Omaha.

Iowa has been a high-scoring team this season, entering the weekend with the Big Ten's No. 2 scoring offense at 85.6 points a game, but it's also been the league's worst defensive team, allowing an average of 85 points a game. And that's before the Mavericks nearly hit the century mark on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes were out-rebounded, including a big advantage for the Mavericks on the offensive boards, where they turned 19 offensive rebounds into 20 second-chance points. Omaha's bench outscored Iowa's bench, 37-9, and the Mavericks had a 40-26 scoring edge in the paint.

Trailing by six after allowing 53 first-half points, the Hawkeyes led for just 18 seconds over the game's final 21-plus minutes.

Peter Jok, the Big Ten's leading scorer, poured in 33 points in this one, though efficiency was not his strong suit, going 8-for-21 from the field. He added 10 rebounds for a double-double.

Iowa's losing streak stands at four, the loss to Omaha linking with losses to Virginia, Memphis and Notre Dame. In the last three games, the Hawkeyes have surrendered an average of 96.7 points. In four of their five losses on the season — the heretofore unmentioned one coming against Seton Hall — opponents have scored at least 91 points.

The Hawkeyes' only wins this season have come against Kennesaw State, Savannah State and Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

Iowa has five more non-conference games — including a date with ranked in-state rival Iowa State — prior to the start of Big Ten play at the end of the month.

Illini defense dominant in capping bounce-back week with win over VCU

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Illini defense dominant in capping bounce-back week with win over VCU

What a difference a week makes.

Last week was a nightmare for Illinois, with a home loss to Winthrop followed by back-to-back double-digit losses to West Virginia and Florida State in Brooklyn.

But things went much differently this week, with Tuesday's win over North Carolina State paired with a Saturday victory over VCU to make for a bounce-back stretch for a team that looked lost just a handful of days ago.

Saturday's win in Miami came in convincing fashion, Illinois victorious by a 64-46 score over a team that's been to six straight NCAA tournaments.

The Illinois defense held VCU to its lowest scoring output since 2005. The Illini held the Rams to just 30.2-percent shooting and 2-for-18 shooting from 3-point range.

The Illini fell behind early in this one but countered VCU's opening success with a 19-3 run that put them ahead by eight in the closing minutes of the first half. That run featured seven points from Leron Black and five from Maloclm Hill, the start of huge games for both guys. A Hill buzzer-beater at the half gave Illinois its biggest lead of the opening 20 minutes at 10.

VCU scored 11 straight points in the early stages of the second half to chop a 12-point Illinois lead all the way down to one. Things stayed close until a 10-3 run by the Illini — featuring eight points from Jalen Coleman-Lands — stretched the Illinois edge back out to double digits, an 11-point lead with about three minutes to go. After a pair of VCU free throws, Hill knocked down a 3-pointer with two and a half minutes left to seal the game, establishing a 12-point advantage the stretched to nearly 20 by the final horn.

Black finished the game with a career-high 18 points, coming close to a double-double with eight rebounds. Hill had 16 points and filled the stat sheet with five assists, three rebounds, two steals and a block. Coleman-Lands was an unusual oh-fer from 3-point range but still scored in double figures with 12 points. Tracy Abrams was a perfect 3-for-3 from deep, accounting for all nine of his points, and had six rebounds and four assists.

Illinois sits at 6-3 on the season, two games better than it was a week ago after back-to-back wins against name opponents. Four more non-conference games are on the docket — against IUPUI, Central Michigan, BYU and Missouri — before the start of Big Ten play at the end of the month.