Newark wins first IHSA baketball championship

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Newark wins first IHSA baketball championship

Sunday, March 13, 2011
12:15 a.m.

By Steve Tucker
Yourseason.com

PEORIA If Newarks John Avery had any nerves heading into the Class 1A title game, you wouldnt have known it by his performance.

Avery had a perfect start, making his first five shots for the Norsemen, who built a 15-point lead in the first half and went on to defeat West Central Co-op 57-35 for the Class 1A championship game Saturday at Carver Arena.

Down 5-4 early, Newark (33-1) took control with an 8-0 sport and closed the first quarter with a 6-2 burst, with Avery, who made his first five shots and was 5-for-6 in the first half, scoring all six points to go up 18-9 after one quarter.

John is this teams unsung hero, Newark coach Rick Tollefson said. For my money he is an all-stater, even though he wasnt on the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association team that was announced. There are not better players in Classes 1A and 2A.

I got off to a good start because my teammates got me the ball inside, Avery said. I knew if we played the way we can play, we could do this. Weve had enough to get here since I was a sophomore, but this season, we had better chemistry and we all blended well together.

Leading 22-12 in the second quarter, Newark used a 7-2 spurt, with five points from Jeremy Anderson, to go up 29-14 before West Central, got a three-pointer from Wes Buhlig that made it 29-17 at the break.

Avery finished with 17 points and four blocks, Brett Anderson had 12, Kyle Anderson 11 and nine assists, and Jeremy Anderson 10. Buhlig scored 13 for West Central.

Were a great team and we showed it, Kyle Anderson said. We help each other out. Losing in the supersectional for two years in a row was one of the toughest feelings imaginable.

The third quarter ended all doubt as Newark outscored the Cougars 16-4 including a 12-0 tear to end the quarter. Newark was 8-for-8 from the line, led by Jeremy Anderson, who was 6-for-6. This is the first state title for Newark, which opened in the 1930's.

West Central (31-5), a coop of Winchester and Bluffs, was trying to become the first school since Marshall in 2008 to wins girls and boys state basketball titles the same year. Its girls teams beat River-Ridge-Scales Mound Coop two weeks ago to win the Class 1A girls title.

Woodlawn (30-4) got 19 points and nine rebounds from Dawson Verhines in a 52-37 victory over Deer Creek-Mackinaw for third place.

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

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USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

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While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead