Young captures Class 4A title

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Young captures Class 4A title

By Phil Brozynski
YourSeason.com
NORMAL, Ill. Linnae Harper isnt the most outspoken player on the Young basketball team. The 5-foot-7 junior lets her actions do the talking.Harper spoke volumes Saturday.Harper had 14 points and 14 rebounds, Janee Thompson had 12 points and five assists and sophomore Taylor Brame added 10 points to lead Young to a 63-51 victory over Edwardsville in the IHSA Class 4A state championship game at Redbird Arena.Young became the first big school team to complete an unbeaten season since Peoria Richwoods went 38-0 in 2005, and Harper was a big part of it. She outrebounded Edwardsville by herself 11-10 in the first half as the Dolphins raced to a 34-12 lead.I think size-wise shes probably the best rebounder in the country, Young coach Corry Irvin said. She has a knack for the ball that you cant teach. Her rebounding has always been huge.Harper had to contend with Edwardsvilles 6-4 Leigh Kesper and 6-2 Emmonnie Henderson, but beat the Tigers towering duo to the ball time after time. No. 32 (Henderson) is very big, so we just tried to work around it and try to find advantage on defense, Harper said. Its just experience and working hard.This means a lot, Ive been at Whitney Young three years and to get a state championship means a lot. Im really happy and blessed to have the team I did.Harpers work on the boards helped Young dart out of the gate. The Dolphins took a 16-6 lead after eight minutes thanks to a three-pointer from the corner by Alexis Lloyd, baskets by 6-foot-6 sophomore Khaalia Hillsman, freshman Tanita Allen and Thompson and three free throws by Brame.The Dolphins continued their relentless push in the second quarter. Lloyds jumper in the lane made it 28-10 with 3:06 remaining, and her rebound of Harpers miss extended the lead to 32-12. Sydney Snower put the final touches on the first half with a short fade in the lane. About the only thing Edwardsville fans had to cheer about in the first half was a vicious pick set by Henderson on Lloyd midway through the second quarter. But Henderson picked up her third foul moments later and finished the first half with just two points and four rebounds.Young led by 23 points at 50-27 on a three-pointer by Jasmine Ogunjimi with 6:56 remaining in the fourth quarter before Edwardsville closed on a 24-13 run. But it was too little too late.We had a letdown, Irvin said. We lost focus for a little bit in the second half. Its tough to keep them focused when you have a lead like that.If Young began celebrating too early, it was a fault easily forgiven.I think its great, Irvin said. Im sure its going to go down in history. I think this is probably one of the best teams in Illinois history. Its good for the program. Its good for the school. Im really proud of the girls and everything theyve done this year.Lloyd and Allen each finished with nine points for Young. Ashia Jones led Edwardsville (34-2) with 18 points and Henderson finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.Im proud that we didnt quit, Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said. It would have been awfully easy to. What they did to us in the first half is what weve done to everybody all year. We knew it was going to be tough coming in. Theyre awfully talented, well-coached and a great program.

Report: Illini to play VCU in Miami

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Report: Illini to play VCU in Miami

Illinois will be taking on VCU during the 2016-17 basketball season, according to a Tuesday report.

The game won't be played in Illinois or in Virginia, however. It will be played in Miami. For some reason.

Why the game will be played at the home of the NBA's Miami Heat remains to be seen, but it figures to be a tough test for the Illini.

The Rams were in last season's NCAA tournament field, advancing to the Round of 32, where they lost to eventual Final Four participant Oklahoma.

Illinois and VCU have never played each other in men's basketball. The Rams have been one of the more consistently good mid-major programs in recent years, playing in each of the last six NCAA tournaments and reaching the Final Four in 2011.

It was also announced that Illinois will play a non-conference game against North Carolina State as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Badgers' Nigel Hayes returning to Wisconsin for senior year

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Badgers' Nigel Hayes returning to Wisconsin for senior year

Nigel Hayes will be back at Wisconsin for his senior year.

Madison.com's Jim Polzin reported Tuesday that Hayes — who earned All-Big Ten First Team honors last season — will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and come back to the Badgers for the 2016-17 campaign.

Hayes is one of the latest Big Ten players to take advantage of new rules that allow underclassmen to test the NBA Draft process and work out with NBA teams without hiring an agent while still being able to return to school with their NCAA eligibility intact. The rules are undoubtedly beneficial for the players, who can learn more about their professional future and still take needed time to develop at the college level.

There had been talk that Hayes needed another collegiate season and that he wasn't quite ready for the NBA. Despite averaging 15.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season as one of the best players in the Big Ten, Hayes wasn't always consistent and saw his shooting numbers drop from his sophomore season. He shot 36.8 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from 3-point range last season after shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from 3-point range during the 2014-15 campaign, which culminated in Wisconsin's second straight trip to the Final Four.

That being said, Hayes' return is obviously a big deal for the Badgers, who will return their entire starting lineup and almost their entire roster in Greg Gard's first full season as head coach. Last season, with Gard taking over for a retiring Bo Ryan midway through the campaign, Wisconsin was still one of the Big Ten's best teams, turning things around and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. Hayes returns alongside Ethan Happ, Bronson Koenig, Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter in the starting five.

Hayes' return could make the Badgers the Big Ten favorite heading into 2016-17.

Illini starting pitcher Cody Sedlock named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year

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Illini starting pitcher Cody Sedlock named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year

University of Illinois starting pitcher Cody Sedlock was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday.

The junior from Sherrard, Ill., led the conference in strikeouts (116) and innings pitched (101.1).

He is the fifth Illini pitcher to take home the award, following Tyler Jay who was given the honor last year — and later went on to be picked No. 6 overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2015 MLB draft. It's the second time in program history that an Illini pitcher has won the award in back-to-back seasons.

The right-hander Sedlock is projected by many to be a first-round selection in the upcoming MLB draft on June 9.