David Adam

Best Christmas gift? An uninterrupted day of basketball

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 27, 2017 12:15 am

The presents have been unwrapped. The stockings have been unstuffed.

Now it's time to have a little fun with the best Christmas present of all.

High school holiday basketball tournaments.

Play gets under way for local teams later this week at Collinsville, Bloomington, Jefferson City, Mendon and Macomb, but on Tuesday, seven local girls teams made the trek to the 36th annual Beardstown Lady Tiger Classic.

Here's how the day went ...

11:15 a.m. -- Listening to a radio call of a first-round game between Macomb and Abingdon on the drive to Beardstown. Abingdon had 30 turnovers in first half, but remarkably, it was only losing 33-23. The broadcaster for WVIL sounded like he was being tortured as he counted off the turnovers during play. Who could blame him? Kudos to the staff at WVIL and WRMS, who will broadcast every game in the tournament.

11:45 a.m. -- Triopia enters the Beardstown High School gym with ugly Christmas sweaters as warmups. That seems to be a trend this year. The Unity girls also were sporting them for their morning game, and the Western/Payson girls wore them at the Rumble on the River at John Wood Community College.

11:58 a.m. -- The third-quarter score of a first-round game between Unity and North Fulton is 44-14, and the only sounds are the bouncing of balls and the squeaking of sneakers. A basket for either side draws little more than a smattering of applause. This is a Christmas present that can't be returned.

12:59 p.m. -- I'd like to become a charter member of the Bailee Clampitt Fan Club. The Illini West guard scored 21 points in the first half and finished with 30, but she was just as impressive with her passing, whether it was a 60-foot baseball pass or a delicate bounce pass through traffic on a pick-and-roll.

"Bailee shoots the ball really well, but a lot of teams don't realize how good of a passer she is," Chargers coach Grant Surprenant said after his team's 67-35 victory over Triopia on Tuesday afternoon. "She's just got a good feel of the game. When she's doing what she does, it's just a fun way to play basketball."

2:12 p.m. -- It's impossible to go to games involving Illini West sports and not notice the presence of WCAZ Radio and the work done by Keith Yex and Greg Phelps. This week's girls games at Beardstown and boys games at the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament will be the last for WCAZ, which is going out of business on Dec. 31.

Yex, 53, has been the sales manager and sports director at WCAZ for 28 years. He hopes to keep Illini West broadcasts alive by starting a sports enterprise he calls "The Sports Yex." He plans to broadcast all 10 games at the Hancock County Tournament on WCAZ's website, wcazam990.com.

Yex doesn't plan to stop there. He plans to put together a schedule of boys and girls games and won't limit himself to Illini West games.

2:21 p.m. -- Brown County has enjoyed a respectable, yet frustrating, start to this season. The sixth-seeded Hornets lost their first-round game to 11th-seeded Winchester West Central 46-38 to drop to 9-6.

Senior center Mariah Markert has missed eight games -- four after suffering a concussion while drawing a charging foul early in the season against Liberty, and four more after suffering a gash on her ankle, which then got infected.

Markert has returned to the lineup and is averaging nine points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots, but two more starters are not with the Hornets this week. Alexis Doyle (14 points, 4 steals per game) is on a family vacation in Florida, and senior forward Kylie Moorman is with the Brown County cheerleaders at a college football bowl game in Florida this week.

Hornets coach David Phelps says his team has played three games with his top five players.

"It's frustrating," he said. "You can't do anything about injuries. Today, we really missed Doyle defensively. She's a dog out there. She's quick and has a knack for getting her hands on passes."

3:18 p.m. -- Unity coach Brad Begeman, whose team split a pair of games on Tuesday, said finding out how a team is going to play after the Christmas break is "like a roll of the dice."

"A lot of coaches joke about it over here," he said. "You just don't know, with all of the emotions of the holidays and a lot of people travelling. You don't know what you're going to get.

"The best team in (Unity) school history had a 27-5 record, and we went 1-3 over here that year."

3:34 p.m. -- Western/Payson coach Elizabeth Seals and her husband, Andrew, are expecting their first child in early February. Seals says being pregnant on the sidelines is good news for her team but bad news for her husband.

"Had we played last year like we played today, I'd have been screaming at them, but I'm trying to keep it calm," she said after her team's 80-75 victory over Macomb on Tuesday.

"It's good for the girls. It's calmed me down. I don't want my baby to think I'm crazy."

Seals says she's doing fine physically, except that her feet hurt "all the time."

"I make my husband rub my feet all the time, and he hates it," she said with a smile.

4:57 p.m. -- Good to see official Donnie Fray back on the floor officiating the Liberty-Beardstown and the South Fulton-Pittsfield games. Injuries suffered from a crash last summer, when the motorcycle he was driving was hit by a car, kept him off the floor last season. He's officiated almost every day for the past three weeks as continues to recover.

6:23 p.m. -- It's difficult to watch the Liberty girls basketball team and not be impressed the first time you see Izzy Gimm.

The 6-foot freshman runs the floor well and has the shoulders of a linebacker. She scored seven points in Liberty's 46-27 victory over Beardstown, and once she learns how to use her physical attributes more effectively, Gimm will be a handful for opponents.

"It's up to her how far she can go," Eagles coach John Leapley said.

Gimm had just 10 rebounds in her team's first three games, but now she's averaging nine rebounds and eight points.

"She's come a long way," Leapley said. "She's still not used to the physical contact. She was always the biggest kid on the court, and now she's learning to be physical."

Don't let Liberty's 5-9 record fool you. It has lost three games in overtime with a 10-player rotation that has one junior and one senior.

7:05 p.m. -- Illini West's game finished more than five hours ago, and Surprenant is still in the gym, watching and scouting.

"We schedule family Christmas around basketball," he said. "This is fun for me. I played over Christmas when I was in high school. I can't imagine doing anything else. It's a great way to play four days straight, and it sure beats practicing."

7:25 p.m. -- After a bowl of vegetable soup and a bowl of chili in the hospitality room, it's time to head home.

I can't imagine doing anything else, either.

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