Sangamo accepts Pittsfield for footbll
The Sangamo Conference voted Wednesday night to accept Pittsfield as a football-only member starting with the 2014-15 athletic year.
The Pikeland School Board still must vote to accept entry into the Central Illinois-based league, Pittsfield athletic director Don Bigley said Wednesday. But that would seem to be merely a formality considering the school board voted 6-0 on Dec. 19 to draft a letter of application to join the conference.
Pittsfield football would be leaving the West Central Conference, a league it has competed in for football since 1999. The Saukees will remain in the WCC for the 2013 football season. If Pittsfield is not replaced in 2014, the WCC will be left with six football-playing members: Quincy Notre Dame, Illini West, West Hancock, Macomb, Monmouth-Roseville and Chillicothe Illinois Valley Central.
By joining the Sangamo for football, Pittsfield will be entering a 10-team league. That means the Saukees will play a nine-game regular-season schedule consisting entirely of conference games. The league's other football-playing members in 2014 will be Athens, Auburn, New Berlin, Petersburg PORTA, Pleasant Plains, Riverton, Nokomis, North Mac and Williamsville.
Pittsfield, which co-ops with Griggsville-Perry for football, will be a good fit enrollment-wise in the Sangamo, which is a Class 2A and 3A league. IHSA's 2012 enrollments, including co-ops, for teams that would compete in football in the Sangamo in 2014 ranged from 374 (Athens) to 506 (Nokomis). Pittsfield's 2012 football enrollment was 474.
Additionally, all of Pittsfield's conference foes will be within 117 miles, with all but one – Nokomis – being within 85 miles. Bigley said in December that travel considerations and league stability were key factors that drew Pittsfield to the Sangamo for football.
Pittsfield is not seeking to join the Sangamo for sports other than football. Bigley said Wednesday the school hasn't decided on its plans for conference affiliations for sports and activities outside of football.
Pittsfield's options for non-football sports would be to try to remain in the WCC or go independent. Central and Unity compete in the Western Illinois Valley Conference for football but are in the WCC for other sports. In addition to the WCC, some sports and activities at Pittsfield also compete in the Pike County Conference.
Marion County girls learn from defeat
Marion County's 58-31 loss to Clopton Jan. 12 put the Lady Mustangs in a unique position. It was Marion County's second loss in three days, and it was a loss where the Lady Mustangs were never in the game. Marion County trailed 39-11 at halftime and really got knocked down by Clopton. For a program coming off four straight final four appearances in Class 1, it was an opportunity to learn.
SDLqI thought we handled it pretty well. We took the losses, and instead of making it a bad thing, we grew from it," junior Devan Johnson said. "We've been the ones whooping everyone the past few years. It was different being the ones being whooped. We learned a lot of stuff from it."
Marion County (12-4) has run off four consecutive victories as its offense continues to diversify. Johnson and Victoria Hales, along with sophomores Roxanne Tobias, Danielle Maxwell and Sadie Pollard have stepped up to help senior Kaelyn Spratt, who averages 17.8 points per game.
"I was talking to them Wednesday about how proud of them as far as the whole season and how they progressed," Marion County coach Mike Johnson said. "They did a good job because we have some many players playing different roles. Early in the season, we relied so much on Kaelyn. She was averaging 25 points per game at one point. It worked early, and that gave us a false sense of security. Defenses were keying on her, and we had to go other places with the ball. Devan Johnson stepped up and accepted a bigger role offensively. Our younger kids are doing a better job of looking for shots and holding up their responsibility on the defensive end."
Lacking size, Devan Johnson, who is 5-foot-7, has stepped in as the top post player, averaging a team-high 8.9 rebounds and is second with 11.2 points per game. She prepared for the role by working out with Jessica Redd, a Marion County graduate who now plays at Truman State.
"I just do it. I can't make any excuses why I can't," Devan Johnson said. "I can jump the highest and am the strongest on the team. It wouldn't be fair to just go through the motions. I practiced and worked with Jessica Redd a lot, and she said, ‘If I can't do anything else, you can always rebound.' It's about heart."
Rebounding will be an increased focus as the season goes on.
"That has been our Achilles' heel all year," Mike Johnson said. "We know its our weakness, and we do our best to focus on it. Everyone has to do their jobs. We're not big, strong, physical girls and we get shoved around inside. We just have to chase down long rebounds, scrap after the ball and try to use our quickness to rebound."
Illini West suffers loss to lineup
Illini West 6-foot-1 senior forward Ethan Neally may miss extended time with a shoulder injury. Neally hurt his shoulder coming off a screen during the Chargers' 61-50 win over Unity Wednesday.
"He's still in a sling today," Illini West coach John Hughs said. "He hasn't gotten to an orthopedic doctor yet, but he's had some shoulder problems. He got caught on a screen going the wrong way. It was a freak accident."
Neally is one of the Chargers' best rebounders, averaging 5.5 per game. Without Neally in the lineup, Illini West will count on other players to step up.
"We're not going to change how we play," Hughs said. "Everyone is just going to try and grab a few extra rebounds a game. We have confidence in the guys that have worked hard all year can step up and contribute."