Lincoln's Neil Alexander will win his 700th game as a coach this week, probably tonight against Taylorville at the County Market Winter Classic in Jacksonville.
Alexander said he's not interested in individual coaching milestones — "It's not about me, it's about our kids and how hard they play. It has nothing to do with me," he said. But there's no doubt Alexander will join an exclusive group. Just 14 coaches in the history of IHSA boys basketball (see info box) have accomplished the feat.
Alexander downplayed the upcoming milestone after back-to-back losses — Class 3A No. 2 Lincoln's first two losses of the season — this weekend, but Lincoln junior Gavin Block said joining the 700-club is on Alexander's mind.
"I know he wants it real bad," Block said. "He's pushing for it — we can all tell. And we want to get it for him. He's a great guy, he knows a lot about the game and he has a great staff."
Milestone or not, Alexander said Lincoln can't spend time dwelling on the losses with five games at the County Market Winter Classic this week, but he knows what will fix the problem.
"We have to get our hearts back and find what got us started the way we did," Alexander said. "And we can't mope around feeling for ourselves until we find it. We have to be ready to go."
Gross headed to Parkland
Bement senior Connor Gross signed a letter of intent last week to attend Parkland College and play baseball.
Gross — who plays on the Cerro Gordo-Bement co-op — was an H&R All-Macon County First Team player last year, batting .475 with 16 doubles and 22 RBIs to go along with 20 steals and 33 runs scored. On the mound, he was 8-1 with 95 strikeouts and a 1.49 ERA.
Gross was a second-team all-area selection as a sophomore playing for the South Piatt co-op.
Parkland, located in Champaign, is an NJCAA Division II program playing in the Mid-West Athletic Conference. The Cobras are a two-time NJCAA National Champion, last winning it all in 2009.
Kaskaskia lands two from county
St. Teresa's Dayne Pleasant and Argenta-Oreana's Gage Eller have signed to attend and play baseball at Kaskaskia College.
Pleasant had a breakout season last year, emerging as an ace for the Bulldogs. He went 6-3 with a 1.84 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings to earn H&R All-Macon County Second Team honors.
Eller was first-team all-county, batting .324 with an on-base percentage of .461. He had four home runs and 23 RBIs. On the mound, he was one of the area's best, going 8-0 with a 1.24 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 16 walks in 51 innings.
Kaskaskia, located in Centralia, is an NJCAA Division I program that plays in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference. Coached by Teutopolis graduate Mitch Koester, the Blue Devils advanced to the NJCAA World Series last season.
Ohnesorges headed to Lincoln Land
Altamont twin sisters Lauren and Madison Ohnesorge signed to attend and play softball at Lincoln Land Community College.
Altamont won a sectional title last year with Madison batting .455 at the top of the lineup and Lauren .367 with a home run and 22 RBIs in the middle. Both were Illinois Coaches Association All-State Second Team and H&R All-Area Honorable Mention.
Lincoln Land is an NJCAA Division II School playing in the Mid-West Athletic Conference. The Loggers went 29-27 and made the NJCAA National Tournament last year.
Keller wins two major awards
Effingham St. Anthony freshman and H&R Area Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year Anna Sophia Keller added to her postseason awards haul the past two months.
Keller, the Class 1A state champion, was named the Gatorade Illinois Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year this month after being named the Girls Class A Cross Country Athlete of the Year for the South Division of the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association in December.
Keller set the Class 1A state record with her winning time of 16 minutes, 35 seconds at Peoria’s Detweiller Park, a time that moved her into a tie for fourth nationally at 3 miles. Keller also broke course records at the Shelbyville Trail Invitational, Tuscola Classic, Chrisman Cow Chip Classic, Cumberland Invitational, Robinson Invitational and the St. Anthony Bulldog Invitational.
On the national stage, Keller finished sixth at the Nike Cross Nationals Midwest Regional championships with a time of 18:59.3 on Nov. 17 in Terre Haute, Ind. Keller finished 23 seconds behind St. Genevieve (Mo.) sophomore Taylor Werner, who finished fifth in the Nike Cross Nationals in December.
State wrestling to be broadcast
The IHSA and Comcast SportsNet Chicago (CSN) have announced the Individual Wrestling State Finals will be rebroadcast on CSN.
The state wrestling meet will be broken into three programs that will feature the 14 state championship bouts from each class.
The Class 1A Wrestling State Championship matches will be rebroadcast on Sunday, March 9, the Class 2A title bouts on Monday, March 10 and the Class 3A state finals will follow on Tuesday, March 11 — all beginning at 7 p.m.
The Individual Wrestling State Finals will be contested at the State Farm Center on the campus of the University of Illinois in Champaign on Feb. 20-22. Live broadcasts of every match will be available on www.IHSA.tv with a subscription.
AOC girls win 1st tourney title
The Arthur Okaw Christian girls basketball team won its first tournament title in its fourth year of existence by going undefeated at the East Moline Christian Invitational on Jan. 10-11.
The Conquering Riders beat Defender Ministry (Iowa) 55-27, avenged an earlier loss this season to East Moline Christian with a 51-23 victory and topped Christian Community (Ohio) 55-33 in the championship game led by Amanda Franklin’s 28-point, 6-rebound performance.
Franklin led Arthur Okaw Christian with 17 ppg in the tournament. Amanda Franklin chipped in 14 ppg in the three tournament games and was the leading scorer in the first two games.