DECATUR — One of the great early March Madness dynasties will be honored in the first Decatur Public Schools Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2019.
Three state champions — the Decatur High School 1930-31, 1935-36 and 1944-45 boys basketball teams — will be inducted at halftime of the Jan. 11 Eisenhower and MacArthur boys basketball game, along with 10 athletes and a coach.
The athletes are K.C. Hammond-Diedrich (Eisenhower, Class of 1996), Cary Eller (Eisenhower, 1968), Lee Boyko (Eisenhower, 1963), Terra (Crutchfield-Tyus) Jones (MacArthur, 1992), Tim Littrell (MacArthur, 1977), Marcus Phillips (MacArthur, 1992), Lee Utt (Decatur, 1952), Aaron Holloway (Stephen Decatur, 1966), David Marques (Lakeview, 1972), Eddie Taylor (Lakeview, 1980) and former Stephen Decatur coach Rease Binger (1976-93).
All three Decatur state title basketball teams were coached by Gay Kintner, who was part of the first DPS Athletic Hall of Fame Class in August 2016.
The 1930-31 team was Decatur’s first state title in basketball in its sixth trip to the tournament, but was the first Decatur team in a decade to make state. The team went 29-4, beating Collinsville 24-23, Chicago Harrison 27-20, then Galesburg 30-26 in the title game. It was led by DPS Athletic Hall-of-Famer Ray Rex, along with Paul Hill, Al Schroeder and John Stuckey.
The 1935-36 team wasn’t expected to make state but caught fire at the end of the season and won the title with a 24-11 record. Decatur beat Peoria Manual 17-13, then knocked off Hull 30-27 and beat Danville 26-22 in the state title game. The team was led by DPS Athletic Hall-of-Famers Dale Minick and Ken Park.
Decatur made four more state appearances under Kintner before finally winning it all again in 1944-45 with a 39-2 team. By then, the game had changed to something closer to what's played today. Decatur beat Collinsville 77-45 in the first round, then survived a 73-72 overtime win against Galesburg before beating Moline 62-46 in the semifinals and Champaign 62-54 in the championship game. That team was by DPS Athletic Hall-of-Famer Bob “Chick” Doster and George Riley.
Here’s a look at the 11 individuals who will be inducted.
K.C. Hammond-Diedrich, Eisenhower, 1996
Hammond-Diedrich graduated as the Panthers’ all-time leading scorer in basketball (1,385), and all-time kills (888) and blocks (274) leader in volleyball. She was the Macon County Player of the Year in both volleyball and basketball as a senior. She went on to star at Millikin in both sports and became a member of the Big Blue Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.
Cary Eller, Eisenhower, 1968
The Panthers’ MVP in 1967, Eller was an outstanding guard and middle linebacker — “He is the finest all-around guard we’ve ever hard,” said his coach, John Alexander. He was all-city as a junior and senior, recording 113 tackles as a junior and a then-school record 129 as a senior. Eller was also a standout on the basketball and baseball teams.
Lee Boyko, Eisenhower, 1963
Boyko was shortstop and among the leading hitters on the 1962 Eisenhower state title baseball team that was inducted in the October 2018 class. Boyko was on the all-state tournament team as a sophomore, then hit .388 as a junior for the state title team, driving in 19. He was 5-for-11 at the state tournament. As a senior in 1963, Boyko hit .373 with 31 runs scored. Boyko was also the Panthers’ quarterback in 1962 and a starting guard on the basketball team. He went on to star in college for the Illinois State baseball team.
Terra (Crutchfield-Tyus) Jones, MacArthur, 1992
“Shy T” let her running and jumping speak for her. As a freshman she won city titles in the 400 and long jump. By her senior year she was dominating at the state level, winning a state title in the 300 hurdles and third-place finishes in the 100 hurdles and long jump. In all, she finished with six state medals in her high school career. She went on to win Big Ten titles in the long jump and as part of the 4x100 relay at the University of Illinois.
Tim Littrell, MacArthur, 1973
As a senior, Littrell averaged a then-school record 22.2 points and scored 554 points as a senior, including a record 43 in a single-game. He also led the Generals’ baseball team with a .375 batting average as a senior. Littrell went on to play and later coach at Millikin. During his time with the Big Blue he was team MVP in 1976 and ‘77. He was named to the Millikin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988.
Marcus Phillips, MacArthur, 1992
Phillips helped lead the Hall of Fame 1992 MacArthur track team to the state title with championships in both the 110 and 300 hurdles. He was just the third athlete in state meet history to accomplish both hurdles titles in one season. Phillips was also a member of the state champion 400 relay team. He accounted for 30 points at that meet. “He’s one of the top kids we’ve ever had in this program,” said his coach, Bill Harbeck. “And not just in terms of his athletic ability. He has the whole package when it comes to character and personality.”
Lee Utt, Decatur High, 1952
Utt, who died in 2010, was a standout in both basketball and baseball at Decatur High. He earned a scholarship to Bradley in both sports. Utt was Bradley’s outstanding athlete in 1954-55, Bradley basketball MVP in 54-55 and 55-56, and was both team MVP and All-American in baseball in 1956. He was a member of the 1954 Bradley basketball team that finished second at the NCAA Tournament and member of the 1956 Bradley baseball team that finished third at the College World Series. He played pro baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, retiring at the AAA level.
Aaron Holloway, Stephen Decatur, 1966
Holloway, along with teammate Ben Cooper, was one of two wrestlers to bring home state titles for Decatur in 1965 — the first wrestling titles in Decatur history. Holloway, who won a sectional championship in 1964, beat John Palazzolo of Elmwood Park 9-4 in the semifinals and won by judge’s decision after the state title match at 165 pounds against Midlothian Bremen’s Dan Strand was tied 6-6 after one overtime. Holloway finished the season 25-0. He went on to wrestle at Southern Illinois.
David Marques, Lakeview, 1972
A 6-foot-4 sharpshooter who always had the green light, Marques led the city in scoring in both 1971 and ‘72. His 26.4 points per game average and 659 total points were city records when he graduated. Marques went on to play at Lincoln Trail College and had a school-record 44 points in 1973.
Eddie Taylor, Lakeview, 1980
Taylor graduated as Lakeview’s all-time leading scorer with 1,195 points and was city player of the year as a senior, just missing on fellow Hall-of-Famer David Marques’ single-season record with 24.9 points per game. The 5-foot-11 guard, who was all-city in football as a junior, went on to play basketball at Millikin.
Rease Binger, Stephen Decatur(1976-93)
Binger coached both boys basketball and girls track for 17 seasons. He was a six-time Macon County Girls Track Coach of the Year — his teams were known for dominant sprint relays and stars including Yvonne Taylor, Susie Hunt and Scarlet Powell. In basketball, his teams won two regional titles and a sectional title in 1985-86.
Contact Justin Conn at (217) 421-7971. Follow him on Twitter: @jconnHR