DECATUR — It was a bittersweet moment for three MacArthur girls basketball players on Tuesday as they announced their college intentions with friends and family in attendance.
Quincenia Jackson, Taya Davis and Hayley Diveley will all continue their basketball careers at the next level next season. Jackson will play for State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Mo.; Davis at Odessa Junior College in Odessa, Texas; and Diveley at Kankakee Community College.
As each spoke, they shared stories and some tears about their experience at MacArthur. They also talked about the impact their late coach Michael "Dubb" Williams had on their basketball years.
"It is a happy day and a sad day. It is happy that they are moving on and it is a sad day because these are three special girls and you never want to see the kids go," MacArthur athletic director Jason Crutcher said. "Coach Dubb would love to be here and I know he is up top looking down on us. It has been a tough year. When you are talking about teenage kids going through a pandemic and losing their coach, it was not easy."
Jackson finished her career as the Generals' all-time leading scorer with 1,518 points and she added 929 rebounds. A three-time H&R Macon County Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
"I wanted to say thank you to Coach Dubb because without him, I wouldn't be in the position I am right now. He always pushed me to be the best I could be and he saw our potential when nobody else did," Jackson said. "When I went for a visit to the school and I had been talking for a while with their coach and I felt like she had my best interests at heart. As far as playing on the next level, I have been waiting for this for a while so hopefully it will be as good as it can get."
Davis finished her career with 1,073 points and 496 assists. In their four years playing together, Jackson and Davis combined for an 82-27 record and won two regional championships.
"We have a way better connection now. If you watch a clip from our freshman year to our senior year, we can know where we are on the court without even looking. It is really going to suck not having (Taya) at college," Jackson said.
Diveley, who played softball, volleyball and basketball last season, transferred to MacArthur for her senior year from Effingham and became the 3-point threat for the Generals. She will be studying nursing while playing at Kankakee.
"Coming in, I was very nervous but I got accepted very quickly to the family and everyone was so nice. They didn't care where you came from and it was all about basketball. I loved it," Diveley said.
The Generals dedicated their 2021 season to Williams and went on to win the Central State 8 Tournament championship. All three girls played for Williams on his Sky Ice Elite AAU team, and for Davis, Williams' passing still motivates her.
"It means a lot. I wish he was here and it is kind of heartbreaking. I think about it all the time because I just know in my college years he would still be there," Davis said. "It hurts me a lot but it just pushes me more to do everything for him.
"(In my time at MacArthur), I learned how to respect my coaches, my teammates and my family. I learned a lot from that. There were times that I wanted to give up but I learned to never give up and push it every day."
Summer basketball for next year's team will be starting shortly and MacArthur girls basketball coach Sean Flaherty, has his work cut out for him in filling the holes left by Jackson, Davis and Diveley. Last year's team didn't get a summer practice schedule and had to get into game shape with just a handful of practices.
"We will probably get 20 games in this summer and we need to figure some things out when we lose players like this. We won't be too picky on who we play and we need to find that chemistry and who is going to replace Taya and Q," Flaherty said. "I was thinking about it and I can't think of too many times that I had three girls signed to play college ball in the same year.
"I had to sit and reflect and it will be a transition year after losing three of the best girls players in Central Illinois. I feel like we were spoiled, Decatur was spoiled and I was spoiled that we go to see them play every day."
Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten