Stars of Heart of Illinois, Illini Prairie basketball to meet Saturday
Mar. 18—GIBSON CITY — Are you a local IHSA basketball fan who already is missing the sport after the 2022-23 season ended last weekend?
Then you're in luck, courtesy WGCY Radio in Gibson City.
The station, led by longtime owner and general manager Gary McCullough, will host the second "Heart of Illinois Conference vs. Illini Prairie Conference All-Star Basketball Games" on Saturday evening from Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School, a member of the former league.
The girls' contest will begin at 5 p.m., with the boys' matchup to follow around 7:30 p.m.
"We really fell that we're one of the few local stations that still broadcasts high school basketball," said McCullough, who added that WGCY will carry coverage of Saturday's games at 106.3-FM on the radio and online at network1sports.com. "It's kind of a payback for us to these schools. ... They treat us well, and we like to treat them to something."
McCullough said this is the 25th version of WGCY-hosted all-star high school basketball games. They've just occurred with different combinations of conferences, in addition to previously being held at Illinois Wesleyan's Shirk Center in Bloomington.
"Sangamon Valley, Corn Belt, HOIC, IPC at one time or another have all been involved in these," McCullough said. "It's a tremendous amount of work to organize all of this."
Twelve HOIC schools and 10 IPC schools are sending at least one athlete apiece to this showcase.
Among locals participating are St. Joseph-Ogden senior Ty Pence, an Illinois State men's basketball signee, and two members of this year's Class 1A girls' fourth-place state finisher in St. Thomas More seniors Emma Devocelle and Maddy Swisher. Athletes are selected by teams' coaches.
STM's Brandon Martin will coach the IPC boys, and Prairie Central's Gabby Zeedyk will lead the IPC girls.
"Something else new that's going to be pretty neat is we're going to have each team ... sign a basketball, and we'll draw for that," said McCullough, adding that entry into this drawing is free via each attendee's $5 admission ticket for the games.
Also new to the all-star games is a 50-50 raffle with $1 tickets.
Between the girls' game and boys' game will be two other staples of the all-star showcase, which is open to the public for attendance.
First is a dunk contest, which participating players are free to compete in. Second is an honoring of three "Legends of the Game," selected by the WGCY crew. This year's honorees are former Ridgeview coach Rodney Kellar, ex-Fieldcrest coach Matt Winkler and former Eureka coach Tim Meiss, and each will be presented with a plaque.
"We've always felt that it's a good opportunity for these seniors to get a different relationship with the players that they've played against since junior high school," McCullough said. "We usually fill the gym with all the schools."
WGCY All-Star Basketball Games rosters
Here's a list of the senior athletes who will play in Saturday's two games (girls at 5 p.m., boys at approximately 7:30 p.m.) at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School:
Illini Prairie girls (road team)
Lydia Burger, Monticello; Emma Devocelle, St. Thomas More; Alyvia Fager, Chillicothe IVC; Tashay Jackson-Roper, Rantoul; Trixie Johnson, Paxton-Buckley-Loda; Medley Schnierle, Bloomington Central Catholic; Chloe Sisco, Prairie Central; Mariya Sisco, Prairie Central; Maddy Swisher, St. Thomas More; Coach: Gabby Zeedyk, Prairie Central
Heart of Illinois girls (home team)
Ella Ausmus, Eureka; Ellie Cahill, Eureka; McKenna Carithers, Deer Creek-Mackinaw; Haley Carver, Fieldcrest; Kallie Evans, Fisher; Izzy Hasselbring, Tri-Valley; Reagan Linder, Eureka; Ashlyn May, Fieldcrest; Kailey May, Fisher; Carolyn Megow, Fieldcrest; Brooke Monteggia, Heyworth; Erin Pulliam, Tremont; Whitney Rumbold, Tremont; Brinley Stevens, Ridgeview; Addison Swadinsky, Deer Creek-Mackinaw; Reagan Tompkins, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley; Coach: Mitch Neally, Fieldcrest
Illini Prairie boys (road team)
Jacksen Adkins, Rantoul; Jeremiah Ager, Paxton-Buckley-Loda; Jose Andino-Guerra, St. Thomas More; Logan Barnett, Pontiac; Will Cowan, Unity; Caleb Decker, Prairie Central; Camden Palmore, Prairie Central; Ty Pence, St. Joseph-Ogden; Rye Pirtz, Bloomington Central Catholic; Drew Sheppard, Monticello; Kayden Snelling, Paxton-Buckley-Loda; Brandon Martin, St. Thomas More
Heart of Illinois boys (home team)
Justis Bachman, Eureka; Seth Barnes, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley; Taylor Berchtold, Deer Creek-Mackinaw; Braden Denning, Heyworth; Jack Edmundson, Le Roy; Logan Friedmansky, Lexington; Alex Garcia, Tremont; Cam Kelly, Ridgeview; Seth Kollross, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley; Landon Modro, Fieldcrest; Mac Raymer, El Paso-Gridley; Alec Thomas, Lexington; Coach: Doug Yoder, Lexington