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All-star coach, player go for one more win

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All-star coach, player go for one more win
Normal Community High School’s Emily Hanley takes the ball to the basket in a 2005 regional championship game against Pontiac at Normal. Hanley and NCHS coach Dave Feeney team up for the final time tonight on the Class AA South squad in the IBCA Girls All-Star Games at Shirk Center. (Pantagraph/CARLOS T. MIRANDA)

BLOOMINGTON - Dave Feeney first saw Emily Hanley as a seventh-grader at his Normal Community High School basketball camp. The coordination was not quite there, but her passion for the game and desire to learn were ahead of schedule.

"We did a one-on-one drill, and some of our high school kids stepped into the drill to try to give her some competition," Feeney said. "She held her own against anybody.

"She was kind of awkward at the time, but you could tell she was a hard worker and very coachable. You'd give her something to work on, and she'd stay after camp and do it."

It was the start of a highly productive player-coach relationship.

They won 94 games together in Hanley's four years at NCHS, highlighted by a Class AA super-sectional berth in 2005. Tonight, they'll try to team up for one more victory in the 22nd annual Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Girls All-Star Games at Illinois Wesleyan's Shirk Center.

Feeney will serve as head coach for Hanley and the Class AA South squad, which meets the Class AA North at 7 o'clock. The first game pits the Class A South against the Class A North at 5 o'clock.

"Emily and I have had a great journey together. It's kind of neat to get to wrap that up together," Feeney said. "She's a great kid to coach. I look forward to seeing her play against that level of competition."

The game will be Hanley's last as a high school player before moving on to Division I Eastern Michigan. The 6-foot center/forward called it "really special" to play for Feeney one final time.

"He's such a great coach. He's the right guy for this type of event," said Hanley, a first-team IBCA all-state selection. "He's really good at taking people who are different from each other and teaching them to work together.

"I remember meeting him (as a seventh-grader) and he was saying all of these inspirational things. It's funny to think about how the things he says now are the exact same things I heard then. But they still work."

Among Hanley's teammates will be guard Erin Halloran of Pontiac and Illinois State recruit Maggie Krick of Washington. Krick, a 5-11 guard and first-team IBCA all-stater, played against Hanley every year in high school, and was her teammate on the Central Illinois Pizzazz summer team.

Hanley also played in the summer with the Class AA South's Hanna Reising of Peoria Richwoods and Alexis Rhoades of Peoria Woodruff.

"We understand how each other likes to play," Hanley said.

"We'll probably have a little better chemistry because of that," said Krick, whose father, Dave, played basketball for two years at IWU. "I've played with Emily every summer since freshman year."

More recently, Krick has traveled to Normal to play in scrimmages with her future Illinois State teammates. She moves into ISU Sunday and begins summer school on Monday.

"I've also been lifting and conditioning on my own," Krick said. "This will be a test of the conditioning I guess."

The familiarity between Krick, Hanley, etc., should aid Feeney as he preaches teamwork to the AA South. Feeney was an assistant coach with the AA South in 2002 when it upset the favored AA North, largely because the South played so well together.

Players reported Friday afternoon and each team was to have only two practices before hitting the court tonight. That left little time for Feeney and his assistant coaches, Sondra Vogel of Bloomington and Steve Price of Normal West, to deliver the team-first message.

"I think the danger of an all-star game is that one-on-one or one-on-two or one-on-five kind of thing happening," Feeney said. "If we can get kids to share the ball, that's the key. You want to get them to understand that the best way to showcase your ability is to make everybody around you better.

‘It's tough to do it in two days. But if you can get kids to buy in, you can do the kind of thing we did (in 2002)."

The Class AA North roster includes 6-foot Illinois Wesleyan recruit Christina Solari of Maine South. The Class A North has strong area flavor with Flanagan guard Brittany Leonard, LeRoy guard Samantha Poppe and El Paso-Gridley center Amanda Kowalski. Also, Ridgeview guard Mackenzie Roth is an alternate.

The 5-4 Leonard received first-team IBCA all-state honors after helping Flanagan to fourth place in the state tournament. She will play at Illinois Valley Community College next season.

"I'm really excited. I know this is going to be some good competition," Leonard said. "It's kind of nerve racking because you know there's a lot of good players here. But I've been running and playing some pickup games and shooting.

"Going to the state tournament was a special honor. To top it all off like this, I think it's going to be a lot of fun."

Poppe was a third-team IBCA all-state choice, while Kowalski and Roth earned special mention.

The South leads the Class A series 11-10, while the North has a 13-8 advantage in Class AA.

Holding court

What: 22nd annual Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Girls All-Star Games

Where: Illinois Wesleyan's Shirk Center, Bloomington

When: 5 p.m. (Class A game); 7 p.m. (Class AA game)

Tickets: $6 at the door

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