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SJO girls set to open tonight, boys squad is equally excited

Home from school, Taylor Wells sat refreshing her Twitter feed non-stop. She was overcome with excitement and exuberance learning that Governor Pritzker would allow high schools around the state to play basketball. She read tweet after tweet with the news.

St. Joseph-Ogden Evan Ingram takes a shot in the Spartans' home game against Williamsville last January. The SJO boys open their season on February 12. Photo: PhotoNews/Clark Brooks
"I was over the moon and couldn’t have been happier," the St. Joseph-Ogden junior said. Wells and the Spartans' varsity girls team open their season tonight at home against Villa Grove. "I know my teammates are all just as excited as I am. We have all been waiting for answers on whether or not our season would happen since November."

While there won't be many fans, a Maroon Platoon to cheer them on or a postseason tournament, she is happy to be playing with her teammates.

"This school year has been full of ups and downs, from having hope in being able to play in November to being told to wait for answers to come," Wells said. "I’m grateful that we are finally being given the chance to play, even if it’s a shortened season.

Basketball is a huge part of my life and so I’m excited to get back on the court."

High school hoops is not only a huge part of Ty Pence's life, but intricate part of his future. Just a sophomore, Pence already has an offer from Western Illinois University and he is likely to have more as his stock rises with the more opportunities he has to showcase his skills in actual competition. He echoed Wells' sense of relief, excitement and the importance of the game in his life.

"We are all excited. This is what we have been praying and working for since October. We are all happy to have this (opportunity)," he said. "It is very important to us. Even though we aren’t able to have a post season, we are still going to work hard because we have had hope to play for a very long time."

Last week Pence said he could not wait to start working out and practicing with his teammates again.

"I want to develop as a player as much as I am able to," he said with earnest. "Whether that is being a better leader or working on my game as a whole."

Though the pair won't graduate this coming May, both Pence and Wells underscored the importance of the season, although not very long, to St. Joseph-Ogden seniors.

I’m glad that our seniors will have a chance to have their season and hopefully we can be the best we can be," Pence said about a season already shortened by a couple of games after Cissna Park had to cancel tomorrow night's trip to The Joe due to Covid quarantine protocols.

Next Tuesday night's home game against St. Thomas More was also postponed for the same reason possible cutting the season from 11 to nine games. No word if the games will be rescheduled at this time.

Wells pointed out the season is significant for players who won't be able to suit up as Spartans after May.

"This season is very important for our seniors. This will be the last time they get to play basketball as Spartans," she explained. "Some of my teammates, along with myself, are looking to be recruited to play at the next level. This is our opportunity for colleges to come out and be able to watch us play."

Tonight's game as well as all Spartan home basketball games will be available via live stream on NFHS at a subscription cost of $10.99 per month. Fans can save almost half of a year's monthly fee by purchasing an annual subscription at $69.99.

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