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An unusual season: Coaches describe basketball challenges and success

St. Joseph-Ogden's Nolan Grindley tries to reel in a loose ball in the Spartans' home game against Teutopolis on March 5.
As teams head into the final week of prep basketball, The Sentinel contacted our four area coaches to get their thoughts on probably the shortest high school basketball season in the history of Illinois as it winds down to a close this weekend. Restricted fan access, wearing masks while playing and other health mandates is likely a season student-athletes and coaches won't forget.

Sentinel: This is the last week of the basketball season. What are your thoughts going into it?

Dave Ellars, Unity girls head coach: "Glad we got to play. The girls gave outstanding effort, win or lose. They are a great bunch of girls and glad I have the opportunity to coach them this year."

Kiel Duval, St. Joseph-Ogden boys head coach: "I hope our guys finish strong. It has been tough knowing there is not a post season. I've been proud of the guys daily approach. They have grown as a team. I just wish we could have had them for an entire year."

Kevin Taylor, St. Joseph-Ogden girls head coach: "It’s hard to believe the season is almost over. It has gone really fast. Overall I’m glad the girls got a chance to play But we would like to finish as strong as we can. Even with no postseason I feel it’s important to have a good finish."

Matt Reed, Unity boys head coach: "I'm just relieved that we got the entire season in. We didn't miss any games. We had a few kids get quarantined, but no one was tremendously sick, so that was a blessing."

Sentinel: How well did you and the team handle the COVID protocols? Of all the things required, what was the hardest to adapt?

Ellars: "I think we handled it very well, we were didn’t have any cases. The hardest thing is playing and coaching with a mask. Not having any fans at most away games was tough on the kids."

Taylor: "No question the girls have done an amazing job dealing with all the covid protocols. It is very difficult to play in a mask and try to maintain social distancing. But they have done the best they could."

Matt Reed: "The kids adapted very well. The biggest issue with all teams was the kids wearing the masks properly. Its hard to tell a kid to constantly pull up their mask when they are playing as hard as they can, but that was the mandate."

Sentinel: What did you learn personally coaching basketball this season and what has been the most memorable moment so far?

Matt Reed: "Our team has really improved from the beginning of the season. We have had a chance to win every game since our game with St. Joe. We competed well in that game, beat PBL and Olympia, then lost two straight games by 2 points."

Ellars: "Kids are willing to adjust so they can play. Senior night, In January I never thought we would have a season."

Taylor: "This year, seeing the emotional struggle of the pandemic and seeing how it has affected everyone. The thing I had the chance to realize is how important the team atmosphere is. Seeing everyone go through tough times but In the end how the girls have come together and develop that team bond and support each other has been a really good thing to see as a coach."

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