By Tony Hooker
With the VGH girls’ basketball team’s 50-34 loss to St. Joseph Ogden in Thursday’s regional championship game, the careers of two four-year stalwarts have come to a close. Aliya Holloman’s career has ended with her firmly entrenched near the top of all scoring categories. She ranks first all-time for any athlete to wear a Villa Grove uniform, and her total ranks her second in Heritage school history. Classmate Jordyn Ray, on the other hand, found her niche as a defensive stalwart and facilitator, averaging 5.6 assists per contest during her senior campaign to set both single season and career assist records. These two athletes, along with three juniors, dead-eye shooter Kyleigh Block, Swiss Army Knife do everything Samantha Campbell, and board specialist Madie Burwell, formed the nucleus of a school record twenty-five-win season, against six losses.
As long as the three juniors take care of business during the off-season, the Devils have a chance to win twenty games next season for the third year in a row. As I’ve written about many times, the loss of stellar athletes to graduation, while always hard to replace, will give chances for other athletes to step up. It’s both the beauty and the bane of high school athletics.
Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the only Villa Grove basketball team other than the 1923 state champions to advance beyond sectional play. The 1981 Blue Devils Girls team entered regional play with a middling 9-8 record, though most of the losses were close. The Devils featured a tall front line of senior tri-captains Angie Greger and Debbie Herring, along with Angie’s, cousin, Ginger Greger. Yet another Greger, Angie’s sophomore sister Tammy, and juniors Tina Ward and Tracey Tackett added depth. The back court featured smooth junior Sheri Knight and the straw who stirred the drink, a sharpshooting farm girl from north of town named Dana Madigan, the team’s third senior tri-captain, along with quality depth pieces Tracey Hatchel and Nita “Pete” Revell. Madigan who would go on to garner first team all-conference accolades, was the team’s MVP, along with Angie Greger, who would take home second team all-conference honors in her own right.
The Devils opened play by vanquishing a Shiloh quintet whom they had dispatched in the season’s first contest to earn a spot in the regional final against an undefeated Oakland five, to whom they had lost twice, including a thirteen-point defeat days earlier in the conference tournament final. This time, the Devils came out on top to capture the first regional title in school history for the girls. (They would later repeat the feat in 1983 and again in 1999, but neither of those teams were able to advance out of regional play.)
Next up came a sectional rematch against Arcola, another team who had defeated the Blue and Gold earlier in the season. This time, the Devils, riding a wave of newfound confidence after defeating the previously undefeated Oaks, easily dispatched the Riders to move to the sectional final against Unity, another team they had lost to during the regular season. Again, the rematch ended differently, with the Devils taking a 50-40 win to move to the super sectional. Unfortunately, Cinderella’s slipper would fall off as Altamont would slow things down and make just enough shots to claim a 33-29 win.