February 8, 2023 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

SJO girls’ basketball makes lifetime memories with run to state

Shortly after the Class 2A girls’ basketball state championship game, the story made its rounds on social media.


And it wasn’t long before St. Joseph-Ogden Superintendent Brian Brooks started receiving messages.


When the St. Joseph-Ogden girls’ basketball team approached Teutopolis after their 47-44 loss to Chicago Marshall this past Saturday night, it could have went a few different ways. This was the team that defeated SJO 50-31 in the state semifinals last Friday night at Redbird Arena in Normal.


What happened next, however, didn’t surprise anyone who really knows the team, which placed third at state after a 68-53 win over Hillsboro this past Saturday night.


“The messages said how appreciative they were of our girls consoling them in the tunnel after a tough loss,” Brooks said. “They were extremely appreciative. They used the word classy and class numerous times.”


Brooks said it would have been easy for the team to harbor ill feelings towards the Wooden Shoes — but that is not who the team is.


“It shows the type of kids we have,” he said.


Brooks also credited SJO coach Kevin Taylor with expecting the highest level of sportsmanship from the team.


Taylor, for his part, refused to take any credit.


“I have great assistant coaches and good parents are important as well,” he said. “It was a good run and I appreciate all the support. I will never forget it.”


Neither will the girls.


“I can’t even put into words how much I’ve loved this season and this team,” said freshman Payton Jacob. “I’ve been in awe so many times this season just thinking about the opportunity I’ve been given this year to be on this team.”


Junior Taylor Barnes said the community has played a role in the success.


“The community supports us a lot,” she said. “Even at away games. We wouldn’t have been able to get where we are without support from our fans.”


Freshman Abby Behrens said the focus of the team was to have a memorable season. Mission accomplished.


“It was always kind of a goal to have a special season and winning our conference helped to ensure that our season would be a special one,” she said.


Junior Hannah Dukeman said she could see the team’s potential from the start of the season.


“Every single girl has been willing to work their tail off since day one when we set our goals,” Dukeman said. “One being Redbird.”
Senior Peyton Crowe agreed.


“The chemistry is so good I believe because not only do we care about each other on the court but also off the court,” she said. “We always have each other’s backs.”


Senior Maclayne Taylor said the team chemistry is strong because the girls have similar personalities.


“Also, we all have had the same goals for the season,” she said. “We have worked hard, pushing each other every practice, making us come together more.”


Junior Katie Cramer said this was the most fun she has had playing basketball and when she reflects on the season years from now, she will never forget the memories they made.


“I will remember going to state the most,” she said. “We have all had the same goal of getting to state since the start of the season.”


Sophomore Payton Vallee said she realized last season that this current season would be special.


“I knew from the beginning of this season and even the end of last that there were a lot of great players coming back,” she said. “And our team chemistry was great.”


Sophomore Atleigh Hamilton said the team chemistry was a vital part of their success.


“I feel like we all get along pretty well,” she said. “We all have the same goals and drive and that really connects us. It gives us our chemistry.”


Senior Angela Palmer said she will never forget the memories she made on the team.


“Just getting to know my teammates and experience going to state is such an amazing opportunity,” she said.


Senior Erinn Miller echoed those sentiments.


“Obviously going to state is a once in a lifetime experience, especially because we are the only SJO girls team to have ever done so just makes it that much sweeter,” she said. “But another thing about this season was the team chemistry. Every practice and pregame and team bonding was so fun and I really feel like these girls, this year, have been closer than any other team I have played on.”

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