Joey and Rod revisited

 

By John Ring

 

One of the big highlights of the 2005 Silver Streak Hall of Fame festivities was the opportunity to speak to members of the 1998 boys basketball team that finished 2nd in the State during that exciting season.

Nearly all of the players were there. Only Toby Lanholm couldn't make it. Coach Mike Miller and assistant coach Brian Kern were both coaching their respective basketball teams that day in Rockford and Vandalia.

That 1998 team finished with a 31-3 record but they also barnstormed a two-state region, nearly lost one of their players to a tragic illness, played in All-Star shootouts, captivated a long dormant basketball town and were led by a basketball coach who brought a refreshing change of attitude to John Thiel Gym, the most dominant player in Silver Streak history and a transfer from Chicago that took the area by storm with his energy and his smile.

"I never imagined when I came down here that there would be the sellouts and all the media attention," said Rod Thompson, who transferred to GHS for his senior season. "We knew we were going to State. There was no doubt about it. We had a lot of big ballgames and we played a lot of good teams."

So powerful was the Western Big 6 that season that both Galesburg and Quincy made it to the Final Four. Moline lost three games all season— all to the Streaks.

"The Moline games were definitely big," said Joey Range, the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in Silver Streak history. "But I think the defining moment for our team came when we played at a Shootout in St. Louis. We lost and it was our worst game of the year. After that game, we knew we couldn't win by just showing up."

"We had two things going for us," added Range. "We had great players and we had a tremendous will to win."

"As 8th graders we talked about that we would be going to State," said Jason Wessels, who was sidelined for most of the year but a case of severe meningitis. "What happened to us shows what you can do if you dream and if you believe. We had a lot of heart."

"We also had Joey Range, who was an unbelievable player. I've yet to see anyone in high school come close to the talents that Joey Range had."

The Streaks came up short in the title game against Whitney Young, in a state tournament that has to be ranked as one of the toughest fields ever.

"We were close, just a shot or two away from winning it all," said Thompson. "The ball bounced their way that day and we came up short."

 

Hall of Fame Notes—

 

Thompson, who attended the University of Iowa, works for Nextell in Des Moines and lives with his wife and daughter.

 

Also inducted were Bobo Graham (1945), Thomas Grabil (1951), Mark Reed (1981), Danny Noll (1982), T.J. Jiles (1952), Jesse Ponce, Jr (1966), and Pete Thierry.

 

The north bleachers were closed during the Streaks-Knights game. The remaining bleachers were nearly full for a game that was played on a Saturday night.  Since Thiel Gym was vacant on Saturday night, you wonder how close the game would have been to a sellout if played in Prime Time.

 

The conflicting schedule between both the boys and girls games and the Hall of Fame inductions led to some key figures in the 1998 2nd place boys basketball finish to be absent during the game. Brad Bennewitz and Jim Lee of WGIL and Robb Strack of WAIK missed the HOF ceremonies because of broadcasting the 2006 Streak games.

 

Streaks Coach Jeff Houston said that GHS is still working on hosting a Thanksgiving Tournament of their own next season. Until that comes about, Houston acknowledged that the Streaks would probably return to Dunlap. Crowds at Dunlap were small, even for the Eagles own games, but the Dunlap High School Band played.

 

Swimmer Danielle Hulick, who was voted into the Hall of Fame, elected to wait until next year to make it official. She couldn't attend the ceremony this year but will be able to make it in 2007.