The Silver Streak girls tradition


By John Ring


In the last 15 years, thereÕs been a lot of changes in high school athletics and with the IHSA.

     Small schools have consolidated. Identities have been lost. Schools have changed nicknames--- all politically correct, of course. There are no more ROWVA Tigers in football  or Union Yankees or Southern Rebels in any sport.

     Conferences have merged or been phased out or renamed. We now have ŌSuper ConferencesĶ There used to be a Mid-State 9, then a Mid-State-6 and now a Mid-State-5.

     In high school basketball, winning 25 games during the regular season gets you a 60 mile road trip for the Regionals instead of a homecourt advantage, something that used to be earned but is now doled out like a political job.

     Through all of it, over the last 15 years, has been one constant--- Silver Streak girls basketball.

     The 20-win seasons, the 30-win seasons, all of the Regional and Sectional Titles, the Top 10 rankings, the trips to State have all been chronicled. ItÕs all been documented. When it started, Galesburg High School had the lowest enrollment of the five public schools in the Western Big 6. That hasnÕt changed either.

     The current run of excellence exceeded anything John Thiel ever did. That in itself, is quite a statement.

     A lot of people are wondering how this basketball program has sustained this sort of success for that long of a time. And while IÕm no expert on these matters, IÕve got a few opinions on the subject, one of which IÕve been close to since 1993.

     ŌWeÕre not ladies. WeÕre not the ÔLadyÕ Silver Streaks. WeÕre just Silver Streaks.Ķ

     ThatÕs what Sara Wood said to me in 1995. I wondered then and still wonder today why some girls basketball teams, both in high school and college, like to be referred to that way. In 1987, the University of Cincinnati womens basketball coach fought long and hard to have that moniker taken off their uniforms.

     There was nothing feminine about a Megan Pacheco pick. It was brutal and often the sound echoed throughout Thiel Gym. ThereÕs nothing Ōlady-likeĶ or Ōgentleman-likeĶ about diving on the court for a loose ball or fighting your way through a screen or blocking out to rebound.

     The Silver Streaks were not ladies; they were basketball players. From Watson to Gunther to Ricketts, they meant business. They took the game seriously. Coach Evan MasseyÕs system was ingrained upon them shortly after they gave up watching Barney & Friends.

     At a Knoxville girls basketball game two years ago, a friend of mine looked out on the court and something didnÕt look right. He couldnÕt figure it out until the second quarter. The players were wearing make-up. They also played a dull, boring halfcourt game that no one (guy or girl) likes to play.

     These Streaks were Born to Run, as the song goes. ItÕs a fun game to watch and play. Teams either couldnÕt wait to knock off Galesburg or simply dreaded to play Galesburg.

     The Three-Headed Coaching Staff

     In a day and age of coaches moving routinely from place to place, the girls basketball program has had the benefit of Evan Massey coaching at GHS since 1978. Not only that, his two main assistants--- Mike Rux and Steve Peachey--- have been at his side since the program took off in the early 1990s.

     Peachey is the emotional leader of the coaching staff. HeÕs the one that likes to remind the players of what happened in the past and what they are playing for. Rux coaches the sophomore team, scouts, and runs the most media-savvy public relations program for a high school basketball team in the entire State.

     Massey adapts his program to virtually everything. A rash of knee injuries led to a preventive program implemented at GHS for his team. Rotating Regionals and Sectionals led to him amending his schedule. His only failure (if you can call it that) is not attracting over 2,000 fans to a game.

     Put it this way--- RuxÕs sophomore team plays in front of more fans on a Thursday night than most varsity teams do in Central Illinois.

     Try and find another coaching staff like this one in terms of longevity, success and the ability to promote their team. You wonÕt find one.

     Success breeds . . .

     Ami Pendry shot 1 for 15 in a Super Sectional game against Belvidere in 1996 and then nailed a huge three-point basket to give Galesburg a lead it would never relinquish.

     Brenna Saline was 2 for 14 against Peoria Richwoods two years ago in the Sectionals but kept firing away anyway in a game the Streaks lost.

     Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesnÕt. But the fact that both players, 9 years apart, kept firing speaks volumes.

     The System makes them comfortable. It tells them, based upon their position, where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to do.

     Watch the Streak girls practice and itÕs more of a teaching environment. Contrast that to the boys and the previous eight coaches during MasseyÕs tenure. ThereÕs a lot of yelling going on. Sometimes, itÕs needed. But IÕve never seen Massey do that.

     ThereÕs been some speculation as to how long this run of success will go. ItÕs inevitable that it will end. Everything does. Newt GingrichÕs Contract With America blew up the entitlement Democrats thought they had by controlling Congress for six decades. We have Gonzaga instead of UCLA and the Mavericks instead of the Celtics.

     Enjoy it, donÕt read into it. Go to the tournament games. Watch some fast breaks and see some kids play Silver Streak basketball.

     Just donÕt call them ladies.