Fresh off the bench

by John Ring

Since freshmen became eligible to play at the high school level, there have been a few Silver Streak basketball players make the leap from the 9th grade to varsity level.

Joey Range certainly stands out, as the all-time leading scorer in Galesburg basketball history started his very first game as a freshman and scored the first points of his career on a layup two minutes into a win over East St. Louis in 1994.

Ted Trueblood and Sean Hanlon also broke that barrier as freshmen and contributed to the varsity on the way to their solid four-year careers as Silver Streaks.

But Joel Dieterich had the toughest varsity debut of all time. It's not even close.

Normally, freshmen are put into blowout games-- one way or the other-- and put into an environment that isn't hostile or pressurized.

But Joel Dieterich came into the Galesburg-Quincy game last Friday night in the third period.

Hostile environment? It can't get any tougher than at Quincy. Name a tougher venue to play in Illinois high school basketball.

Pressure? The Streaks were clinging to a slim lead. The Blue Devils were making a charge. The Streak roster was affected by a player quitting and another told to stay home and study for an ACT exam. The team was 0-4 and on a road for disaster.

The result?

Joel Dieterich scored 8 points, including a pair of three-point baskets, and never came out of the game after checking in.

''It's unreal what he did,'' said Trueblood, who now coaches the Lombard 8th grade basketball team. ''He's a tremendously skilled player, a savvy kind of a player. I saw that last year when I coached against his team at Churchill. He always had that cool, calm look.''

''I had some other guys on the bench but I wanted Joel in there because of his ball handling,'' said Streaks Coach Geoff Falk. ''I told him to go in and take care of the ball. Anything else was a bonus.''

Joel Dieterich was sent into the game with three minutes left in the third quarter and the Streaks clinging to a lead that had once ballooned to 13 points but shrank to two.

He never came back out.

''Marlon [LaViolette] picked up his third foul and Coach [Jeff] Houston told me I'd be going in,'' said Dieterich. ''When I went in, Marlon told me to do what I do best, to play good basketball. When I made a mistake and turned the ball over after I came in, Pierre [Williams] came over to me and he said forget it, just do it right the next time. They both picked me up and that meant a lot to me.''

''That's the key thing,'' said Trueblood. ''Joel knows those guys from playing with them this summer. Plus, he's got an older brother on the team and that helps him, too.''

''My adrenaline was going and I was nervous when I went in,'' said Dieterich. ''But after I hit that first shot, the nerves went away.''

''I never got tired. We were winning and I was having fun.''

''He's the epitomy of a point guard,'' said Churchill Coach Matt Pogue. ''He sees the floor very well and makes the players around him better. I coached both him and B.J. and it's important that his older brother is on the team. B.J. is always there for him.''

''I knew he could do it,'' said Falk. ''He did a nice job with the sophomores during the four games he played with them. I had wanted to get him into the game earlier but things didn't work out. But he responded very well.''

''My parents were in bed when I got home,'' said Joel. ''I didn't get to sleep until like five in the morning. It was quite a night. I've wanted to be a Silver Streak since I watched Joey and Rod their senior seasons.''

''I'm very proud of him,'' said Pogue. ''He called me the next day and told me about the Quincy game. The important thing, the main thing about Joel is that he's a good kid.''

A good kid just having fun.

Not a bad combination.

Uploaded to The Zephyr website December 17, 2002

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