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The daily pitch from Sports Editor Matt Daniels: March 9, 2024

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Sports Editor Matt Daniels with a look at what's going on around the area:

Three reasons we love sports today

➜ 1. State championship Saturday arrives for the IHSA boys' basketball state tournament at State Farm Center in Champaign. Four teams will hoist state trophies in the air. Can't wait.

➜ but the Class 1A state championship game between Mounds Meridian and West Central is the first 1A state title game between two public schools since the tournament moved back to Champaign in 2022.

➜ 3. Want a reason to root for Normal Community on Saturday night during the Class 4A state championship game against Homewood-Flossmoor? LeConte Nix. The proud Champaign native and Champaign Central graduate is in his first season as an assistant coach with the Ironmen.

Numbers game: 13

Schools to repeat as IHSA boys' basketball state champions since the state tournament debuted in 1907. Elgin did so first in 1924-25. Peoria Manual won four straight from 1994-97. Simeon (2006-07 and 2010-13) and Morgan Park (2013-14 and 2017-18) have done it twice. Now, DePaul College Prep will attempt to do so Saturday in Class 3A after winning a 2A state title last year.

Crowd control

Three IHSA state title games I'm paying attention to

➜ 1. Phillips vs. Benton. The two teams separted by roughly 300 miles play for a Class 2A state title on Saturday afternoon in Champaign. Watch out for Benton's 6-foot-8 Docker Tedeschi and Phillips' dynamic junior guard Lawrence Horton.

➜ 2. Normal Community vs. Homewood-Flossmoor. Speaking of size, 6-10 Normal Community big man Jaheem Webber is a sight to see. Can the Ironmen knock off one of the state's top teams all season in Class 4A?

➜ 3. Meridian vs. West Central. Meridian 18-year-old freshman Antonio Flenoid Jr. put on a show Thursday. So did West Central senior Chance Little. Who emerges with the Class 1A state title?

Coach's corner

Three questions with Centennial girls' track and field coach Laura Koterba-Buss, whose team is in action Saturday at the UI Armory for the Rantoul Indoor Invite and then again on Monday during the Big 12 Conference indoor meet at the Shirk Center in Bloomington. Koterba-Buss also coaches the Chargers' girls' cross-country team that won a Class 2A regional title last fall:

➜ 1. My favorite sports team is ... the St. Louis Cardinals.

➜ 2. Three coaches I'd like to have dinner with are ... Greg Walters, Pat Summitt and Jill Ellis.

➜ 3. My biggest pet peeve is ... phones at practice. I do not want to see them.