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Bickett, Jeppson to shine with IHSA Legends

Brad Bickett took three straight Bureau Valley Storm teams to Peoria for the Elite Eight. Shawn Jeppson led two Hall Red Devils there. On Friday, they will make a curtain call at Carver Arena.

The Bureau County duo will be among the 100 Legends of the IHSA State Tournament to be honored this weekend during the IHSA’s celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the state tournament. Those Legends, who found their fame in the Class A Tournament, will be on hand this weekend, for the final Class A Elite Eight, while those who made their name in AA, will attend next week’s festivities.

These legends were selected by online voting last year.

Bickett, whose Storm squads placed third, three straight years, from 2000-02, said he was excited to be able to spend time with family, fellow coaches and friends this weekend.

The legends will be present from 10:30 to 11 a.m. Friday in the March Madness Experience, in the Civic Center hall. They will be available to sign autographs and talk March Madness with fans.

Later, they will be announced between the first and second quarterfinal games, as well as during the break of the third and fourth games, Friday evening. The Legends will return to the March Madness Experience Saturday morning, and attend a reception in their honor Saturday afternoon.

Jeppson will be reunited with state nemesis Bill Heisler of Warsaw. Heisler had 36 points, including six three-pointers, as Warsaw beat Hall, 92-85, in overtime.

Among other Class A Legends scheduled to appear this weekend, are former Mr. Illinois Basketball, Walter Downing; Dusty Bensko of Pleasant Plains; Marty “the Mule” Simmons and his coach, Ron Felling of Lawrenceville; Rock Falls’ Brian Vance and Toluca’s Chuck Rolinski, the “founding father of Class A basketball.”

Twins Paul and Phil Judson, of the legendary 1952 Hebron team, will attend the Class AA tournament, having played before Class A tournament.

March Madness bits: The Ball of Fame, which was signed by members of the 100 Legends team, will be on display until it is raffled away to one lucky winner at the conclusion of the Class AA finals.

The countdown to the favorite March Madness highlight, also conducted by online voting, will take place simultaneously on the IHSATV broadcast and on the video scoreboard in Carver Arena. Also, copies of the 100 Years of Madness, the new book celebrating the IHSA boys’ basketball tournament centennial, will be available for purchase.

On the floor: Neponset’s Dave Mueller will officiate his third state tournament this weekend in Peoria. He’s also worked in 2002 and ‘03.

It’s generally been a three and done policy when it comes to officiating state. That seems to be changing.

“I feel pretty fortunate. They’ve been telling new guys they’re only going twice. I’m one of the old guys who gets to work three times,” he said.

Mueller, a 1977 graduate of Neponset High School, says it’s a honor, because, “when you get to be one of final 12 officials on the last day, it’s pretty nice.”

The officials learn their Friday assignments on Thursday evening. Mueller has never worked the championship game, and although he said it would be nice, “doesn’t really matter.”

On the air: Former Prince-ton coach Roger Lowe returns to the broadcast booth this weekend, in Peoria, for the IHSA TV Network. He will call Games 2 and 4 each day, including Saturday’s title game.

The IHSA assignment, now for the fourth year, has brought the game back to Lowe, whose coaching career came to a bitter ending when he was fired after leading PHS into the Sweet 16 in 1992.

“I never did get to sit in the best seat in the house, but I get to sit in the second best,” he said. “I would have never imagined I’d get to do something like this.”

Lowe’s seen seven of the Sweet 16 teams in action, including Tuesday’s supersectional at DeKalb between Putnam County and Byron. He was going to call all the coaches of the teams who make the Elite Eight as well as some of their opposing coaches for some insights.

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