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College basketball

Big time game has big time atmosphere

Illini rock the house and the Tigers 72-61

[DEC. 24, 2001]  Some games are just another game on the schedule. Other games are hyped up so much that it seems like every game is a big game. However, if you don’t think the annual Braggin’ Rights contest is a battle of significant proportions, then you’ve never been to one before!

I’ve been going to them since the inaugural game, when my buddies and I would cruise the old arena parking lot. We would hope that some rich alum would take pity on us and give us a deal we couldn’t refuse. Those early days are rooted firmly in my memory, and these most recent ones won’t take much of a backseat.

You could feel the electricity in the air as we passed the Gateway to the West entering the city early Saturday evening. It was a struggle even to park. I’m told that the reason there were so many people there was because of all the good shopping opportunities. Is that still going on? Sorry, I put my game face on back in Lincoln!


I felt good about this one from the get-go. I don’t know why. I told my friends to just shoot me the next time I feel this good going into any Illini contest. I mean, I know so many people that pull for the Cubs, Illinois, da Bears, the Bulls and for chicken little. I admit that for the last two years it has really gotten to me. I’ve been waiting for the sky to fall. But the battle on the Mississippi was different. While everyone and his uncle, aunt and dog have been diving off of the Illini bandwagon in recent weeks, I still feel good about being the designated driver!

While I never believed the hype surrounding this year’s quintet (and I’ve stated so several times right here), I knew we would get better. I even began to see it on opening night versus Gonzaga. While we won’t be as talented as we were last year, we’re getting better every day and with every game. The good news is that we can play a lot better than we’ve shown so far.


I also reflected on my days as a coach. It reminded me of a player that we recruited from Louisville, Kentucky by the name of Alery Johnson. Alery used to laugh at me when I got all worked up in practice. I would have the game plan out and would want flawless execution. He would laugh and say, “Don’t worry coach, it’s all under control.” Word! And when the spotlight was on, Al would deliver, usually in these big contests more than any other. I learned from him how much pride that players can have and that there is something down deep inside that can be mustered, at least sometimes. 


[to top of second column in this article]

So, going into this game, I just had that feeling that we would call on that intestinal fortitude for this game. Maybe I was just hoping that our own Brian Cook would step up with teammate Frank Williams and send those Whinnie the Pooh tiggers back to Columbia. I wanted us to come out and play smash-mouth, not trash-mouth basketball. And that’s exactly what we did. Missouri was content to go with fool’s gold, while Illinois steadily left the Tigers in their wake. 


I don’t think it was as close as the score indicated, although there were some strange things that happened that seemed to keep Mizzou close. Not the least of which was when some drunken fan tackled the Chief during his halftime tribal dance. But I’m not going to go there…at least not today. It’s Christmastime for crying out loud! Let’s be festive. I was planted smack dab in the middle of the Illini pep band, the Illinets and the cheerleaders. It was a Final Four environment. Maybe it will make our Illini hungry for more of the same kind of experiences. I’m just saying let’s be happy. We won the Braggin’ Rights again! Is there a better way to go into the big time holidays, than to capture a big time win in a big time atmosphere? We don’t think so!!!  CONGRATULATIONS, Illini…we salute you!  How ‘bout another Big Ten Championship to go along with all this other big time stuff?


Merry Christmas everybody from everyone here at the LDN sports desk!

[Jeff Mayfield]


High school basketball

Area game results

[DEC. 22, 2001]   


At Mount Pulaski

Mount Pulaski                 10  32  46    59
Meridian                     16  30  48    66

Wilson 0-2-2; Tierney 3-1-7; Schilling 4-0-9; Olson 5-2-14; Blaum 1-0-2; Anderson 9-0-23; Diebert 1-0-2.

Totals 23-5-59

At Decatur

Hartsburg-Emden        14  25  40    57
Decatur St. Teresa       17  41  57   73

Ke. Leesman 6-1-13; Fletcher 1-0-2; Wrage 3-0-6; Anderson 2-0-4; Gleason 3-0-9; Ko. Leesman 4-0-8; Jones 3-0-6; Olson 1-5-7; Hoerbert 1-0-2.

Totals 24-6-57

College basketball

Redbirds shoot for back-to-back wins

[DEC. 22, 2001]   Normal, Ill. -- On the heels of a 55-52 win over Northern Illinois, Illinois State hopes to continue its women's basketball success with a victory over Western Illinois. The 2:05 p.m. start at Redbird Arena will challenge the Redbirds---WIU has won three in a row in impressive fashion.

The Westerwinds have out-scored their last three opponents by an average of 36 points per game. WIU is 6-4, with two of those losses at the hands of Missouri Valley Conference members Bradley (79-77 in the season opener) and Creighton (70-60, the loss before the current win streak began).

Becky Tyo's 13.4 points per game leads a balanced attack which features four players averaging in double figures scoring. Tiffany Cornelius averages nearly eight rebounds per game. The win streak includes a 73-54 win over Youngstown State, an 83-25 win over Monmouth (Ill.) and a 75-45 win at Butler. The Westerwind defense has limited opponents to just 33 percent field goal shooting and has forced 76 turnovers in the three games.


All of that has Redbird coach Jenny Yopp concerned.

"Western plays a tough, hard-nosed, physical style of basketball with strong depth and scoring balance," said Yopp. "All five positions on the court are scoring threats. But Tyo and Cornelius are the 'X' factors; we have to contain them on the boards."

A year ago, the Westerwinds beat the Redbirds for only the second time in 40 games in the series, 74-64 at Western Hall.


[to top of second column in this article]

WIU's only loss in 17 games in Normal came Jan. 31, 1979, a 73-71 Westerwind victory at Horton Field House. ISU has beaten the Westerwinds 12 times in a row at home since then.

But that history won't matter on Saturday.

"Western has a lot of momentum and confidence coming in here," said Yopp. "We got a big win for our program (Thursday), and its tough with a young team preparing with just one day between games, but we will have to be prepared for an all-out performance. We're certainly excited about beating Northern Illinois, but we will have to focus quickly on Western Illinois."

Lone senior Kristi Larson's 16 points led the 'Birds against NIU. The 6-foot-4 senior, who has battled injuries most of her career, has impressed Yopp with her intelligence and experience on the court.

"The big thing with Kristi has been her execution," said Yopp. "She is so smart and understands the game so much better than she ever has. Her experience benefits our team."

WIU is the Redbirds' last non-conference game of the season. League play for Illinois State begins Dec. 29 at Indiana State.


[Thomas A. Lamonica, ISU]

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Pre-game notes: ISU vs. Kent State

[DEC. 22, 2001]   

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Pre-game notes: Illinois vs. Missouri

[DEC. 22, 2001]   

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Junior high basketball

Carroll Catholic vs. Springfield St. Agnes

[DEC. 21, 2001]   At Carroll Catholic

Seventh grade

Carroll Catholic               44
Springfield St. Agnes       46

Justin Ritchhart, 8 reb, 7 steals, 16 pts; Josh Baker, 11 pts; Zac O'Donoghue, 6 pts; Pat Washam, 8 reb.

Eighth grade

Carroll Catholic               47
Springfield St. Agnes       37

Derrick Schonauer, 6 reb, 18 pts; Matt Schick, 11 pts; Joff Oller, 9 reb, 4 steals, 4 blocks, 10 pts.


Christmas will be different for most and very difficult for the thousands who lost family and friends this year. There will be children who, more than for presents under a tree, will be wishing that they could only see their mom and dad again. No doubt Sept. 11th and the tragic attacks on the twin towers, the Pentagon, and the story of those who died on the plane that fell short of its goal due to heroics by brave passengers, will forever affect our lives. Due to these events, our nation is at war in an effort to stop such acts from happening again.

During such a time as this, grief, anger, chaos, uncertainty and fear darken the spirits of many. There is a message that continues to be heralded with as much clarity and assurance as the first day angels proclaimed it to shepherds abiding in the field. "For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior, which is Christ the Lord."

To accompany this declaration, an angelic host appeared and sang, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men." This is the heart of God for the world. Peace, true peace through Jesus the Christ. Peace that heals the hurting and causes wars to cease.

--Pastor Joe Bennett

A Spiritual Message from LDN and the following Sponsors:

Lincoln IGA;
713 Pulaski;

Coy's Car Corner;
1909 N. Kickapoo:

Harris-Hodnett Agnc;
119 N. Sangamon; 732-4115 
Gary Long, George Petro,
Barb Wibben, Sue Stewart

American Legion
Post 263;
Lincoln, IL;

Meier Acct. & Tax Serv.;
519 Pulaski St.;

Key Printing;
1112 Keokuk;

College basketball

Redbirds fight for win over Northern Illinois

[DEC. 21, 2001]   NORMAL — Kristi Larson scored 16 points and Katie Donovan had 11 points and 12 rebounds — her third double-double of the season — as the Illinois State women’s basketball team fought off Northern Illinois 55-52 Thursday night at Redbird Arena. It was the home team’s first victory of the season.

Larson led the Redbirds (1-7) by shooting 6-of-14 on the night while Steph Reichle of Lincoln and Taren O’Brien had nine apiece. Jennifer Youngblood led the Huskies (5-4) with 19 points, followed by Kim Boeding and Stephanie Smith with eight each.

But the game came down to Stacey White’s rebound of a missed ISU free throw with 18 seconds left. She captured the miss by Larson, got fouled and made both free throws.

"I had been watching the block-out by Jessica Shattuck and noticed she just went to the rim. I just tried to hold her off there and hope it came off the rim," said Stacey White. "I had to secure the ball. I wanted them to foul me because I had confidence in my free throws."

Early NIU sharpshooting put the Huskies ahead 25-19 on Stephanie Smith’s 3-pointer, giving NIU 11 of its first 16 field goals. But the Redbird defense slammed the door at that point, holding NIU to just 1-of-14 the rest of the half and pressuring the Huskies into seven turnovers in the last eight minutes.


Larson scored 13 first-half points and O’Brien had six assists with no turnovers as ISU led 34-27 at intermission, their first halftime lead of the season. Katie Donovan and Steph Reichle had seven first-half points apiece.

"We forced some turnovers and fast-break points in the first half, and we kept running plays for Kristi," said Donovan.

"We worked hard in this mini-preseason," said Larson, whose team was playing its first game in two weeks. "We stayed patient and ran our offense and looked at all of our options. I’m confident because we have plenty of options."


[to top of second column in this article]

O’Brien’s 3-pointer to open the second half and Donovan’s bank shot pushed the Redbird lead to 39-27 two minutes into the second half. The Redbirds maintained at least a nine-point lead until Jennifer Youngblood’s rebound basket sliced the lead to 48-41 with

9:37 left, part of a 13-3 NIU run that cut the ISU lead to 51-49 on Kristan Knake’s 3-point play with 4:31 left.

Reichle answered with a 12-foot jumper to put the ’Birds back up by four. Youngblood cut that to 53-51 with a jumper with 1:51 left. Monique Davis chopped the lead to 53-52 with a free throw with 1:51 left before NIU had three chances to take the lead, but the visitors couldn’t convert against the Redbird defense.


Larson went to the free-throw line with 0:20.9 left and missed, but White got the rebound and was fouled two seconds later. White made the pair to put ISU ahead 55-52, which secured the win.

"This was a sweet victory because of way we were tested in the end and kept our composure," Illinois State head coach Jenny Yopp said. "This team just keeps improving and handling the pressure well. Northern Illinois put us in a sticky situation, and I think this team proved that its focus was on winning the game.

"We kept it together, and I can’t attribute that to one player," Yopp continued. "So many of these girls have matured, and White showed that with her huge rebound and free throws that saved the game. These girls found a way to get it done, and I couldn’t be more proud of this team right now."

The Redbirds play Western Illinois at 2 p.m. Saturday in Redbird Arena.

[Erica Fricke, ISU assistant director
of media relations for athletics]

Redbird ticket office announces holiday hours

[DEC. 21, 2001]   NORMAL — The Illinois State Athletic Department has released the hours of operation for the Redbird Arena ticket office during the holiday season.

The office will be closed on Dec. 24 and 25, as well as on Dec. 31 and Jan 1. Otherwise the ticket office will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for Dec. 26-28 and on game days.

On Dec. 26-28, the office will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On dates when the men’s or women’s basketball teams have home games, the office will open at 8 a.m. and remain open until the completion of the game.

For further information please contact the Redbird Arena ticket office at (309) 438-8000.

[Todd Kober, ISU director of media relations]

College basketball

ISU’s Jeppson day-to-day with MCL sprain

[DEC. 20, 2001]   NORMAL — The magnetic resonance imaging diagnostic machine revealed that Illinois State senior guard Shawn Jeppson suffered a moderate medial collateral ligament sprain in his right knee Tuesday night in the Redbirds’ 87-73 loss at No. 7 Illinois.

At the 8:52 mark in the first half, the Spring Valley native was fouled by Illinois’ Robert Archibald while driving for a layup. Jeppson sank the two foul shots but left the game afterward and never returned.

Jeppson is listed as day-to-day, and head coach Tom Richardson was relieved to hear the news after losing Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Tarise Bryson to a season-ending injury a month ago.

"We are obviously pleased that the injury wasn’t severe as it could have been," Richardson said. "We couldn’t afford another devastating injury to the team right now. We just have to get Shawn back as fast as we can."

Jeppson played only eight minutes in the game at Illinois, but scored five points, including a big 3-pointer that ended a 7-0 Illini run.

Ranked fourth on the team in scoring, Jeppson is averaging 10.2 points per game on the season. He has played in all 10 games and is averaging 25.7 minutes per contest.

[Todd Kober, ISU director of media relations]

College basketball

Illinois wins the war on I-74

Illini overtake gritty Redbirds 87-73

By Jeff Mayfield

[DEC. 19, 2001]   It was really a tale of two halves. In the first half, a courageous group of Redbirds clawed, pecked and scratched their way into staying in the game. One stretch proved this point to a tee. Down 22-17 with 9:02 left, ISU fought hard on a 7-3 run and closed the gap to 25-24 with 6:19 to play.

[Photo by Tom Seggelke]

Lincoln high school product Gregg Alexander had nine points in the stanza to help ISU stay close. With Lincoln’s Brian Cook and Robert Archibald mired in foul trouble, the Illini led only 37-32 at the break. Only Frank Williams had more points than Alexander at intermission. In the first half the play was so rugged that surprisingly it seemed to favor the Redbirds.

The second half, however, was a horse of a different color. My guess is that coach Self suggested to the fellas that it might be a good idea to pass the ball inside in the second half. All the stories you’re going to read today are going to talk about that dominance.

And while there is no doubt that Illinois exploited that advantage in the second half, there’s a lot more to it than just that. Illinois started pushing the ball more and playing a much faster brand of basketball. I mean they began to dictate the tempo and tried to get out of the bump-and-grind game that it was for the first 20 minutes. And as well as Illinois’ big men run the floor, that is an advantage that they can exploit virtually every game.

Cook came alive in the last 20 minutes, tossing in eight, but Damir Krupalija had 11 and didn’t even play the last eight minutes of the game. Frank Williams had one of his best games of the year despite the lingering effects of having the flu, and he finished with 29 points. That’s just one point shy of his career high.


[to top of second column in this article]

The Lincoln matchup between Cook and Alexander failed to materialize. Although Cook won one battle and ultimately the war, Alexander took high scoring honors for the game. With 9:26 left in the contest Cook drove to the basket one-on-one against Alexander. It reminded me of some drills we used to run in the Railer camp. Cook went up over Alexander, the shot went in and Gregg was called for the block. Alexander also pulled down five rebounds in the game. Cook had six boards, two blocks and 10 points in only 23 minutes of action.


[Photo by Tom Seggelke]

In summation, we thought the Redbirds acquitted themselves pretty well last night and probably gave the Illini more than they bargained for. The first half was the best half of basketball that we’ve seen the Redbirds play this season. If they continue to play that hard, that intense and that focused, they will win a lot of games. The Illini on the other hand still have some work to do to get ready for the bludgeonfest that Big Ten basketball has become. We think that they will rise to the occasion Saturday and give ol’ Mizzou a much better game than most experts are predicting.

Stay tuned in the days ahead for more player and fan reactions to last night’s battle and the upcoming Missouri spectacle as well.


[Jeff Mayfield]

Game reports online from Redbirds and Fighting Illini

From ISU

From the University of Illinois

College football

Illini Sugar Bowl ticket update

[DEC. 18, 2001]   CHAMPAIGN — The University of Illinois has sold its entire allotment of 15,000 tickets for the Jan. 1 Nokia Sugar Bowl against SEC-champion Louisiana State University.

Due to the high demand for Nokia Sugar Bowl tickets, only FISF/I Fund donors and football season ticket holders are presently being considered for ticket allocation. The number of ticket requests exceeded the number of tickets available, activating the ticket allocation priority policy stated on each ticket form. Refunds will be issued to all ticket orders the UI is not able to accommodate. Non-season ticket holders will not be allocated tickets for the Nokia Sugar Bowl.

"The response by Fighting Illini fans for the Nokia Sugar Bowl has been overwhelming, as we have processed more than 26,000 ticket orders since the official announcement on Dec. 4. In this process, we’ve been very careful to prioritize tickets to our loyal Fighting Illini Scholarship Fund members and season ticket holders who have been with us for a number of years," UI Director of Athletics Ron Guenther said. "We also were able to fill UI student season ticket holder requests for tickets. We are excited to have a large and enthusiastic Illinois contingent heading to New Orleans to cheer on the Illini in our first-ever BCS appearance."


[to top of second column in this article]

The University of Illinois by contract was allocated 15,000 tickets for the Nokia Sugar Bowl to be played at the Louisiana Superdome on Jan. 1.

Big Ten Champion Illinois is 10-1 on the season and ranked No. 7 in the nation heading into the contest with LSU.

The following guidelines are being used to allocate Nokia Sugar Bowl tickets:

1.  Fighting Illini Scholarship Fund / I Fund members by club level.

2.  Student, faculty and staff, and general public football season ticket holders who are not FISF/I Fund members, by date the order was received.

[Kent Brown, ISU assistant athletics director/
sports information director]


College basketball

Pre-game notes: ISU vs. Illini

[DEC. 18, 2001]   The Illini perspective...

[Click here to view background information (in Adobe Acrobat)]

[Click here for Monday's ISU background information
(in Adobe Acrobat)]

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Mayfield’s Mutterings…

By Jeff Mayfield

[DEC. 20, 2001]   

Athlete(s) of the week

This week’s athlete of the week was a difficult choice.

I could have gone with Nathan Neal. In Zion Lutheran School’s thrilling 46-41 victory over Springfield-Our Savior’s Lutheran School (seventh- and eighth-grade boys basketball), Neal poured in a career-high 15 points that included three 3-pointers from way downtown — bang!

But then some of the stats people out at Lutheran informed me that Kraig Sullivan threw in 16 points! So, I considered making them my "co-athletes of the week"!

But then, some other fan pointed to the line that Chas Johnson turned in. He added five points, nine rebounds, two assists, five steals and two blocked shots — a fairly nice evening for any junior high player. So, then I contemplated making the three amigos my "tri-athletes of the week."


Payne pointed out to me that he really enjoyed the fifth- and sixth-grade players and game as well, and he suggested, as only a baby could, that the nod should go to Peter Ayars. By then, I was completely rattled because I don’t know if I’ve ever even heard about that many players sharing an award of this magnitude. But Payne hit me with his bottle and said why not? Why not the whole team, Dada?

So, this week’s athlete(s) of the week (maybe we should consider adding a team of the week) is the entire group of players from Zion Lutheran School along with coaches Daron Whittaker, Brad Neal and Steve Schumacher.

Your sportsmanship was even better than your games, and your games were excellent. Keep up the good work, fellas, and keep shining your light!


Winter baseball?

Local fans are buzzing about the recent signings and deals that both the Cubs and Cards have made in the past few days. Here’s the rub on some of the number crunching:

The Cubs signed Moises Alou. Alou will, incredibly, be joining his sixth team. Last year, in a Houston Astros uniform, he batted .331 with 27 home runs, 108 RBIs, and he struck out 57 times. He is a career .306 hitter with 202 HRs and 834 RBIs. And despite what Texas fan Bobby Straface says about him, his .991 fielding percentage shows that he’s a pretty decent defensive player as well.



[to top of second column in this article]

The Cardinals have added closer Jason Isringhausen. Jason went 4-3 last year for the Oakland A’s. He had a 2.65 ERA and delivered 34 saves in 43 chances. Amazingly, he did not hit a batter all season. He owns a lifetime 28-29 record with a 4.13 ERA and 76 saves.

Remember that he was converted into a closer after what was feared as a career-ending surgery. His comeback has been a pretty neat story.

Another exciting thing about him is that he is a .200 hitter, which is not bad for a pitcher and means that manager Tony LaRussa will not always have to use the double-switch when he goes to the bullpen! Hopefully, this will allow the Cardinals to stop going with the closer-by-committee plan and use other pitchers in middle relief and setup roles that are better suited for them.


St. Louis also got what their fans hope is the coup of all signings, the addition of first baseman Tino Martinez. Tino has been a part of all those Yankee world championships. Hopefully he’s hungry for some rings on his other hand. Tino continued his production by hitting .280 this past season. He belted 34 HRs and had 113 RBIs with 89 runs scored.

I scouted him personally with local scout Lynn Laughlin and former LCC great Curt Swan. They thought we should add him sooner than the Redbirds did!

Tino is a lifetime .274 hitter with 263 HRs and 1,002 RBIs. He is also a stellar defensive player who has won several awards and been on numerous All-Star teams. In fact, last season, with over 1,000 chances, he made only five errors, for a .996 fielding percentage. That was the fewest errors he had made since he became a starter, going back to his days with the Seattle Mariners.

The best thing about Tino is his clubhouse manner. He is a crafty, wily veteran who will really be a good influence on the younger players. He just may be the missing piece that could launch St. Louis to another championship!

[Jeff Mayfield]

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Tuesday morning morsels

By Jeff Mayfield

[DEC. 18, 2001]   Tonight’s game between Illinois and Illinois State pits two former Railers going toe to toe, Brian Cook versus Gregg Alexander. While I’m not saying that this is the first time it has ever happened, if some of you loyal readers know of other past matchups, please e-mail them to us at It may provide some fodder for a great feature or at least provide us with some great memories.

Game time is 7 p.m., and it marks the first time in 19 years that these teams have played each other. We believe that ISU will have to shoot a high percentage and limit their turnovers to offset the Illini’s strength and height advantage in this contest. We’re hoping for an exciting contest, and the word on the street is that a few hundred Lincolnites have tickets for this battle. We’re torn on this one... so we just say good luck to everybody!

Want on the Bears bandwagon yet? They have been simply amazing. And how they could even think of letting a 10-3 coach go is beyond me. Back in my day if you won games, you could coach indefinitely. Nowadays, it’s a week-to-week proposition! Home-field advantage, in my mind, will be the determining factor as to how far Chicago goes in the playoffs! And speaking of the NFL... in this very column last week, we suggested that the Lions would break through soon. How about Sunday?

We also suggested that this past weekend the Railers would learn a lot about themselves... and they did. They learned what intensity, hard work and teamwork can do for you when you start putting things together. They smoked Springfield, as SHS was content to chuck up shots from all over the place. Kankakee displayed great quickness, but Lincoln probably played their best game of the season against them. LCHS patiently worked the ball, feeding Erik Young in the post and getting balanced scoring from the rest of the troops in both contests.


[to top of second column in this article]

Lanphier and Southeast still loom as the teams to beat in the CS8, but don’t be surprised if the Railers pull off some upsets along the way.

In the upcoming holiday tourney it looks like Lincoln got a pretty tough draw, at least by looking at the state’s power rankings. If the Railers can get through the first two rounds that could set up a rematch with a very good Thornwood team. Obviously, they are without Eddy Curry, who is now in the pros. If you recall, Lincoln had some chances to upend them last year. We have a funny feeling that the Railers are really going to fare well in this year’s tournament...

Other than that, it’s pretty quiet in the sports world today. I do want to wish my favorite ballplayer, Payne Montgomery, congratulations on his first birthday. In my mind, YOU’ll always be a CHAMP, big guy!

[Jeff Mayfield]



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