Junior High Boys Basketball: Lincoln hosts the third annual All-State Junior High Classic
LJHS basketball standout Aidan Gowin crowned the 3-point champion

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[March 16, 2020] 

The weekend of March 7-8, 2020, was a big weekend for basketball in Lincoln. Some of the best junior high basketball players from all over Illinois and their fans converged on Lincoln, Illinois as the third annual All-State Junior High Classic took place at gymnasiums all over town.

Nearly 200 players made up 17 different teams that competed in games all day on Sunday.

On Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m. the championship game was held between the North Central Team and the West Team. North Central edged West 56-55 for the 2020 All-State Junior High Classic Championship.

Champaign West and Northwest rounded out the Final Four of the tournament.

Locally, athletes from West Lincoln Broadwell, Carroll Catholic, Lincoln Junior High School, Delavan, Olympia and Hartsburg-Emden competed in the tournament. Hartem coach Jansen Whitted coached the Central team.

Once again Kirk Whiteman and Dave Kasel led the way organizing the event and at the end of it all, Whiteman was pleased with the success of the tournament that seems to be building year after year.

“Lincoln is a good basketball town and they are always going to be a mainstay in this tournament,” said Whiteman. “It was really fortunate for us that the weather cooperated. That’s always nice. As far as the city of Lincoln, it’s been incredible working with the hotels and the restaurants and at the end of the day a lot goes out to the Logan County Tourism Bureau. They approached me a few years ago with the idea and never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that it would turn into this really great event.

We are drawing more teams and more individual players from Chicago and East St. Louis and the St. Louis area down south. We had new kids from Rockford this year, so we got up into that area a little bit. So overall it was a great weekend.

One of the things we do with the nomination process is we work with junior high coaches. We look for junior high players that played in the state tournament, so therefore they should be pretty good players. We ask the coaches, “Who are some of your best players and who are some of the best players you’ve seen play?” We try to grow our network. The games here have shown us some pretty incredible players, I mean the kid from Normal Kingsley is about 6’6 as an eighth grader.”

Whiteman is referring to Jaheem Webber of Normal Kingsley, who led his team with an undefeated regular season record and a final record of 25 wins and 1 loss. Normal Kingsley lost to East St. Louis Lincoln in the first round of the 2020 IESA Eighth Grade Class 4A State Tournament. East St. Louis Lincoln went on to finish second in the state tournament with a 27-1 record.

Whiteman mentioned the impressiveness of the competitors in the Dunk Contest and noted that the Three-Point Contest featured Lincoln’s Aidan Gowin as the state champion. Gowin sank 10 shots in the final round to earn the championship. A Hot Shot Contest and the Dribble-Pass-Shoot Contest were also part of the skills competition on Saturday night.

“The championship game was a one-point game and actually the West Team featured a new coach from East St. Louis Lincoln, Kelvin Rodgers, and they were winning most of the game by 10-15 points,” said Whiteman. “I was still busy picking up in the back and all around, but next thing I knew it was a one-point game back and forth and the team from North Central won. Tony Perry, the coach of North Central, has been a mainstay here the last couple of years and he was very involved in helping us get the tournament started the inaugural year. This is the first year his team won the tournament. We started this event with 12 teams in 2018. This year we had 17 teams with 11-12 kids on each team.”

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Whiteman discussed how the committee didn’t want to leave any kids out, even though some of them registered at the last minute. “It’s hard to say no to the kids who want to play. We’ve got to work on our registration process.” Whiteman was glad things worked out at the last minute, thanks to a little help from the Lincoln community.

“I need to send a shout-out to Lincoln’s Kent Froebe and Kelly Bogdanic for helping because we had to get another gym at the last minute and they were able to accommodate. It’s so good to have the support in Lincoln to be able to do things like this. And a shout-out to our National Honor Society at Lincoln Community High School too. They had some service workers come in and help with the concession stand this weekend.”

On Saturday night the All-State Classic held their Skills Competitions in both the Lincoln College old gym and Lincoln Center (new gym).

Winners in the Skills Competitions:

Three-Point Contest

Champion ~ Aidan Gowin (Lincoln Junior High School) - Gowin made 10 shots

2nd Place ~ Gus Rugaard (Morton Junior High) - Rugaard made 6 shots

Hot Shot Contest

Champion ~ Cole Certa (Bloomington Corpus Christi)

2nd Place ~ Gannon Dodd (New Berlin)

3rd Place ~ Bryant Jenkins (Lawrenceville Parkview)

4th Place ~ Tyler Curl (Prairie Central)


Champion ~ Marc Gonzalez (Chillicothe)

2nd Place ~ AJ Zweeres (Morris)

3rd Place ~ Carter Button (Morris)

4th Place ~ Carson Klemme (Taylor Ridge Rockridge)

Dunk Contest

Champion ~ Jalen Falcon (Prairie Hills)

2nd Place ~ Anthony Tillman (Bloomington Junior High)

3rd Place ~ Devin May (East St. Louis Lincoln)

4th Place ~ Paul Hartman (Springfield Christ the King)

Roster for the Central Team coached by Jansen Whitted:

  • Wyatt Hampton (Hartsburg-Emden)

  • Jace Whitted (Hartsburg-Emden)

  • Ki’on Carson (Lincoln Junior High School)

  • Kani Carson (Lincoln Junior High School)

  • Dylan Gowin (Lincoln Junior High School)

  • Owen Grant (Carroll Catholic)

  • Jarrett Evers (Carroll Catholic)

  • Trey Schilling (West Lincoln Broadwell)

  • Aidan Gowin (Lincoln Junior High School)

  • Micah Brockhouse (Delavan)

  • Gavin Blewett (Camp Point Central)

Chase Litwiller (Olympia) played on the North Central team

Evan Cross (Hartsburg-Emden) played on the North Stars team

Darren Stevens (Carroll Catholic) played on the North Stars team

[Teena Lowery]

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