By Chris Johnson

At the start of each season there are a lot of hopes shared by a lot of student athletes about what could be waiting before the late February games arrive.

For Stillman Valley High School’s boys’ basketball team, it was understood that no matter what happened during the weeks of winter, a visit to the IHSA 2A State Playoffs was still going to be waiting.

The Big Northern campaign would be something they would just have to work through, hopefully, they would learn more and more and become even better at managing their own game, each time they took to the court.

With a record of 11-21 this year, Stillman Valley joined a select group of talented teams that crossed the “ten wins or more” benchmark in the loaded Big Northern. Each then took their first steps into the 2A second season this past week, or this week as 3A games commenced.

The Cardinals were one of seven programs that hit the double-digit standing, with two programs, Rockford Lutheran and Winnebago, crossing their own 20-win plateaus.

Other conference contenders including Genoa-Kingston and 2A Playoff victor Oregon ended one win shy of the season-locked 20-win precipice.

The Hawks added to their season total following the Monday, Feb. 24 Winnebago Regional opening victory over nine-seed Stillman Valley, 55-37.

Eight-seed Oregon fell a night later as two-seed and Princeton Sectional complex Regional host Winnebago pulled out the six-point win, 69-63.

Even though the journey into their final post-season didn’t last as long as many seniors on this year’s Cardinals team had hoped, many players know the experience of getting there was shared with many who will take to the court again next season for Stillman Valley.

Graduation occurs in just a couple months now and for seniors on this year’s Cardinals basketball team they will know that they helped turn around a program that won three games during the 2016-2017 season, before improving the Cardinals standing to above 500 to close the 2019 campaign.

In 2020, a double-digit win total was reached for only the second time in over a decade and a lot had to do with the growth of this year’s senior members who helped start turning things around.

Baseball fields, softball diamonds and tracks prepare for their spring visitors in a little over two weeks now. Practice for the Cardinals spring games is already underway across Meridian Consolidated School District 223 and the rest of the Big Northern conference.

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