Salt Fork girls basketball repeats as Vermilion County champs
CATLIN, Ill. — Going into the Vermilion County Girls Basketball Tournament as defending champion and the Number One seed has a way of putting a mark on your back and some pressure on you to perform. This year, neither of those would be enough of a distraction to prevent Salt Fork from defeating Armstrong-Potomac 45-24 to claim their third Vermilion County title in eight years under coach Brian Russell.
“We hope it is a tradition reborn,” Coach Russell says, speaking of 20-win seasons and Vermilion County championships. Last year Salt Fork went undefeated in the County, and are on track again this year.
Success has certainly been tasted since Russell came to the Salt Fork bench in 2015-2016, the first year Catlin and Jamaica schools academically consolidated.
Under Russell’s leadership, in addition to the three County titles, Salt Fork has captured two Regional titles and a Sectional crown.
A huge personal milestone was also reached during the tournament. Sophomore Alexa Jamison (who earned Class 1A All-State recognition last season) scored her 1000th point, becoming just the seventh Salt Fork athlete to do so. With the school record being 1,581 points, Alexa certainly has a shot of reaching that plateau by her senior year.
Watching Alexa score her 1000th point was her mother Ashley (Haussy) Smith, a 1000-point scorer in her own right.
The stunning family connections on this championship team do not end there. Freshman twins Brycie and Bracie Hird are the daughters of Aaron Hird, former Salt Fork (Catlin) Elementary teacher and current ROE 54 Regional Superintendent. Two sisters are also on the team: Senior Shelby and Freshman Karly McGee. Junior Macie Russel is the daughter of Coach Russell and his wife Becky.
An amazing part of this small school’s tradition of the girls basketball team is their athlete’s successes after graduation. Jenny Kimbro earned Division I All-American honors competing in Track and Field at the University of Iowa; Morgan (Kirby) Anderson played college basketball at Carl Sandberg College; Carson Todd played ball at DACC; Mackenzei Russell played Division II softball; and Katie Witte was a thrower for the University of Illinois Women’s Track and Field.
But the family connection most special to Coach Russell is that next year he will have the opportunity to coach all three of his daughters: Mackenzei, Macie, and current 8th grader Morgan.
Also at the County tournament, Brian’s brother Brad Russel coached Georgetown-Ridge Farm to a 1-point victory over Oakwood for Third Place.
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