Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
Former Terre Haute North teammates Ross Sponsler and Matt O’Leary made their college basketball debuts last week and had outstanding initial performances.
Sponsler started at guard for Wabash, a Division III team playing up two levels of competition at Western Illinois. He finished the game with a team-high 14 points, shooting 5 of 12 from the field (1 for 6 from 3-point range) and hitting all three of his free throws.
Sponsler added two assists and two rebounds in Wabash’s 71-39 loss.
O’Leary played 21 minutes off the bench for Loyola (Chicago) in a 62-50 win over Toledo, finishing with eight points and seven rebounds. He was 3 of 8 from the field (0 for 3 from 3-point range) and added two assists.
• Ex-Rex star finds home — Nick Blount, a key member of the Terre Haute Rex baseball team last summer, has joined the team at Southern Polytechnic State University in his home state of Georgia for his last year of college competition.
Blount played his first three seasons at Tennessee, but was dismissed from the team last spring.
After his outstanding summer in Terre Haute, Blount was one of just 30 players named to the Prospect League Top Prospects list by Perfect Game USA.
“With everything we’ve heard about Nick, he can definitely either start or close for us,” first-year Southern Poly coach Marty Lovrich said. “The good thing about him is that we’re going to have the ability to find out if we’ve got starters and can use him at the end or if we need him at the front to go six, seven or eight innings. We feel like he’s got a chance to be one of the better pitchers in the Southern States Athletic Conference.”
This past summer, the 6-6, 220-pounder went 2-1 with 12 saves and a 1.38 ERA, striking out 39 and walking only nine over 32 2/3 innings. Blount was chosen as the Prospect League’s Co-Prospect of the Year and Fireman of the Year after pitching in 29 contests with one start.
A graduate of South Gwinnett (Ga.) High School, Blount made 61 career appearances with 12 starting assignments at Tennessee. As a junior in 2012, he took over as the Volunteers’ closer, collecting a team-high 10 saves in his first 10 opportunities. Blount saw action in 23 games last spring, making five starts before moving to the bullpen.
• Panthers win OVC, earn tourney bid — Eastern Illinois returned to the FCS Top 25 polls this week as the Panthers are ranked in both the Sports Network Top 25 and FCS Coaches Top 25 heading into the regular season finale at Central Arkansas. EIU is ranked No. 24 by Sports Network and No. 25 by the FCS Coaches.
The Panthers are 7-3 on the season having locked up the Ohio Valley Conference regular season title with a 39-20 win over Southeast Missouri. EIU was 6-1 in the league and will be making its 14th FCS playoff appearance when the pairings are announced Sunday.
It marks the first time EIU has been ranked since the second week of the 2010 season when the Panthers fell out of the polls following a 37-7 loss to Central Arkansas. The Bears come into this weekend’s non-conference game at Central Arkansas ranked 10th in both polls having already clinched an FCS playoff berth by winning the Southland Conference.
Taylor Duncan, a redshirt sophomore running back from Marshall, is third on the team in total offense with 440 yards rushing. He has scored eight touchdowns to rank him fifth on the team in scoring.
Punter Scott Weatherford of Terre Haute North has kicked 38 times for 1,452 yards (38.2) average for the Panthers with a long of 55, one for a touchback, eight for fair catches, seven downed inside the 20 and four of more than 50 yards.
Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.