Tyus sets the tone early as Civic Memorial tries to return to normalcy

Tyus sets the tone early as Civic Memorial tries to return to normalcy

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Tyus sets the tone early as Civic Memorial tries to return to normalcy

Civic Memorial's Kourtland Tyus (right) is greeted at her bench by interim head coach Jeff Ochs (center) during the host Eagles' 49-34 win over Jerseyville on Jan. 7.

Kourtland Tyus needed just 17 seconds to make a statement.

Three days earlier, it took the Civic Memorial senior winger a little longer to get her point across.

Tyus scored on a nifty one-hander through the lane in the opening minute to kickstart the host Eagles to a gate-to-wire 49-34 win over Jerseyville in a Mississippi Valley Conference girls basketball showdown on Jan. 7, in Bethalto.

Following a lopsided win over Mascoutah last Thursday, Civic Memorial entered this past weekend at 17-2 overall and 5-0 in the MVC, and has won 29 straight league games.

The Eagles beat the Panthers (13-5, 3-2) for the 20th time in a row. Jerseyville's last win in the series was a 59-54 triumph on Jan. 26, 2011.

The much-needed victory served as a perfect tonic for the Civic Memorial program, which has undergone some stressful changes over the previous few days.

Longtime coach Jonathan Denney and assistant coach Julianne Green "collectively agreed to move their separate ways" on the morning of Jan. 4, according to a news release sent out by school administration later that day.

The move sent one of the most successful programs in the area into a temporary state of disarray.

"It's time to move on," Dr. Jill Griffin, superintendent of Bethalto Community Unit School District No. 8, said minutes before the Jan. 7 contest.

The news release said the decision was made by the district based on "some events" during two games at the State Farm Classic in Bloomington on Dec. 28 and 30.

Denney compiled a 300-120 record in 13-plus seasons at the helm. His teams won 22 or more games each of the last seven seasons and claimed sectional championships in 2014 and 2017. Multiple attempts to reach Denney were unsuccessful.

Tyus did not play in Civic Memorial's 55-39 triumph at Breese Central on Jan. 4. Instead, she chose to sit on the bench in street clothes throughout the contest.

The move was seen as a protest of the coaching change. Her mother, Nicole Dineen, confirmed those thoughts.

"She's still mad about it," Dineen said.

School administrators did not allow any of the players to be available to the media after the win over Jerseyville. Interim head coach Jeff Ochs also was not available for interviews. Assistant coach Adam Miller was the only one allowed to speak on behalf of the team and its staff.

The triumph over Jerseyville was the first step toward normalcy, according to Miller.

Civic Memorial used a 10-0 run over the final 4 minutes and 29 seconds of the first half to take control. Claire Christeson led the way with four points. Anna Hall, who finished with a team-high 13 points, added a driving layup for an 18-13 lead. Jenna Christeson followed with a short jumper and Tori Standefer added a fast-break layup. Claire Christeson capped the run with a 5-footer off an inbound pass from Tyus, who finished with 10 points.

Jerseyville battled back to within 32-29 behind Chloe White, who finished with a game-high 14 points.

But Hall answered with a basket and Tyus canned a 3-pointer to help the Eagles regain control.

Miller said he is pleased with the way the team has banded together through the adversity.

"(The girls') motto is, 'family,' " Miller said. "It's what they came up with. The girls have talked about how families have problems and families don't always agree. But at the end of the day, families come together."

Jerseyville lost its second in a row.

Still, Panthers coach Kevin Strebel said he was pleased with the effort of his team and its ability to make a second-half charge. He was also sympathetic to the Eagles' situation.

"It's tough on the girls, it's tough on the new coaches, it's tough on the old coaches," Strebel said. "(The win) probably makes them feel a little bit better."

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