Effingham Daily News
Both the seventh and eighth grade Teutopolis basketball teams had tremendous postseason runs this season, and now the leaders of each program have been recognized for their efforts. Doug Smith, coach of the seventh grade squad, and eighth grade coach Kent Niebrugge were named District 14 Co-Coaches of the Year by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association.
The award marks the fourth time Niebrugge has been given the nod, and the 14-year veteran delivered one of his best coaching efforts with this year's group. Teutopolis overcame a slow start at the beginning of the season to advance all the way to the Class 8-3A state title, where the Wooden Shoes came up just short to Pleasant Plains.
In spite of the defeat, Niebrugge is proud of his team's ability to respond to the early season turmoils that placed them behind the eight-ball.
"We weren't really together as a team," he said. "We started off 0-3, so to make the run that we did was very nice, as opposed to a team coming in that you expect to do big things."
The Wooden Shoes certainly exceeded expectations in the postseason, defeating Rockford Marshall in the quarterfinals and hanging on for a close semifinal victory over El-Paso Gridley to advance to the final stage. With a few weeks having passed since the tournament run, Niebrugge feels fortunate to have been involved with such a tremendous group of kids.
"I look back and think we could have lost in the sectionals, we could have lost in the semifinals," he said. "We got all the way to the finals, you always have to look at the positives. I'm very satisfied."
This satisfaction also comes from coaching a resilient team that consistently got better as the season progressed, turning an 0-3 start into a 22-7 final record.
"I've told everybody," Niebrugge said, "that you're only as good as the players you coach. If you don't have players, then you won't win."
As for his award, Niebrugge is excited to be honored for another successful season, but he is especially looking forward to seeing plenty of familiar faces at the IBCA Banquet on April 27 in Bloomington.
"You'll run into some coaches that you haven't seen in a while, people you knew from 15 or 20 years ago," he said. "It's a big coaching family when you get up there, its nice to see everybody."
Joining Niebrugge on the trip to Bloomington will be Smith, who was awarded his third straight IBCA District 14 Co-Coach of the Year award after his seventh grade team won the Class 7-3A state title this season.
Teutopolis finished 24-5 this season under Smith, including a 54-41 victory over Burr Ridge in the title game. Smith, in his 10th year at the helm, was quick to direct any and all attention to those surrounding his program.
"Naturally it wasn't just me," he said, "I have a great coaching staff, my family and the people around me. I'm surrounded by good people."
Smith also benefited from a talented group of players, as the Wooden Shoes overcame a furious title-game rally to hold off Burr Ridge for the state crown. Smith credits this year's run to his teams eagerness to hit the floor each and every day.
"I had a group of kids that wanted to learn," he said. "This team is also one of my quickest teams since I've been coaching."
Smith has been able to take a break from the fast-paced season in recent weeks and enjoy the championship season. Now, as an added bonus, he will join Niebrugge in Bloomington where the pair will be recognized for their stellar seasons.
"It's a great time," Smith said. "I'll get to meet some new coaches, see some people I've seen in the past. Basketball has been very good to me."
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at firstname.lastname@example.org