Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

March 1, 2013

Area coaches earn recognition

Braden Layer
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — The season may have ended for the Dieterich Roadrunners with their runner-up finish in the Class 7-1A state title game on Feb. 7, but the awards have not stopped piling in for coach Brant Nohren's program. On top of the second-place plaque, Nohren can now add his third Illinois Basketball Coaches Association District 14 Co-Coach of the Year award.

"It's nice," he said. "It's just a real good feeling."

Having already captured the award twice before, Nohren said there was no lack of exhilaration earning the hardware for a third consecutive season.

"It's always exciting," he said. "It feels great to have teams that go to state, and to have kids feed into the high school and have success."

Dieterich High School has had plenty of success recently, picking up yet another 20-win season with this winter's 22-9 final record in Jeff Staser's first year.

Yet Nohren deserves plenty of credit, building players for the future at the junior high level. In his seven years at the helm, the Roadrunners have advanced to state five times.

"We have great kids," Nohren said. "Kids that work hard in the offseason. They condition, it's just a real nice place to teach and coach at."

This year's Roadrunners, however, were in a league of their own. Dieterich advanced to the state final following their 52-35 win over Chrisman Scottland in the round of four. Though they fell short, 45-40 against Annawan in the title game, the 2012-13 squad delivered the best finish under Nohren's guidance. He believes a unique scenario allowed this squad to take the next step.

"This group is kind of special," he said. "I had them as sixth graders, the class ahead of them only had seven boys in the whole class. We had to pull these boys up."

With an extra year under Nohren's tutelage, the eighth-grade team should be a formidable opponent next season. But don't be surprised if both junior high squads make a run at a state title, with Nohren using this year's finish to further light an already strong fire under his players.

"We are just using that as motivation," he said. "We got second in the state, so if you want to be number one, you have to work a little harder."

For now, Nohren is happy to share his team's most recent success with all the Dieterich faithful.

"It's really nice for the school, nice for the community and players, really everybody involved. It means a lot to be able to share that with them."

Mike Dokey has been a familiar face around Altamont for 20 years, coaching off and on throughout his time with the Wildcats. Dokey has been the head coach of Altamont's sixth grade team for almost two decades, but has had three separate stints leading the eighth grade program.

Dokey again took over the reins for the eighth grade Wildcats this season, and Altamont thrived under his leadership. Following a runner-up finish at the Class 8-2A state tournament, Dokey was honored as the District 14 Co-Coach of the year by the IBCA.

"It means a lot to me" he said. "I don't know if its sank in yet. It means the world to me."

Dokey guided Altamont to a 24-3 record this winter, including its best finish ever at the state tournament. Familiar with the territory, Dokey also led the first Wildcats team to advance to state back in 2008.

"We got beat in the first round," he said. "This year we made it to the state championship same, so it's just a great feeling."

The intense leader had the chance to guide this year's squad when they were sixth graders two season ago, an extra benefit as Dokey was already familiar with his team.

"I coached these kids in the sixth grade," he said, "so I knew what I had coming in. They were excited because they knew what kind of coach I was and what to expect from me. I could chew them out one minute and the next I'm yelling twice as loud to pump them up, they knew that and respected that."

His team certainly responded, picking up a pair of two-point victories in the quarter and semifinals.

In the round of four, Altamont fell behind early and battled much of the game to stay close. Down eight at the start of the fourth quarter, the Wildcats showed their poise, outscoring Mt. Sterling Brown County 24-14 for a 53-51 win.

"We were down the second round game by 12 with four minutes to go," Dokey said, "and we came back and won. It shows the type of drive those kids have."

The come-from-behind win propelled Altamont to the state final, where they took on defending champion Decatur Robertson. The Wildcats fell 54-37, but Dokey was still proud of his team's effort.

"[Decatur] was up 8-0 just like that, and we fought our way back to only three down at halftime," he said. "We never gave up."

On top of the best finish in school history, Dokey can add a District 14 Co-Coach of the Year honor to his resume. There will be a banquet on April 27 in Bloomington to honor all the extraordinary coaches from Illinois' 21 districts, Dokey and Nohren included. For Dokey, however, the honor belongs to the kids.

"I don't know if I deserve it," Dokey said. "The kids are the ones that placed. I just tried to guide them."