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STREATOR - The Pontiac Township High School girls basketball team was headed to a playoff game Wednesday evening when the school bus and a car collided head-on near Streator.

No one on the bus was seriously injured, but they were taken to St. Mary's Hospital in Streator on the bus carrying the Prairie Central High School team they were supposed to play. Information on the driver of the car was unavailable late Wednesday.

"We were very fortunate that Prairie Central was behind us," Pontiac High School superintendent Butch Cotter said. "Their coaches and driver were outstanding in getting everybody here (to the hospital). All of our parents made it up to be with our students as well.

"Pontiac High School won far more than a basketball game tonight. We're just thankful everybody is safe," Cotter said.

Illinois State Police at Pontiac said everyone on the bus was treated and released.

The crash happened shortly after 6 p.m. on Illinois 23 about eight miles southeast of Streator, state police at Pontiac said.

Cotter said bus driver Steve Atkinson was "miraculous" in keeping the bus on the road during the accident, adding, "We feel very fortunate."

The Pontiac-Prairie Central match-up in the Class AA regional semifinal was supposed to start at 7:30 p.m. at Streator Township High School. The game has been postponed until 7:30 p.m. today in Streator.

Cotter said he regretted the inconvenience the accident caused for regional host Streator and Prairie Central, but that "something like this very quickly puts sports in perspective."

The winner of tonight's game will advance to Friday night's 7:30 championship game against Bloomington High school.

Andy Shelby, Prairie Central head girls' basketball coach, recalled the surprise of coming upon the accident scene.

"This is the most unusual happenstance since I've been coaching," said Shelby, who has been a coach for 10 years. "This really puts things in perspective."

The Prairie Central bus happened to be traveling close behind the other bus and arrived shortly before police and other emergency personnel.

They transferred more than a dozen people to the Prairie Central bus and drove to St. Mary's. Four or five emergency medical technicians rode in the bus.


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