NORMAL - Prior to the State Farm Holiday Classic, Normal Community High School girls basketball coach Dave Feeney felt his team was seeded too low.
But after his No. 13-seeded Ironmen became the only Class AA girls entrant to knock off a higher seed Tuesday - dropping No. 4-seeded Naperville Neuqua Valley 38-32 - he had a new perspective.
"It's better to be underrated than overrated," said Feeney, whose team takes on No. 5-seeded Joliet in a 6 o'clock quarterfinal tonight at Redbird Arena.
Meanwhile, the division's powerhouse teams spent the opening day of the four-day tournament helping organizers sort out the details of the event's "slaughter rule."
When No. 1-state ranked Peoria Richwoods flirted with a 30-point, fourth-quarter lead en route to a 68-39 win over Mount Zion in the day's first game, no one at Normal West High School was sure if the clock should run continuously or not.
By the time No. 2-state ranked Bolingbrook took a 56-19 lead into the fourth quarter of its 65-25 win over Urbana, it was confirmed that the clock would indeed run continuously when the gap was 30 points in the fourth quarter except for rare exceptions.
No. 8-state ranked Galesburg also made use of the energy (and time) saving rule during its 62-35 victory over Normal West.
No. 1-seeded Bolingbrook (10-0) was led in its blowout by 6-foot-3 Samantha Woods' 15 points. Teammate Miranda Tate added 12.
"We're trying to get better as a team," said Bolingbrook coach Tony Smith. "The goal is to get better each time out."
No. 3-seeded Richwoods (14-2), the reigning tournament and state champion, watched Kylee Grant pour in 18 points while Kim Knaub added 13 and Hanna Reising 10. Suspended all-stater Biannca Ward did not suit up for the Knights, but Coach John Gross said she may return next semester.
"We're solid," Gross said. "We just aren't as flashy or quick as we were (with Ward), but we're pretty good. "
NCHS 38, Neuqua Valley 32
NCHS (6-5) overcame a 19-12 halftime deficit with a 20-7 surge. The Ironmen trailed most of the way until Hali Daniels' basket made it 28-26 with 3:36 left. NCHS never trailed again although Neuqua Valley (8-5) was still within 32-30 with 1:00 left.
Eastern Michigan recruit Emily Hanley led NCHS with 15 points. Daniels added nine. Amanda Mirochna paced Neuqua Valley with seven points.
"We threw a lot of different (defensive) looks at Neuqua," Feeney said. "Hanley, Krystal Gundy and Renna Berry were outstanding in the second half."
Neuqua Valley assistant coach Bob Mattingly said, "They were the more aggressive team the whole second half. Hanley is a nice player. She obviously took over the game."
Galesburg 62, Normal West 35
No. 2-seeded Galesburg (10-3) shut out the No. 15-seeded Wildcats (2-8), 13-0, after one quarter. The gap grew to 34-17 by intermission and 54-26 after three quarters.
Normal West coach Steve Price, whose team only committed 16 turnovers, was pleased his squad never lost its will to battle and managed to cut the deficit under 30 points in the fourth quarter although that didn't stop the clocked from running.
"Our kids are going to play to the very end and give everything they have," he said.
Sophomore Cymone Allen gave Normal West (2-8) a team-high eight points.
Brenna Saline and Kylie Cavanah paced the Silver Streaks with 12 points apiece.
"They have so many weapons inside," Price said. "I felt pretty good that we limited their 3-point shots compared to what they usually get."
Galesburg coach Evan Massey was pleased with his team's start … to a degree.
"Defensively, we fouled way too much, but I thought we were able to rebound and get it out and run," he said.
Price doesn't like the running clock rule and neither does Massey except in tournament situations.
"It takes away minutes from people who have worked hard," said Price, whose team plays No. 11-seeded Geneseo at 11:30 a.m. today at Redbird Arena.
Rock Island 66, BHS 59
No. 10-seeded Bloomington (6-5) ran stride for stride with No. 7-seeded Rock Island, leading 28-27 at halftime before falling to the 7-3 Rocks.
"I saw quite a few positive things," said BHS coach Sondra Vogel, whose team received eight blocks and seven points from 6-foot-2 junior Kristin Petrinec. "I really think this is the best team we've played so far as far as having an inside-outside game."
Kelly Carter planted some seeds of doubt in the Rock Island camp by scoring 15 points while teammate Beth Current added 12 points and eight rebounds and Shelby Parker had 12 points.
"We didn't realize they could shoot as well as they did," said Rock Island coach Rod Leatherman.
Mia Mayberry led Rock Island with 14 points followed by Alicia Whitfield with 11, Tia Harvey with 10 and Melissa Morris with 10.
Petrinec's block total was one shy of her career high.
"She is really becoming skilled at adjusting people's shots," said Vogel, whose team plays No. 14-seeded Mount Zion at 10 a.m. today at Redbird Arena.
Montgomery (Ala.) Carver 60, East Peoria 45; Tinley Park Andrew 50, Geneseo 44; Joliet 55, Peoria Notre Dame 27.