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Girls basketball chases history amidst record-setting season

Rawlings, Corson hit major milestones ahead of postseason play
Rawlings set Community’s school three-point record earlier this month, a record previously established by Summer Stoewer in 2018 at 219. Tyler Siebring, a 2015 graduate, holds the boys program record with 166 threes. Photo Courtesy: Mr. Jeff Christopherson

Last season, the girls basketball team set a program win record, going 31-4. Now, the Iron have the opportunity to make history again, adding to the class of 2024’s already impressive list of accomplishments.

After knocking off Normal West in the Pekin Regional Semi-Final contest on Feb. 12, the team’s 29th win of the season, the Iron can break last year’s record with an extended postseason run.

Besting last season’s historic finish would mean winning a Regional and a Sectional title.

And while Community has celebrated their share of successes over the last two seasons—three straight Intercity titles and back-to-back Holiday Classic championships—a sectional title is the one hump they’ve been unable to get over.

Despite two consecutive Sectional Final contest apperances, Community has failed to bring home a Sectional championship, falling short against Edwardsville in ’21-22 and future state champions, O’Fallon, last season.

Historically, the Sectional trophy has proven elusive for Community, with the Iron capturing the honor just four times in the program’s 50-year history.

Head coach Mr. Dave Feeney was at the helm for the team’s last Sectional victory nearly 20 years ago in the ’04-05 season.

The program’s other three titles all came under Berny Chiaro, who coached the Ironmen for 15 years during the ’80s and ’90s–a tenure that ended in 1995 when Chiaro moved across town to the newly established Normal Community West.

Chiaro’s best run leading the Iron spanned from 1992 to ’95 when her teams posted an 86.7% win percentage. Among those wins are three straight Regional titles, two Sectional titles and a fourth-place finish in the State—the closest this program has gotten to a State championship.

Over the past three seasons, Feeney’s Ironmen have boasted a combined winning percentage of 86.1% while taking on perennial powerhouse teams like Incarnate Word.

They’ve taken home back-to-back Regional titles, something the program hadn’t done since that ‘04-05 season.

While Community has had plenty of talent over the years, there hasn’t been a class, spanning the last two decades, that compares to this group.

Of course, great success doesn’t come without great talent.

Giana Rawlings made history earlier this month, breaking the school’s three-point record with her 220th make from range.

Rawlings’ record puts the three-year varsity player in good company. The Carthage College commit surpassed Summer Stoewer to earn her place in Ironmen history.

Stoewer, throughout a four-year varsity career, hit 219 threes before earning all-American honors at the junior college level for Illinois Community College.

Rawlings entered Feb. 5’s matchup versus Moline tied with Stoewer. But Community’s home crowd wouldn’t have to wait long to witness Rawlings etch her name into the record books, as three number 220 found its way to the bottom of the net early in the first quarter.

Having “somebody you know you can count on from the perimeter,” Feeney said, “is huge for the rest of our team.”

Rawlings ability from beyond the arc, Feeney said, draws defenders to her “like gravity. The other team knows they have to guard her… they can’t leave her.”

That creates opportunities for players like Olivia Corson, who celebrated a milestone achievement of her own earlier this season: hitting her 1,000th career point on the road against Pekin.

Both accomplishments, Feeney said, speak not only to the talents of the individuals but also to the team’s abilities.

Accomplishments like Corson’s and Rawlings’, Feeney said, are “not something that you do on your own. You need a lot of really good players so they can’t just key on you.”

“There’s a reason these two things happened in kind of unison,” the coach said. “That’s because they’re two really special offensive players surrounded by a team of really special players so you can’t key on anyone.”

Those teammates wouldn’t miss the chance to celebrate Rawlings and Corson.

Seeing his players come together to mark each occassion, ready with signs in hand, Feeney said, elicited a feeling “better than winning.”

Corson and Rawlings, Feeney said, “would be the first ones to tell you that [their] teammates have been a huge part of [their achievements].”

Having all-around talent on the team gave Rawlings open shots and allowed her to be prolific from three.

Having threats on the perimeter opened up lanes inside for Corson to take advantage of.

Everyone on the team worked together and unlocked the others’ potential.

That has been the key to success for this group.

Feeney saw this talent early on during the summer league before Rawlings’ sophomore season, where she hit a big three-point shot in the final seconds to win the game.

That shot, Feeney said, “told [him] a lot about her courage [and] her fearlessness,” as she was playing against all upperclassmen in that match.

In her sophomore season, Rawlings hit a program record 85 threes in a single season.

To be a shooter, “you have to kind of be fearless,” Feeney said, “and always have a belief that the next one is going in.”

“Gianna has that,” Feeney said.

The whole team needs to have that as they shoot for history this month.

The Iron look to add a third consecutive Regional title to their collection of accolades this Thursday against host Pekin at 6 p.m.

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About the Contributor
Bella Green
Bella Green, Staff Writer
Bella Green is a junior at Normal Community High School. This is her first year working with the Inkspot, and she is a staff writer. I like to watch basketball, my favorite teams are the Boston Celtics, Dallas Wings and South Carolina Gamecocks. In my free time, I enjoy discovering new shows and movies.  
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