In the span of four days, Dan Evans experienced enough joy to last a lifetime.
He and his wife, Amy, welcomed their second child, Madeline Ruth, on Feb. 27.
“She’s as healthy as can be, and her mom is doing great,” Evans said.
Four days later, Evans enjoyed the biggest highlight of his five seasons as the men’s basketball coach at Ohio Dominican University. The team’s 71-53 victory last weekend against Hillsdale earned the Panthers the Great Midwest Athletic Conference tournament championship and the program’s first NCAA Division II postseason berth.
“It’s been a lot of emotion … and not a lot of sleep,” Evans said with a laugh. “It’s been quite a journey.”
Evans, a Cary-Grove graduate, and his team open play in the Midwest Region quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Saturday at second-ranked Ferris State in Michigan.
“I’m just really proud of our players,” Evans said. “For them to remain committed, even when it wasn’t always smooth, has been special. They’ve been tremendous.”
The team won five games in the season before Evans arrived but has increased its win total in every season under Evans. This season’s 20-10 record marks the first winning season for the Panthers since 2007-08.
The day before beating Hillsdale, the Panthers upset No. 11 Findlay in the semifinals on a last-second layup by sophomore guard Michael Scott.
“It was like a storybook,” Evans said. “That was such an emotional high. Going into the championship game, I had a lot of concerns about what we had left emotionally.”
The Panthers, however, got off to an 8-0 lead against Hillsdale and never looked back.
“We’re a very resilient group that is really committed to playing hard,” Evans said. “The championship game, there was so much pride. Our fans were great. It was 24 straight hours of pure elation. There’s a validation that come with this.”
The season hasn’t been a fairy tale, however. The Panthers stumbled through a 3-7 stretch midway through the season. A seven-point loss Dec. 30
at Malone led to a “program-only meeting” to address any grievances.
“We wanted to get out in the open what everybody was frustrated by and what was holding them back,” Evans said. “It didn’t matter if it was about the coaching staff or me as the head coach. It allowed all of us to be on the same page.”
After the meeting, Evans said he adjusted the starting lineup and rotation to maximize its strengths, which include a defense that led the conference in field-goal percentage allowed (40.5) and 3-point percentage allowed (30.5).
“It’s amazing what that meeting, and a few made shots, did for us,” he said.
Over the past 13 games, Ohio Dominican is 12-1 and enters the NCAAs on an eight-game winning streak.
“We guard at a really high level,” Evans said. “When we limit our turnovers and rebound the ball, we are a very good team. We can move and guard and we’re versatile and pretty tough.”
Matthys off to Indy: McHenry West grad Michaela Matthys, a senior swimmer at D-III Wisconsin-Whitewater, has earned her third career trip to the national meet in Indianapolis.
Matthys qualified in the 100-yard butterfly with a season-best time of 55.97 seconds, which ranks 14th in the nation. She also is an optional qualifier in the 100 breaststroke (36th in 1:07.5) and 50 freestyle (37th in 23.87).
She is a two-time All-American and nine-time Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion for Whitewater, having placed 13th nationally in the 100 fly and 15th in the 400 free medley in 2015. Matthys was part of four WIAC event titles this season, helping the Warhawks to second place, their best league finish ever.
The national meet runs March 21 to 24.
Top throws for SIU: Cary-Grove grad Ricky Hurley finished second in the weight throw and third in the shot put for Southern Illinois at last month’s Missouri Valley Conference indoor track and field meet.
Hurley, a junior, was the runner-up in the weight throw at 66 feet, 11½ inches, the second-best throw in the conference this season. Hurley’s shot put throw of 60-4½ earned him a spot on the podium for the Salukis, who finished third as a team.
Hurley ranked third in the MVC in the shot put with a season-best throw of 61-5½.
Passaglia moves to CMU: Central Michigan announced Feb. 28 that it has hired Cary-Grove grad Kelsey Passaglia as an assistant women’s soccer coach.
Passaglia, who played collegiately at Northern Illinois, spent the past four seasons as an assistant at D-I Fort Wayne. Over the past two seasons, the Chippewas have put together a 23-11-6 record.
Mohr shines for Vikings: Freshman forward Matt Mohr (McHenry East) led D-III North Park University’s men’s basketball team this season in rebounding and blocked shots.
The 6-foot-6 Mohr pulled down 6.2 rebounds a game and had 13 blocked shots for the Vikings (5-20).
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.