By John Ring
Published December 2, 2021 in The Burg
Ahead of Dunlap 56-42 in the fourth quarter, Carl Dortch, a 6’5” senior for the Galesburg Silver Streaks got his hands on the ball attempting a steal. In the melee that followed, Dortch went to the floor, kicked the ball out and it wound up in the hands of teammate Koen Derry who sped down the court.
Derry slammed home a two-handed dunk, the crowd at John Thiel erupted for the first time in 628 days and new Silver Streak Coach Chad Thompson’s first game resulted in an ultimate 74-63 win.
Derry exploded for 19 second half points and finished with 21 and 9 rebounds. “Koen gets a feel for the game,” said Streaks point guard Jeremiah Babers with a smile after the game. “He’s a great teammate.”
“I wasn’t being aggressive enough early,” said Derry. “In the second half, I attacked the rim. I focused on that.”
The 6’6” senior did just that. He spun, made power moves, used the glass and spread the floor.
Derry was on a mission and came incredibly close to a double-double in just his second varsity start. He was the best player on the floor at John Thiel Gym on Opening Night. “The first game I started,” said the Derry, “was because of an injury.”
Thompson’s first game and resulting win was big and the night got off on an emotionally
charged note just before the staring lineups were introduced.
The Thiel Gym lights went out. A video appeared on the southeast wall with dramatic
background music. Old images of Silver Streaks of the past emerged, Dale Kelley, whose name in Galesburg is still magic. A Streaks fast break at Champaign in the State Tournament. The five-minute video resonated with all ages of fans and was a smash hit. “That was cool,” said Derry. “It was an amazing thing to see. I love seeing those old players.”
“All the credit goes to Steve Hawkins and Steve Davis,” said Thompson, “not me. We wanted to honor those in the past who have come before us. Thiel Gym is a special place. It’s dear to my heart. It was time to do something special like that.”
Needless to say, the Streaks were pumped. Babers got Galesburg going to a 13-5 lead but the Eagles had a team of good shooters and discipline. They came back to trail 29-26 at the half but then the Koen Derry Show erupted.
“Derry has big game potential every time he goes on the court,” said Thompson. “Now, he knows that. We knew he could it. Jeremiah understood that. The twins [Dre and Alex Egipciaco] understood that.”
“We’ve been waiting for this night, we wanted to leave everything on the floor,” said Babers who finished with 20 points and 6 rebounds. “My shot wasn’t falling in the second half but honestly, I’d rather pass the ball to my teammates and let them do the scoring. Last year we had no fans.
We only had 13 games. We deserved this night.”
It was a special night for Streak sophomore Ian Dominique, who made his Varsity debut and nailed his first shot. “Ian is an exciting player and the crowd here at Thiel should buy into him,” said Thompson. “He has a knack for the game of basketball. He finds space on offense. He wants to compete and to play ball.”
It was also a special night for Chad Thompson as well. “I felt like a kid on Christmas at three in the morning. As a player, warm ups go by in the blink of an eye. As a coach it’s like, ‘will we ever start this game?’”
“When Coach got back to the locker room after the game we went crazy the moment he walked in,” said Derry of the Silver Streaks celebration.
“I told them there’s no other guys I wanted to win my first game with except for them,” said Coach Thompson. “I want them and them alone. Nobody else. I want to go to war with them every night of the year.”
On a night that started with an image of Dale Kelley, brilliant point guard play by Babers and an exclamation point with Dortch’s hustle and Derry’s slam dunk, what more could a Silver Streak fan ask for?
The Mentor himself would have been proud of what happened in the Gym named after him.