Hillsboro High School boys basketball coach Joe Vanzo was recently recognized as one of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association coaches of the year.
Vanzo, who was dismissed from his position after a 4-3 vote by the Hillsboro School Board on June 8, was one of four coaches to receive the honor in IBCA district 17 and one of just 96 high school boys coaches in the state to earn the honor.
Vanzo’s team went 14-0 this past season, marking the first time that a Hillsboro High School boys basketball team ended the season undefeated. The Toppers’ 9-0 record in the South Central Conference was the third time that a team finished undefeated in conference play since the conference’s current alignment was built in 2012.
In his 11 seasons as head coach, Vanzo went 149-162, the fourth most wins in the program’s history. After winning 27 games in his first three years, Vanzo won 45 games in his fourth through sixth years and 52 games in his seventh through ninth years. The past two years, Vanzo was 25-21, with only one player graduating from this year’s undefeated team.
In addition to this year’s South Central Conference title, the Toppers have gone 51-30 in the South Central Conference since 2012, the second best mark in the SCC, and have finished in the top three six of the last eight seasons.
Vanzo coached seven different first team all-conference honorees, including three-time first teamer Dylan Miller and two-time first teamer Matt DeLuka. Drake Vogel, Jordan Gregg, Kaiden White, Drake Paden and Steven Fenske were also first team honorees, with Fenske joining Miller and DeLuka in the school’s 1,000 point club.
Hillsboro has had winning seasons four of the last five years, with the team’s three winning seasons between 2016-17 and 2018-19 the most since the Toppers had three straight seasons of .500 or better in 1975-76 (12-12), 1976-77 (17-8) and 1977-78 (20-6) under Harland Scheibal.
In addition to being an IBCA Illinois Class 2A Coach of the Year finalist, Vanzo was also selected as the coach of the year by abaselineview for the Carbondale Supersectional area.
Nokomis High School grad and coaching legend Neil Alexander was among those honored by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association as Coach of the Year.
Alexander was one of 96 boys basketball coaches honored state-wide this year as his Railers went 18-5 in the COVID-19 shortened season. The 18 wins brought Alexander’s record at Lincoln to 725-231 and upped his career total to 902, the second most wins ever by a high school boys basketball coach in Illinois, 85 behind Westchester’s Gene Pingatore.
In addition to Alexander, several other coaches with area ties were also honored. Pana girls basketball coach Brent McKinney and boys basketball coach Adam Metzger were honored, as was another coach with Pana connections, former Panther Olivia Lett, who is now coaching at Millikin University in Decatur. Also honored on the boys basketball side was Lanphier coach Blake Turner, the son of Senator Doris Turner, who represents the 48th senate district.