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Prep Sports

Kingman makes Final Four of Illinois Gym Showdown

Semifinal voting vs. Collinsville now open on Twitter

Kingman Gym, shown here last February before an Ottawa Pirates vs. Kaneland Knights boys basketball contest, has made the Final Four in the Illinois Gym Showdown, a statewide Twitter poll conducted by a Seneca High School student.
Kingman Gym, shown here last February before an Ottawa Pirates vs. Kaneland Knights boys basketball contest, has made the Final Four in the Illinois Gym Showdown, a statewide Twitter poll conducted by a Seneca High School student.

Then there were four.

And Kingman was one of them.

Ottawa High School's venerable Kingman Gym, home of Pirates athletics since the early 1930s, has made the Final Four in the Illinois Gym Showdown, a statewide Twitter poll pitting high school gymnasiums from across the state against each other in a popularity contest.

Kingman advanced to the semifinals with a 53.8%-46.2% victory over Lane Tech, with 3,647 votes logged in the showdown. That was the most of any of the four quarterfinal matchups — the others seeing Moline (67.9%) defeat Sterling (32.1%) with 1,953 votes cast; Quincy (58.1%) knock off Evanston (41.9%) with 2,930 votes; and downstate Collinsville (57.5%) top Frankfort (42.5%) over 2,162 votes cast.

Ottawa received more votes than any other school in the quarterfinals, with over 1,950 ballots cast for Kingman.

"We don't have any athletics right now," said OHS athletic director Mike Cooper, referring to the COVID-19 closures of schools and sports, "This has kind of, in its own little way, been our competition for the spring.

"We had a really, really good battle with Lane Tech. Pirate Nation came out and supported us, but it wasn't only Pirate Nation. I've gotten emails from people all across the state, almost all 50 states, in fact. ...

"We know how lucky we are to have the facility we have, and I think this shows how many people outside the city of Ottawa have appreciated getting the chance to play here over the years."

The contest is conducted on Twitter through the @hslogoscom account by Seneca High School student Levi Maierhofer. Twitter users simply log on and click on their favorites each round.

“Fans really are rallying around their teams again, and coaches and fans keep spreading it among each other,” Maierhofer said over the weekend of the contest exceeding his expectations.

One key to Ottawa's victory over Lane Tech was social media support from the Pirates' rivals, including numerous Interstate Eight Conference schools asking their fanbases to support Kingman.

"When you have the other teams in your conference and around the area reach out and support you, that was special to us," Cooper said. "We appreciate all the help we got from those guys, and as it turned out we needed that help."

Voting for the semifinals — featuring Ottawa vs. Collinsville and Moline vs. Quincy — opened at 10 a.m. Wednesday and will run for 48 hours, concluding Friday morning. The championship round will open shortly thereafter, with the state's most popular gym announced Monday, June 1.

"I don't know that you can have four better gymnasiums than you have left," Cooper said. "That's four with a ton of tradition, and there are a lot of great memories in those four places."

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