Photos: Pantagraph sports photos of the year | Sports |

The Pantagraph’s top sports photos took in a variety across 2018.

The dunk heard ’round the world

Illinois State sophomore guard Madison Williams soars to the basket for a dunk over Valparaiso’s Mileek McMillan during the second half of the Redbirds’ 76-65 Missouri Valley Conference victory over the Crusaders on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, at Redbird Arena. The dunk received widespread attention when it was part of SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays the following day.

Illinois State guards Keyshawn Evans, center, and Madison Williams, right, force a turnover against Missouri State forward Jarrid Rhodes during the end of the second half Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, at Redbird Arena in Normal.

A member of the Bloomington High School cheerleading squad flies through the air during a boys basketball game against Champaign Centennial on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, at the Robert Frank Sports Complex.

Central Catholic’s Austyn Ellison keeps the ball in play as the student section looks on during the Saints’ Class 2A regional semifinal game against Maroa-Forsyth on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, at Cvengros Gymnasium in Bloomington. Central hit the century mark, a 103-40 winner over the Trojans, en route to a long playoff run that culminated in a third place state trophy.

Eureka fans get comfortable during their girls basketball team’s Class 2A state semifinal game against Chicago Harlan on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, at Redbird Arena. The Hornets fell to the Falcons 55-50, and eventually took fourth in the state.

Can’t let you go

Illinois State guard Keyshawn Evans (3) dives for the ball during second half action against Indiana State Friday, March 2, 2018, in the Missouri Valley Tournament at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Showing love to Redbird Nation

Illinois State forward Phil Fayne (10) leaves the court victorious after sinking numerous free throws to lead the Redbirds over Southern Illinois Saturday, March 3, 2018, in a semifinal of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, 76-86. The victory put ISU in the championship game against Loyola where the Redbirds fell short to make the NCAA tournament.

Illinois State forward Phil Fayne, left, and teammate forward Milik Yarbrough react to their loss against Loyola Sunday, March 4, 2018, in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The result drained any chances of ISU making the NCAA tournament.

Liking what he sees

Bloomington head track and field coach John Szabo flashes a thumbs up to senior Zachery Bradford after Bradford cleared the bar at 17 feet, 6 inches in the pole vault Tuesday, March 13, 2018, during the Big 12 Conference Indoor Meet at Illinois Wesleyan University’s Shirk Center. Zachery is now attending Kansas University where he hopes to etch his name in Jayhawks track and field history.

Members of the Normal West softball team form a circle around second base and release balloons into the air Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Maxwell Park in Normal. The gesture paid tribute to their teammate Olivia “Livi” Sonetz, who died in a vehicle accident March 8.

Taking on a challenge

Illinois State defensive lineman Dalton Keene performs a bench press test Wednesday, March 21, 2018, during ISU’s Pro Day that included scouts from the NFL’s Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals.

Tony Bauman, athletic director for Bloomington High School, overlooked the new artificial turf field Wednesday, April 4, 2018, that was being installed by Byrne & Jones Construction, of St. Louis. The field includes markings for both football and soccer and also has been used by the high school’s marching band for practices.

Bloomington’s Ethan Crutcher rounds the bases during a nonconference game against Streator on Thursday, April 5, 2018, at BHS’ Howard Saar Field. The Purple Raiders won in five innings, 10-0, and it earned head coach Steve Clapp his 300th win at the time.

Natalia Garcia of Central Catholic High School goes over the bar at 5 feet Monday, April 23, 2018, in the Intercity Girls Track Meet at Bloomington’s Fred Carlton Field. Garcia won the event with a clearance of 5-2.

Illinois Wesleyan’s Jake Stewart, right, steals second and is safe as Illinois State’s Derek Parola cannot make the tag in time during the first inning of the Horenberger-Bass Classic Tuesday, April 24, 2018, at Jack Horenberger Field in Bloomington.

Sprint to the finish

Ridgeview’s Jules Grunloh, right, edges out Eureka’s Courtney Heffren for first place in the 400-meter relay Tuesday, May 1, 2018, during the HOIC/McLean County Track Meet at Eureka. The Mustangs relay team finished in 52.03, but the Hornets got the last laugh with another team title at the meet.

Illinois Wesleyan first baseman Kara Bischoff dives to catch a pop fly during the Titans’ 1-0 loss to Carthage in the CCIW Tournament on Friday, May 4, 2018, at IWU Softball Field. The Titans later beat Carroll, 6-0.

Normal West girls soccer coach Val Walker, center, celebrates with Jess Hieb, left, and Bekah Nielsen after their Big 12 Conference game against Normal Community on Thursday, May 10, 2018, at West. Hieb scored the game-winning goal late in the second half to lift the Wildcats to a 2-1 victory.

Illinois Wesleyan head softball coach Tiffany Prager celebrates with assistant coach Nikki Miller and director of softball operations Stephanie Alvarez-Rivera after the Titans’ 2-1 win over Transylvania in a NCAA Division III Softball Regional championship game on Sunday, May 13, 2018, at IWU Softball Field. IWU went on to the NCAA Division III national championship game and finished runner-up, the team’s best finish since 2003.

Pink-out on the diamond

Bloomington catcher Sydney Christiansen, left, fields a late throw as Normal West pinch runner Audri Floyd slides into home plate for a run during their Big 12 Conference game Thursday, May 17, 2018, at Maxwell Park in Normal. Normal West won in six innings, 10-0.

Nice day for tennis

University High’s Vishnu Anagani serves during his singles match against Cornerstone Christian Academy’s Seth Jorgensen in the Class 1A sectional Saturday, May 19, 2018, at Bloomington High School. Anagani was defeated, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, but still clinched a berth at state.

The Parkland College bench empties to celebrate Tyler Paulsen’s three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning that gave Parkland an 8-4 victory over Heartland Community College in the National Junior College Athletic Association Regional Championship game Monday, May 21, 2018, at the Corn Crib in Normal.

Sliding into an out

Normal West’s Connor Stephenson slides into home plate, but is forced out by Bradley-Bourbonnais catcher Logan Meyer during their Class 4A sectional semifinal Wednesday, May 30, 2018, at the Corn Crib. The Wildcats won 12-0 in 4 1/2 innings.

University High’s Maddie Boucher, right, is given an ice bath by her teammates after their Class 3A sectional championship game against Washington on Saturday, June 2, 2018, at Jan Smith Field in Washington. Boucher hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning to lift the Pioneers to a 5-4 victory over the Panthers.

Normal West catcher Ben Smith, right, makes the tag on O’Fallon’s Quinn Lowery at home plate during the Wildcats’ 9-0 Class 4A sectional championship loss to the Panthers on Saturday, June 2, 2018, at Illinois Wesleyan’s Horenberger Field.

Kick up the sand

Michael Mounce blasts out of a bunker at No. 3 in the afternoon session of the Bloomington-Normal City Match Play 36-hole championship flight final Sunday, June 17, 2018, at Bloomington Country Club. Mounce captured the title with a 7 and 6 victory over Joe Bierbaum.

Former major leaguer Jose Canseco, right, stretches out on the field before the Normal CornBelters’ game against the Florence Freedom on Friday, June 29, 2018, at the Corn Crib. Canseco was inked to a three-game series as a designated hitter for the Belters.

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner takes a stumble in the celebrity adult tricycle race Saturday, July 14, 2018, during the Bloomington Criterium in downtown Bloomington.

Normal Community’s Michael Reibling looks to score on University High goalkeeper MacCallan Conklin during the Ironmen’s 3-0 victory over the Pioneers in the 22nd annual Intercity Boys Soccer Tournament on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, at NCHS. Reibling notched a pair of goals in the win.

Fans raise their umbrellas during a rainy halftime of University High’s Central State Eight Conference game with Decatur MacArthur on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, at Hancock Stadium in Normal.

Get outta my way

Illinois Wesleyan senior running back Morgan Alexander breaks away from a Wisconsin-La Crosse tackle en route to a first down during the Titans’ 34-31 loss to the Eagles on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Tucci Stadium.

I-S-U, Go!

Illinois State fans celebrate a Redbird touchdown against Eastern Illinois Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at Hancock Stadium.

1, 2, 3, Pioneers

No. 4-state ranked University High School huddles before the girls race in the Intercity Cross Country Meet on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, at Maxwell Park in Normal. The Pioneers won for the ninth consecutive year.

Normal West wide receiver Cole Hernandez hauls in a pass over a Peoria High defender during their Big 12 Conference game Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, at West. The Wildcats won, 33-32.

University High School’s Isabel Schaefbauer sets the ball during a match against Central Catholic in the Intercity Volleyball Tournament on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, at Normal Community High School.

Being a good leader

Bloomington quarterback Griffin Moore cheers on his teammates during the Purple Raiders’ Big 12 Conference game against Peoria Notre Dame on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, at BHS’ Fred Carlton Field. Bloomington won, 56-28.

Reach out and touch football

Illinois State wide receiver Andrew Edgar (84) reaches but is unable to catch a pass during the Redbirds’ 33-16 Missouri Valley Football Conference victory over Western Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, at Hancock Stadium.

Pontiac High School golfer Griffin Nyi, right, lofts his ball onto the seventh green while his coach, Paul Ritter, watches during a snowfall in the Class 2A Boys State Tournament on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, at Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State. Don’t expect snow to become a sport in the Winter Olympics, by the way. The conditions voided all first-round scores midway through the round, sending all teams and individuals into a final round the following day to decide placings based on 18 holes.

Champaign Central quarterback Luke McMahon recovers a fumble next to the shoe of Normal West defender Delane Matthews during the Wildcats’ 35-20 Big 12 Conference victory over the Maroons on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, at West.

Normal Community’s Josue Nsukami keeps hydrated during a break in the Ironmen’s 1-0 Class 3A regional championship victory over Joliet West on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, at NCHS.

Normal Community goalkeeper Matthew Wells, on ground, celebrates a save with teammate Josue Nsukami during the final seconds of their Class 3A sectional semifinal against Minooka on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, at NCHS. The Ironmen won, 1-0.

Bloomington wide receiver Drew Crooks hauls in a catch during the Purple Raiders’ Class 6A first-round playoff game against Crete-Monee on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, at BHS’ Fred Carlton Field. The Purple Raiders lost, 41-13.

Bloomington’s Fia Parker (21) digs out a Normal West serve during their Class 4A sectional semifinal contest Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, at the Robert Frank Sports Complex.

Hartsburg-Emden senior Anna Hayes spikes the ball against Decatur St. Teresa during the Stags’ 25-17, 25-14 Class 1A state semifinal win Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, at Redbird Arena. Hartem eventually finished second in the state after falling short against Newark in the championship game the next day.

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley players march onto the field as they prepare to play Eastland-Pearl City Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, at Eastland-Pearl City High School in Lanark. The Falcons’ 14-7 victory placed them in the Class 2A state championship game in Champaign where they would make it back-to-back titles.

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley linebacker Bryce Barnes (18) celebrates after making a defensive stop on Eastland-Pearl City running back Jayden Kempel (5) Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, during the Falcons’ 14-7 Class 2A semifinal victory at Eastland High School in Lanark. The win put GCMS in the state championship game played at the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium in Champaign, where they made it back-to-back titles.

Taking on a new challenge

Tamecia Robinson, an employee of the Illinois Department of Corrections, took interest in competitive weightlifting a little over two years ago. “Any meet I compete in, I want to walk into a room and you already know you’re in second place because I’m there,” she said.

The Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley football team celebrates as the Falcons repeat as Class 2A state champions with a 35-16 victory over Maroa-Forsyth on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, at the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium in Champaign. The team was the first to go back-to-back in 2A since Aledo’s 2001-02 championship runs.

Going to the goal

Illinois State forward Simone Goods goes up to shoot for two points against St. Louis center Brooke Flowers during first-half action Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, at Redbird Arena. Goods scored a career-high 30 points to pace the Redbirds to a 72-67 victory.

Half-court hoopin’

Illinois State forward Simone Goods, center, gives teammate guard TeTe Maggett a big hug after Maggett sank a 50 foot shot at the buzzer to give the Redbirds a 39-38 lead over St. Louis at the half during their game Thursday Dec. 20, 2018, at Redbird Arena. ISU went on to win, 72-67.

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