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Conant honors Travers — with comeback win
 

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Conant honors Travers — with comeback win
  • Conant girls basketball coach Dan Travers receives a standing ovation from his players and fans after receiving a plaque from athletic director John Kane on Saturday before a game with Crystal Lake South at Conant. Travers has coached high school basketball for 38 years.

    Purchase Photo | Conant girls basketball coach Dan Travers receives a standing ovation from his players and fans after receiving a plaque from athletic director John Kane on Saturday before a game with Crystal Lake South at Conant. Travers has coached high school basketball for 38 years. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  •  Conant girls basketball coach Dan Travers receives a plaque from athletic director John Kane on Saturday before a game with Crystal Lake South at Conant. Travers has coached high school basketball for 38 years.

    Purchase Photo | Conant girls basketball coach Dan Travers receives a plaque from athletic director John Kane on Saturday before a game with Crystal Lake South at Conant. Travers has coached high school basketball for 38 years. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  •  Conant girls basketball coach Dan Travers says a thank you to his players and fans after receiving a plaque from athletic director John Kane on Saturday before a game with Crystal Lake South at Conant.

    Purchase Photo | Conant girls basketball coach Dan Travers says a thank you to his players and fans after receiving a plaque from athletic director John Kane on Saturday before a game with Crystal Lake South at Conant. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  •  Dan Travers, Conant head girls varsity coach, takes the floor on Saturday for a game with Crystal Lake South at Conant in Hoffman Estates.

    Purchase Photo | Dan Travers, Conant head girls varsity coach, takes the floor on Saturday for a game with Crystal Lake South at Conant in Hoffman Estates. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  •  Conant's Lexi Zades pushes the ball up court against Crystal Lake South defender Chanel Fanter at Conant on Saturday.

    Purchase Photo | Conant's Lexi Zades pushes the ball up court against Crystal Lake South defender Chanel Fanter at Conant on Saturday. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  •  Conant's Sarah Mazurek shoots against Crystal Lake South at Conant on Saturday.

    Purchase Photo | Conant's Sarah Mazurek shoots against Crystal Lake South at Conant on Saturday. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

 

In the spring of 1989, the chairman of the social studies department at Conant High School was looking to hire a teacher.

"He asked me what I knew about Dan Travers," said Bruce Hildabrand, then in his fourth year in the department.

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"I said 'I can guarantee you he will work hard.' About three of four weeks later after he was hired, he (the chairman) told me you were right. He's a terrific worker and a terrific guy."

That 'terrific guy' got a terrific retirement send-off on Saturday afternoon at Conant High School, where he has coached and taught for 25 years.

Hildabrand, addressing the big crowd before the game, finished by saying, "I want to thank you Dan for making me look good to that chairman."

Travers' players thanked their coach by giving him a terrific comeback against visiting Crystal Lake South.

Trailing 28-14 with less than 2:20 left in the second quarter, the Cougars went on a 25-0 tear en route to a 57-44 nonconference victory in Hoffman Estates.

Nireet Dhillon (15 points, 5 steals), Sarah Mazurek (12 points), Haley Anderson (10 points) and Jorri Wachal (7 points) led the Cougars (14-8), who produced one of their best comebacks in Traver's nine seasons as the head coach.

"That was in true Dan Travers form," said Cougars assistant coach Ron Theberge. "He got his team to play to another level."

Travers' career in education and coaching has been at a high level as well.

Conant Hall of Fame girls volleyball coach Peggy Scholten, who had a similar retirement celebration three months ago, was behind the microphone for this one.

"Dan is a man who always has the best interest of the student/athlete foremost in mind," she told the big turnout before introducing Hildabrand, boys basketball coach Tom McCormack, Cougars seniors Morgan Retzer and Sarah Mazurek and athletic director John Kane.

Travers replaced longtime friend McCormack as the Immaculate Conception boys varsity coach in the mid-1980s.

"We scheduled a game in the 86-87 season," McCormack said with a laugh. "As much I as hate to admit it, he beat me, I think in overtime. He's one up on me. I owe him one."

The Conant administration felt it owed a tribute to Travers, who has dedicated 38 years in the field of education.

He has coached football for 30 seasons, soccer for nine and basketball in all 38.

After teaching American Studies and American History, Travers transferred into the physical education department.

"Dan is a great supporter of Conant athletes and athletics, a person who truly believes in the multi-sport athlete," Kane said. "But he has also been a great role model to everyone here at Conant, including myself."

Kane presented Travers a plaque recognizing his professionalism, integrity and competitiveness in boys and girls sports in 25 years at the school.

Kane said the Conant sophomore boys basketball tournament will be renamed the Dan Travers tournament.

"Wow," said Travers, when he took the microphone. "I do believe in the multi-sport athletes. I coach three sports.

"I told the girls you get into this to hopefully make a difference. It's one word -- relationships. The relationships you make with the students and athletes and everything you do in hopes they can become ever better people themselves."

Among the people who turned up Saturday were several former players, former Conant athletic director Washington Bush and Barb Bostian, the Cougars' Hall of Fame coach who started the girls basketball program in the early 1970s.

Travers' brother Mark also made the trip from St. Louis, where Dan was raised.

Dan Travers thanked everyone -- and then his players thanked him with the stunning rally.

The 25-0 burst started when Katie Lomas hit a 12-footer from the baseline to make it 28-16 with 2:12 left in the first half.

It ended on back-to-back bank shots by Anderson which put the Cougars ahead to stay at 39-28 with 4:32 left in the third quarter.

Lexi Zades and Dee Dee Durr each handed out 3 assists while Anderson also collected 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

"I thought Haley (Anderson) did a nice job in the middle," Travers said. "We did more cutting to the middle. I thought Nireet (Dhillon) controlled the game when we were making our comeback. And Sarah (Mazurek) was her usual consistent self.

"We knew we had to win it for our coach," Mazurek said. " We also wanted to win it for ourselves because it was a really big game and a lot of people were watching."

Senior forward Sara Mickow led the Gators (12-10) with 15 points while classmate Rachel Rasmussen added 10.

"We had 20 turnovers and when you are give that many possessions to a quality team like Conant, you can't expect to win," said Crystal Lake South coach Kyle McCaughn. "It came down to us not executing as we as we should.

"And I thought we had an excellent shooting percentage so that tells you how important losing possessions are."

McCaughn got to know Travers from summer league basketball and he also coached against him in freshman girls soccer.

"I've really grown to respect him," the Gators coach said. "He does things the right way. He is a quality man and a great guy. He's had a great effect on the kids lives."

Sidney O'Keefe, who is missing her entire junior season with knee surgery, has still been on the bench for every game and plans to play next season.

"I am going to miss him (Travers) a lot," she said. " He has improved the program so much the last few years.

"Before games, he really tries to boost our confidence and he puts in so much time scouting all the teams and getting us prepared. It's hard to comprehend how much he does."

He's working as hard now as he was back when that department chairman hired him 25 years ago.

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