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Pausing to remember a friend

STERLING – They paused in silence in the gym with stands filled with blue and gold, and green and black. The gym with the huge American flag draped across the west wall. 

They paused in silence before two rivals separated by the Rock River met in a girls basketball regional semifinal. 

They paused in silence for a former coach, a former administrator and a close friend. 

They paused, and then moved on for four quarters and one overtime. It concluded with Sterling's Kiarra Harris grabbing a rebound off a missed 3-point shot by Rock Falls' Jordan Giddings. 

Harris had a big smile after being fouled. The Golden Warriors had won this battle 50-43.

Bruce Scheidegger would have loved it all. The full gym. The tight game. Girls like Gabby Sandoval and Aubree Johnson diving for every single loose ball and the never-quit attitude of both teams. 

Scheidegger, 54, died as result of injuries suffered in a one-car accident last weekend. He had spent the last 5 years as the athletic director at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park. 

Before that, he was the athletic director and girls basketball coach at Sterling. That came after stints at Dixon and Prophetstown High Schools.

It will be at Sterling that his coaching legacy looms largest.

On the Warriors' bench is Julie Schroeder, the coach he convinced to join his staff. On her staff are former players like Devon Carbaugh and Amber Cox. 

"I knew that Bruce would be angry with me if we allowed this horrible tragedy to ruin our basketball season," Schroeder said. "We've been doing our very best to focus on the game while we are here.

"I was a head coach before I came here. Not too many coaches would go from being a head coach to an assistant, but that's what it meant to me to get the chance to work with him. I treasured those years being here with him."

Schroeder and Scheidegger had talked about the possibility of Bruce returning the favor after he retired and moved back to the area. 

"We had joked about him becoming the assistant," Schroeder said, "but, I would have made it happen." 

Carbaugh played four seasons for Scheidegger, her last ending with a trip to the state quarterfinals. Tears hit her eyes at the mention of Scheidegger. 

"He held our respect," Carbaugh said. "He didn't have to yell. He didn't have to scream. He had so many wins as a coach that you knew he knew what he was talking about."

Scheidegger had remained in contact with Carbaugh and watched a few of her games at Lewis University.

Rochelle coach Kay Dobbs, whose team won in the game before the Sterling-Rock Falls game, paused to reflect on Scheidegger.

"I always looked forward to coaching against Bruce's teams," Dobbs said. "They were always so well prepared, and they knew every single play we were going to run.

"But he was even better off the court. He was the kind of coach and person that you could call up and run something by, and he'd give you an honest answer." 

Jim Spencer and Matt Gingrich have called hundreds of games as the voices of Golden Warrior sports. Spencer works for the Sterling Schools Foundation and Gingrich coached in the junior high system under Scheidegger.

"Bruce was the rare person that excelled as an athlete, as a coach and an administrator," Spencer said. "There are very few people who can say they've done that. We've missed him since he left for Sandburg, and now we miss him even more."

"It didn't matter how emotional the game was, Bruce would always come up here so calm," Gingrich said. "I remember after beating Freeport in the sectional he was so calm, but he always knew how to keep the game in perspective."

Scheidegger was a multi-sport athlete out of Chadwick who was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 36th round in 1976. 

There will be a celebration of life for Bruce Scheidegger at 1 p.m. Sunday at Eagle Gym at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park. The memorial service will begin at 11 a.m. on Monday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Tinley Park.

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