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ARCOLA — One of the members of the only Arcola boys’ or girls’ undefeated basketball seasons, Sarah Gilliland, died Sunday. Gilliland, a 1996 graduate of Arcola High School, played four years of softball and basketball. Her sophomore year was the perfect regular season as the 1993-94 girls’ team finished with a record of 24-1 record.

Gilliland, of Chamblee Ga., died Sunday at 3:12 a.m. at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. According to the Georgia State Patrol in an article by Mike Morris of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Gilliland died of injuries sustained when just after 2:30 a.m. she stepped into the right lane and into the path of a northbound 2006 BMW 750i just north of Dresden Drive on Peachtree Road in Brookhaven, Ga. The State Patrol said in a statement that Gilliland was not in a crosswalk, and no charges are anticipated against the 34-year-old Roswell, Ga. man driving the BMW.

“She was a great kid, good teammate and fun to be around,” said Arcola girls’ basketball coach Nancy Stiff, who at the time was also teaching physical education. “She was a great student athlete and well respected by her classmates and the kids in the school.”

Gilliland, the daughter of Chuck and Flory Gilliland of the Philippines, was on the honor roll all through high school and graduated from Parkland College in 1999, where she was named to the National Dean’s List. To be named to the list, students’ college deans, registrars or honor society advisers select the individual, who must be in the upper 10 percent of their class on the school’s Dean’s List or have earned a comparable honor. Gilliland was a member of the National Honor Society and was president of the organization her junior year.

In basketball Gilliland, a 5-6 guard/forward played on a 17-8 team her freshmen year; a 17-9 team her junior year and a 13-13 squad her senior year, where she led the team in scoring with an average of 8.2 points per game and was the point guard.

“This year’s team, I believe, is probably the most improved bunch I have had in 23 years,” said Stiff of the 1995-96 team at the annual year-ending banquet in a story in the Arcola Record-Herald.

“She played just about any place we needed her to play on the team,” said Stiff. “It was whatever the team needed. She helped us break presses because she was a good basketball handler, a good passer and had a lot of knowledge about the game and knew what she needed to do.”

Her senior year she was part of Stiff’s 400th victory in a 37-27 win at Bement and was named the JG-TC Athlete of the Week (when only one student-athlete was picked each week) on Dec. 19, 1995, which included a 43-30 victory over Atwood-Hammond where Gilliland hit what was and could still be a school-record six three-pointers in one game, accounting for all 18 of her points. Gilliland finished her career with an average of 6.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, one assist and 0.9 steals per contest in 56 games. She also finished 31st in the Country Insurance Three-Point Showdown in the state preliminaries at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena out of 64 contestants in Class A (two-class system).

In softball she earned first-team all-Prairie View Conference (now defunct) as a junior for the 4-12 team, batting .585. She was honorable mention all-Prairie View Conference her senior year where the shortstop batted .393 under coach Randy Swartz. Her freshman year she hit .266 for the 4-8 team and hit .433 for the 5-7 squad her sophomore year. Her first three seasons she was coached by Hal Fairley.

Gilliland’s visitation is from 5-8 p.m. today at Edwards Funeral Home in Arcola and from 11 a.m.-noon Saturday with the funeral scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at St. John the Baptist Church in Arcola.

Contact Monahan at mmonahan@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6854.

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