WIEJAK TO LEAD PEREGRINES: Purdue Calumet Director of Athletics Rick Costello announced Thursday that Bishop Noll grad Julie Wiejak has been named the sixth head volleyball coach in Purdue Calumet history.
“Julie has been a successful coach at both the college and high school levels, and she has built an outstanding network throughout the region," Costello said in a media release. "She displayed enthusiasm and passion for the game throughout the interview process.”
Wiejak spent the last three seasons at Andrean, compiling an 85-22 record and leading the 59ers to their first two semistate appearances in program history. She coached seven all-conference selections, five all-area honorees and one Times All-Area Player of the Year in Ana Nicksic.
"I am honored and so proud to be chosen as the next head coach of the Peregrines’ volleyball team," Wiejak said in a media release. "I look forward to putting Purdue Calumet volleyball on the map as a destination for the young women who play volleyball in Northwest Indiana."
Prior to her time at Andrean, Wiejak served as the top assistant at her alma mater, Loyola, for four seasons, working primarily with middle blockers.
She was selected to the "Top 20 under the age of 40" class of 2012 by The Northwest Indiana Times Business Magazine.
SMITH, HUGHES LEAD PRAIRIE STATE TO WIN: Rodney Smith was close to a triple-double, and Joe Hughes just missed a double-double as they led Prairie State to an 88-79 Skyway Conference win over Elgin Community College on Thursday.
Smith had 19 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. Hughes had 23 points and nine rebounds for Prairie State (8-14, 3-3).
SJC ROUTED BY WIS.-PARKSIDE: Jon Smith scored 23 points, and Cameron Vines added 20, but the Pumas (4-16, 1-9 Great Lakes Valley Conference) were no match for Wisconsin-Parkside (17-2, 10-0 GLVC), which had a 52-28 advantage in points in the paint, and rolled to a 99-71 win.
PRAIRIE STATE FALLS SHORT: Playing the final 12 minutes with just four players, Prairie State (10-12, 3-3) gave Elgin Community College all it could handle Thursday night before losing the Skyway Conference game, 55-54.
Faith Foulkes and Chantel Malone led PSC with 13 points apiece. Mandie Green added 12, Sydney Lilly 11 and the only other Pioneer to dress, Symone Hightower, grabbed 16 rebounds.
BULLS' NOAH, PACERS' HIBBERT MAKE ALL-STAR TEAM: The Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets each had two players picked as reserves for the NBA All-Star game, while the Pacers had to settle for just Roy Hibbert despite the league's best record.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard made it from the Trail Blazers, who have been among the Western Conference leaders all season.
Dwight Howard, who was passed late in fan voting for a starting spot, was chosen Thursday along with Houston teammate James Harden.
Old reliables Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Dirk Nowitzki round out the West reserves for the Feb. 16 game in New Orleans.
The rest of the East reserves are: Miami's Chris Bosh, Washington's John Wall, Toronto's DeMar DeRozan, Brooklyn's Joe Johnson, the Bull's Joakim Noah and Atlanta's Paul Millsap.
DRAGIC, SUNS HAND PACERS SECOND HOME LOSS: Goran Dragic had 28 points and seven assists, and the Phoenix Suns handed the Pacers just their second home loss of the season with a 102-94 victory Thursday night.
Roy Hibbert had 26 points, and David West added 18 for the Pacers (35-10).
NFL SAYS CONCUSSIONS DROPPED 13 PERCENT THIS SEASON: The NFL says the number of concussions in practices and games in the preseason and regular season dropped 13 percent from 2012 to 2013.
Using information collected from team doctors, the league also says there was a 23 percent decrease over the past two seasons in the number of concussions caused by helmet-to-helmet contact.
Speaking at a pre-Super Bowl news conference Thursday, Jeff Miller, the league's senior VP of health and safety policy, calls the data "positive trends."
Some players have expressed concern that the NFL's emphasis on decreasing hits to the head could lead to more low hits and more knee injuries. But Miller says there has not been an overall increase in damaged knee ligaments.
NASCAR CREATES WINNER-TAKE-ALL CHAMPIONSHIP FORMAT: NASCAR has overhauled its championship format to create an elimination, winner-take-all system designed to reward "the most battle-tested" driver at the end of the season.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup championship will now be a 16-driver field with a premium placed on winning.
NASCAR will cut four drivers from the field after every three races in the 10-race Chase, leaving four eligible drivers headed into the season finale. The first of those four to cross the finish line will be crowned champion.
NASCAR Chairman Brian France said Thursday the new format has no math and no bonus points and is "simple as it gets."
Around the horn
Purdue Calumet men’s basketball coach Dan Voudrie guests on "Purdue Calumet Sports Insight" at 5:30 p.m. today on WJOB-AM (1230). ... Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has promoted passing game coordinator Mike Denbrock to offensive coordinator. This will be Denbrock's second stint as offensive coordinator under Kelly. He also served in that role at Grand Valley State from 1992-95.